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5 Recipes and Finger Foods for Babies Learning to Self-Feed
Almost 2 months ago, right about the time Hayden turned 8 months old, he started refusing to be spoonfed. I could barely feed him 2-3 spoonfuls of the beautiful purees I had lovingly made, before he would close his lips so tight that my strongest grip couldn’t get his little mouth open. At the time, I took it as a sign that he was ready to self-feed, so I started giving him small bits of mashable finger foods so he could practice feeding himself. He still refused my purees though, and in fact the only type of puree I could actually get him to eat were those food pouches that he could feed himself, by holding and sucking the contents out of the pouch. We limped along for a few weeks, and then I took him in for his 9-month check up last week and found out he hadn’t gained much weight. He had actually dropped from the 50th percentile to the 20th percentile. We were a bit concerned, so this is what we did.
Solving The Baby Food Woes
What do you do when baby is too grown up for simple purees, but not grown up enough to feed himself all the nutrition he needs? Between a combination of trying new finger foods, and making some interesting flavor-combo purees, we got our baby to love eating again. Click through to get 5 flavorful recipes and a few extra tips!
In Love With The Food Pouches
Hayden loves these yummy food pouches. At first I thought it was simply because he could feed them to himself, but the more I thought about it, I realized it was because they taste great, due to interesting flavor combos, and the pouches keep the flavors fresh! If they weren’t so pricey we might just stick with these, but to save some money I decided to get creative with my own flavors at home.
Broccoli, Corn and Apple Puree
Baby’s tastes develop quickly in a short time, so the biggest reason he wasn’t eating my simple purees was because they just became to bland for him. Once I started experimenting the past few days, he is eating more than he ever has, and letting me spoon feed him again! This combination of corn, broccoli and apple is packed with nutrition, texture and flavor.
Carrots, Peas & Apples
Another winning combination is this simple flavor combo. The taste is sweet, yet still packed with tons of nutrition and is easy to whip up. Once all the ingredients are cooked, I puree them in my home blender, which is nothing fancy, and then freeze in ice cube trays, yielding perfect 1 ounce size portions.
Zucchini, Peas and Apples
I used what I had on hand to make these combo purees, which is a mix of fresh and frozen vegetables. For the frozen veggies I just cook according to the package directions, and then for fresh, I give them a rough chop, throw them in a microwave safe dish with a bit of water, and cook for 3-5 minutes, just making sure they’re fork tender.
Sweet Potato, Carrots and Apple
While I love the taste of mashed sweet potatoes, Hayden was finding the texture too grainy and thick for him, and when I added water, it became too flavorless. By adding the carrots and apples, you increase the flavor and break down the starchiness of the sweet potato. It’s a winning flavor and texture combination.
Carrots, Beets & Apples
This combo came about simply because I had a leftover beet and I figured, why not throw it in there and give it a try? While beets can be very earthy, adding 1 roasted beet didn’t change the flavor too much, but did enhance the color! Also, why the apple in each recipe? Well, adding just one apple is enough to make the purees a bit sweeter and cut down on any strong bitter veggie flavors. It’s not necessary for all flavor combos, but definitely helps with veggies like spinach and zucchini.
Different Color and Texture
Don’t be surprised with the color and texture of your purees if you try these flavor combinations. When making single ingredient purees, the colors and rich and pure. But when you start mixing ingredients, the colors will alter, and may not even look that appealing, but remember that baby doesn’t care and you’ll likely be the only one who notices.
Adding In Proteins
Because we don’t feed Hayden a lot of meat, I do try to add in a bit of protein here and there, and a great way is by adding a few spoonfuls of yogurt to his purees. While our doctor said he could have a small amount of cow’s milk yogurt if there were no allergies, I like using goat’s milk yogurt because the proteins are easier for his tummy to break down. And he loves the flavor!
Adding In Texture and Fillers
To help make the veggie purees a bit more filling for baby’s tummy, I added in some cooked quinoa (you can also try cooked brown rice) and blended it in with the puree. It didn’t seem to change the flavor at all but made the texture a little richer and hopefully more filling for baby!
Loving Food Again!
It took me some time, but experimenting and trying out all these new flavor combinations was so worth it. For the first time in weeks, Hayden is letting us feed him, and is quite happy about it actually! While he still loves to feed himself, now that he has all these new flavors to taste, he happily lets us feed him, in between feeding himself some finger foods.
Getting Creative With Finger Foods
I have to admit I’m branching out with first foods a lot more than I ever did with my first two children. While you have to follow your comfort level, I personally have been a lot less strict about following certain “rules” and we’re seeing good results so far. Hayden has become an exceptionally precise and amazing self feeder with all the practice he’s been getting.
Perfecting His Fine Motor Skills
Making eating enjoyable for babies is so important, and in my opinion, it begins by not forcing them to eat. Even though we slowed down a bit in weight gain, I’m glad I never forced food on him during his short hunger strike. It forced me to get creative and think outside the box, and we’re both better off for it. You don’t want feeding time to ever become a battle of wills.
By riding it out, I figured out new recipes to try, and he persisted with practicing his self-feeding skills. Now he can happily and easily feed himself many foods, including bread, a new favorite of his, and he’s accepting purees so we can get those extra calories and nutrition in him!
Feeding Time Is Happy Again!
Whether it’s watching his reaction when he tries a new food, or seeing him open up his mouth like a little birdie to accept a spoonful of food, I love feeding time again, and so does he. Not to say we’ll never encounter food battles again, but now that we’ve ridden this one out, I feel much more confident about the challenges we may face in the future.
Other Finger Food Favorites
I thought I’d share a few of his recent finger food favorites. These are foods that he can feed himself, and are safe and age appropriate considering our family history with food allergies and such. He loves it when I smash up blueberries just a bit so they’re still in tact but no longer whole. This opens up the flavor and prevents them being a choking hazard.
Soft Smooshed Up Peas
While smooshed up isn’t a technical term, it’s what I do with peas before giving them to him to feed himself. I simply squeeze them a bit till they “pop” and toss a few on his tray. He loves picking them up one by one and popping them in his mouth!
Little Bits Of Meat For Protein
We haven’t offered Hayden a lot of meat, but what we have offered he’s enjoyed. Favorites include small pieces of good quality turkey meat, little bits of chicken and small pieces of cooked, ground turkey. Nutritious and full of interesting flavor and texture, these types of meat are a great way to get loads of protein in him.
If you’re not ready to give baby any meat, beans are an excellent way to get protein in his diet, and they’re perfect finger foods. While they tend to be a bit slippery, he might not get a ton of them in his mouth, they’re good practice and he loves the taste. I do squeeze them a bit before giving them to him so they aren’t so perfectly whole.
Egg yolks are full of flavor and a great source of nutrients, and Hayden loves them. I boil up a big batch and feed the yolk to Hayden and my older son eats the whites. It’s a win-win because Hayden can’t have the whites yet, and my son loves them and won’t eat the yolks! The texture can be a bit dry though, so I sometimes smash it up with a fork and add it to his purees.
So has your baby ever gone on a hunger or food strike, and if so, how have you tackled it?