Before Lily was even born I knew what her first food would be (sweet potatoes). I read everything I could find about introducing vegetables first and bypassing baby cereals. As she inched toward that 6-month mark I filled my Pinterest board with baby-led weaning (BLW) recipes and guides. I read all about how babies are physiologically prepared to eat real food once they can hold themselves up properly, and asserted to my husband and our moms that gagging was okay–it’s not really choking!
When Lily hit 5 months, I grabbed a spoon and gave her some sweet potatoes. I could have waited until 6 months, but you know moms: we love milestones. She loved the sweet potatoes, so I continued on with more purées until she was about 6 months old, at which time I decided to give baby-led weaning a go. It’s pretty mainstream now, but for those of you who don’t know, with baby-led weaning you allow your little one to eat real food (versus purées). This article for some reason had me convinced only an uninformed parent wouldn’t do BLW, and that purees were a relic of the past.
If you’re already a parent then you know how ridiculous your pre-child self was. I don’t know why, but for some reason most soon-to-be moms (myself included) seem to have a lot of convictions about how we’ll do various things and what baby products are best, and it feels like a personal affront when someone suggests something otherwise while you’re still pregnant or haven’t reached a certain stage (even if they’re a fellow mom). And when our moms hinted BLW might not be going so great for Lily, it felt just like that (and I thought Lily was marred for life when my MIL gave her rice cereal. If you’re reading this, my apologies again.). It wasn’t until months later when I finally recognized that okay, maybe I should have paid more attention to the physical readiness signs for BLW (like being able to sit up unassisted, loss of the tongue-thrust reflex, etc) rather than using her age as an indication. Because she totally wasn’t ready and it was stressful and scary when she would gag and choke. After a week or so I broke out the blender and did purées until she was about 8 months old.
Maggie on the other hand was a peanut in comparison to Lily, despite being more physically advanced. She was sitting unassisted by 5-6 months, enough so that we could leave her there and not be scared she would fall over. We were still putting pillows around Lily when she was 7 months old. Maggie was also a bigger sleeper, and didn’t drink as much. I tried sweet potatoes when she was just over 5 months and she wasn’t interested. We tried different homemade purées and store-bought pouches (wait, what? store-bought?! I’m sorry, but there’s just no way I can compare with the combinations they come up with these days. Quinoa-amaranth-kale? Buckwheat-apple-beet?) with varying success, but she just didn’t have a voracious appetite. Then suddenly at 7 months she ate some small pieces of something cut up (I can’t remember what), and we realized she just wanted to feed herself. I hadn’t considered letting her do this for another month, what with the whole Lily experience. But once we started letting her feed herself, she didn’t stop.
While Maggie eats most things, it of course still has to be soft enough and cut into bite-sized pieces. Her intro to solids coincided really nicely with winter, when we were (are) eating lots of soups, most of which Lily also likes. I love soups for new eaters because they’re usually chock full of veggies and different proteins that I otherwise find difficult to cook into that perfectly smushy, baby-friendly texture. So below I have my basic list of go-to items for breakfast and lunch, and some of my favorite soup recipes that Ryan, Lily, Maggie, and I all really like. Also, muffins! I love making mini-muffins for babies and little kids because they are tasty, nutritious, and easy when you’re packing a lunch.
Our least creative meal. Usually toast or a waffle, and a fruit. If we have time she also gets yogurt (Siggs 4%, or half plain/half flavored Greek yogurt) or a smoothie. If we have muffins she gets a little.
All the soft fruits. There isn’t one she doesn’t like, and like most kids, berries are her favorite. Something we do give Maggie that I didn’t give Lily is fruit cups (in their own juice or other 100% fruit juice), because Lily was learning to eat during the summer when things like peaches were readily available. We also didn’t really give Lily citrus fruits until she was a year old, but Maggie’s had her fair share of clementines.
The only veggie Maggie doesn’t really like is asparagus. Sometimes she’ll eat it if it’s cooked up with something else, like eggs. Here are some of her typical veggies:
- Peas – from frozen. We definitely give her these the most frequently as they’re so easy.
- Broccoli – from fresh. I can never get frozen broccoli to cook nicely.
- Peppers – if the rest of us are eating raw peppers, I’ll cut some up into little pieces for her, cover in a little water, and cook into the microwave until they’re soft enough. If I’m roasting peppers (slice, toss in olive oil, roast for 20-25 minutes at 425), she’ll hoover them down.
