So your baby is well and truly into the puree phase of eating, and soon it’s time to move onto chunks and whole foods…
Once they have mastered swallowing well with their purees, you can introduce foods such as well cooked vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower which squish nicely in the hands, are easy to “chew” and turn into small bits to swallow. You could also use mashed rather than pureed fruit (I find that babies start to cope quicker and better if given the opportunity to put a piece of food in their mouth themselves).
The foods that I tend to introduce first with chunks are usually with a sauce or gravy; giving “drier” individual pieces as things progress. Most recently I have been making Baby Lentil Dahl (see recipe below), served with brown rice and pieces of broccoli. Another is Cauliflower, Broccoli and Kale in a cheese sauce – adding baby pasta for a more substantial meal (blitz the kale leaves and broccoli stalks with the hand held blender and gently mash the rest). And another is Vegetable Casserole (which could have any meat added). There has also been a recipe going around Facebook for pancakes where it is just one beaten egg and a mashed banana – I added a little vanilla and cinnamon and it was delicious and soft. Baby agreed!
Meats and fish are a great way for baby to get protein and iron. These should still be served in little pieces, or minced until your baby is really good at chewing. Homemade bolognese sauce, shepherds pie or fish pie are all excellent starting meals for the next stage, especially as they are saucy.
To keep up with a baby that eats a lot, and a busy mum, I do bulk cooking and freezing as with purees. I still use the Mumi&Bubi freezer trays as well as slightly larger portions in varying sizes. The reason I do this is so that the meals can still be mixed and matched. I find that often baby food can be a bit “samey” in flavour and by making the portions in differing sizes, you can change them up as you go – adjusting for those more or less hungry days.
Carb loading: I have discovered the Bellamy’s Organic range do excellent baby size brown rice pasta stars, macaroni, and macaroni made with vegetables! They are awesome and quick to cook. I also do the same with brown rice. I batch cook and freeze in the 30ml ice cube trays. Then I put them into a Ziploc bag and label them: date and contents.
I tend to take them out as the main course is heating on the stove top (if I forgot earlier)… just pour boiling water over it in a cup or bowl until defrosted and then add to the meal while it is still heating.
When reheating previously frozen food there are many ways to do it, here are three:
- Try to remember the day before and put it in airtight containers in the fridge overnight.
- Take it out on the day it’s needed (refrigerating the dinner once thawed)
- Put it frozen straight into a saucepan, add a little extra liquid and reheat gently, making sure it has reached a high temperature before letting it cool down to the right temperature.
One of the things I have recently started doing is to save and freeze the vegetable liquid or excess casserole liquid in small (30ml) amounts. This is where lots of goodness is, so why not throw one of these little gems in with anything you reheat!
Finger foods like toast, sandwiches, crackers, cooked vegetables, raw vegetables and fruits can be introduced at any time you feel your baby is ready. They need to be able to grasp it themselves and be able to sit unaided. Always observe your baby when you give them finger foods to begin with to see how they are getting on.
Something that helps a baby who has an overly eager gag reflex is to sit opposite them, when they gag (different to choking) you mimic what they should be doing – that is, the chewing motion with your mouth. It helps them to relax because you are not overreacting and it so far I have had 100% success rate of the baby not throwing up.
Meal times can be fun and with some frozen meals at the ready it really doesn’t have to be stressful. Why not try the Baby Lentil Dahl, it really is quite yummy – even if I do say so myself.
Jayne’s Baby Lentil Dahl
½ onion or 1 small chopped fine
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tsp grated ginger (ideally on the fine grate – only the juice is fine too)
1 cup red lentils
1 low salt stock cube (I use Rapunzel organic low salt) with 500ml water
1 carrot grated
1 kumara grated or cut into small chunks
1 can or tetra pack of chopped tomatoes
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cinnamon
(feel free to add any other root veges)
Make up the stock with boiling water. Add a little stock to a medium/large saucepan and sauté the onion, garlic, ginger. Add spices, sauté 1 minute.
Add the stock and lentils, vegetables, tomatoes.
Leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes on a low heat (adding more water if the lentils start to stick) if too liquidy, simmer until reduced. You want a thick sauce consistency.
Once cooled transfer into varying sizes either with cooked rice or by itself.