Nursery food

About a month ago I began to put those little baby “puffs” on Mimi’s high chair tray to see if she would feed herself, because at that point she was picking up food in her fist and depositing it somewhere in the region of her mouth, though almost never in her mouth. I wanted her to have some practice that wouldn’t stain or soggify anything. Puffs are perfect.

About two weeks ago she got really good at eating puffs. Since then there’s been a nearly full-on refusal to be spoon fed. I can get some cereal in her in the mornings when she’s very hungry, and in the afternoons she’s again very hungry in the long stretch between lunch and dinner, and if I give her something really tempting–like flavored baby yogurt–she’ll take a little of that. But the bulk of her meals, including all of lunch and dinner? She MUST feed herself.

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This is a challenge for me, because I find myself putting the same things on her tray over and over. Pasta with butter. Canned green beans (which are her favorite food, which she eats before anything else). Steamed carrots. Steamed apple chunks. Doesn’t it sound monotonous?

We will give her whatever parts of our dinner she’s likely to gum up by herself, and she enjoys them. But she needs more things tailored to her needs. I tried making “baby casseroles” of vegetables and pasta held together with a slurry of baby food meat and milk. The result was, predictably, disgusting and she rejected it. I haven’t tried making macaroni and cheese for her yet, but I think it would go down “okay”, about as well as pasta with butter does.

Sandwiches, though, she loves. If I spread a piece of toast with something tasty and cut it into little fingers, she’ll eat almost the whole thing. So the new challenge is, what tasty, nutritious and calorically dense stuff can I put on toast? Grilled cheese sandwiches are obvious. Remembering Dr. Spock’s advice from previous editions to give babies egg yolk, I mashed some hard-boiled yolks with butter and have used that as a spread, even adding a pinch of shredded cheese. Today I had a big victory when I invented “baby chicken salad”, a combination of homemade pureed chicken with enough sour cream to make it stick. This is the first time Mimi has been happy about eating meat in her whole life.

All of this makes me think about Victorian nursery food. The Victorians had a lot of ideas about what food children should eat. Nursery food was plain and simple; there was a lot of oatmeal and a lot of toast, a lot of meat and a lot of thoroughly cooked and sieved fruit and vegetables. And, voila, here we are. Mimi’s daily diet.

While I think I should continue being adventurous about what vegetables and fruit I put on her tray, it probably won’t pay to drive myself crazy about what to do with her pasta and her sandwiches. Just because it seems monotonous to me doesn’t mean it seems monotonous to her, as most children aren’t culinarily adventurous. I just need to let her be. That’s a large part of parenting, isn’t it? Just letting the kid be.

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5 thoughts on “Nursery food

  1. Oh, the memories your post brings back! Sounds like little Mimi is beginning to assert her independence.Good for her, but frustrating for you. My oldest was very picky. One thing he particularly liked on his tray however, was leftover baked potatoes, sliced into little fingers and toasted with a bit of cheese. By the time my second was a toddler, I received a very helpful piece of advice from my pediatrician. He told me to stop trying to balance every meal, or even each days meals. Look at a young child’s diet in week or even two-week increments. One day they may only want carrots, or bananas or whatever, but it if you don’t make too big a fuss they will usually move on to something else. So, provide them with healthy options and let them choose within reason. I found this to be extremely helpful as it took some of the pressure off a young Mom, trying to do everything right. Your Mimi is delightful, really enjoy seeing her pics.

  2. Sounds like little Mimi is definitely in the “self” stage of our family legend. Don’t forget well cooked French toast cut into fingers (Assuming no egg allergies.). She won’t even know it’s supposed to have syrup on it, so leave it off.

  3. I wouldn’t worry about being too adventerous either. In the beginning you just want them to get used to textures and tastes and they say they have to try something 8 times before they really know whether they like it or not. (Whoever “they” are right?)

    I will, however, tell you what we have spread on toast around here: avocados (smushed to make a spread although both of my girls would eat them any way you served them), hummous or any kind of bean dip and – gasp – nut butters. Fionnuala is already eating peanut butter. I started that before she was a year old because one day we only had pb&j sandwhiches on us. Of course, we’re vegans so our diet is a little different but most kids like hummous or hummous-like spreads and they can be made easily.

  4. It’s good to be adventurous, but I know for the longest time I felt like I was stuck in a rut with what I was feeding the twins too. They had a variety of veggies, but not like “main dishes”. It was pasta, or waffles, or pancakes for dinner. But I varied the side dishes more and more and let them take bites of what I was eating and little by little I started feeding them what we were eating instead of making separate dishes. It’s a process for sure.

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