- Mixed frozen veggies – steamed on the stove, otherwise the carrots never get soft enough
- Green beans – steamed or roasted
- Carrots – steamed or roasted. Lily just started eating carrots again a few days ago, and I pumped to roast carrots again. They take kind of a long time so I like to roast a big bag of baby carrots on a weekend (this hasn’t actually happened in a while…)
- Squash – roasted. I only get those pre-chopped containers of squash that Wegman’s sells because, no joke, peeling, seeding, and chopping a butternut squash is way too overwhelming for me right now (and yes, I know the microwave trick).
- Edamame – from frozen. I just microwave, peel the skin off, and pop them in half.
- Toast – with peanut or almond butter. Disclaimer: the old peanut butter avoidance guidance made no sense to me so I introduced it around 6-7 months with both kids (it’s since been changed to recommend early introduction).
- Sweet potato – mashed or baked.
- Little pieces of wrap – this isn’t the most nutritious thing, and I only do it occasionally (whole wheat)
- Pasta – again, a whole grain
Muffins – These muffins are lunch items. If I pack them for daycare, I break them into bite-sized pieces pieces.
- Flourless Sweet Potato Blender Muffins – by far my favorite muffin recipe. I’ve made them with both almond butter and peanut butter, and they were great both times. Unlike other muffin recipes, you can’t double this batch because it’s too much for a blender to handle, but if Maggie’s the only one eating these they last a while.
- Spinach Quinoa Egg Muffins – I don’t actually follow an exact recipe for these, but this recipe is pretty close to what I do (minus the ham). We always seem to have a lot of leftover quinoa so other than just freezing it for later, this is a great way to use it. I’ve made these with a few varieties of quinoa, and you can swap spinach for grated broccoli, kale, etc. I’ve been making these for Maggie since she started solids and she never had a problem with the egg or cheese and we weren’t very concerned as we don’t have food allergies in our family, but they do recommend holding off on egg whites as a potential allergen.
- Peanut Butter Banana Cookies – So these aren’t technically a muffin and I haven’t made them yet for Maggie, but Lily loved these. I usually packed them as a snack, but they’d be fine as part of a meal in my book (I don’t use the chocolate chis). Plus they are tasty! I occasionally used raisins, and then I’d have to hide them so Ryan wouldn’t eat them because they’re basically dessert.
Maggie eats whatever we do. I love this stage.
- Roasted Eggplant Soup – This soup is perfect as is, but I like to mix it up every time. My favorite way to do it is to follow the roasting directions but swap out the eggplant for a container of that Wegman’s squash I love so much, 4 tomatoes, one onion, garlic, and some baby carrots, and to cook some sweet potatoes in the microwave (they take way too long to roast). The rest of the directions are the same (including the encouragement to play with the spices). You could say a downside with this soup is that it has to be fed to little ones since it’s pureed, but right now Lily’s at this stage where she likes to feed bits of food to Maggie so she’ll sop up some soup with her roll and feed it to her which is just as cute as it sounds.
- Garlicky Kale and White Bean Stew – Other than always using an entire bag of Wegmans pre-washed/cut kale, I keep everything the same. I like my soup to be more on the stewy side than brothy side, so this works nicely. Sometimes I use another recipe similar to this if I want to include potatoes or carrots. Maggie ate every single thing in this soup, from the kale to the onions, and her favorite was the white beans.
- Detox Immune Boosting Chicken Soup – I used this as a guide to make chicken soup for the first time (versus following the recipe exactly), and it was the best soup I’ve ever made. I also liked being able to have Maggie eat such a variety of ingredients at one meal. I had tried this crock pot chicken, potato, carrot, and green bean meal that was awful so I threw most of that into the soup and it was so. good. I’ve made chicken soup using chicken that I way over-seasoned and over-cooked and it also worked really well.
- Veggie Tortellini Soup – I meant to make this once and accidentally made something else that ended up being more just like tortellini with sauce, with spinach added. The good thing about that accident is that I found out Maggie can eat spinach when it’s cooked. This would definitely be good though because, well, The Pioneer Woman.
- Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup – I’ve never been a tomato soup fan but this recipe paired with this Spinach and Ricotta Grilled Cheese was worthy of being served up at Elm Street Bakery. I’d eat this for days. It is again another recipe that needs to be fed to a baby.