In the first weeks and months of parenthood, nothing is more important than feeding our babies. We set our clocks by it, it interrupts our natural sleep patterns, and we debate at length about all the different ways to do it. It’s been this way for millennia, and because of our primal desire to always do best for our children, it will likely continue to be this way. I’m certain Paleolithic-era moms had long discussions on “roots over berries” as a first food, because moms are critical-thinkers and we seek information from other moms. In short, we care. We care about this stuff like we use to care about whether or not we could get glitter out of our hair from a Vegas weekend before work started Monday. We care hard.
This is all to say that feeding your baby is super important, and next to wondering if you’ll ever sleep a full night again (spoiler alert: haha… nope) it’s top of the list for things parents think about. But hey, look at that beautiful, cuddly child you have. No amount of dance floor glitter or sleeping-past-11 is worth the love this wonderful creature brought into your life.
When your baby moves past the solely breast or bottle-fed stage, it’s an exciting time for everyone in the house: your baby, because self-feeders get to explore new tastes and textures, and you, because you get to explore new ways of getting those tastes and textures into your baby (and out of the carpet.)
Once your baby is “self-feeding,” (able to get food from hand to mouth relatively seamlessly) you can bring finger foods into the nutritional equation. Feeding a baby on the run doesn’t need to be complicated; it needs to be safe, and nutritious. Some general safety rules apply here, like nothing too hard (no large pieces of raw vegetable, for example) and nothing that presents possible chocking hazards (please cut round fruits like grapes into small pieces.) While babies and toddlers are 6 – 18 m, they are on the move and will treat most meals like drive-thru opportunities, in that these fuel-ups come on the go and whenever the mood strikes. While you may have more formal meal and snack times in mind, here’s the thing: your baby doesn’t even know what “time” is and as evidenced by their desire to party at 3am, even if they could identify a clock, they wouldn’t care.
Food that are easy to digest, taste delicious to help form a varied palate, and are portable are a huge boon to parents with self-feeders. Adults know that delicious flavours make us happy, and it’s never too early to help inspire a love for taste and quality. Once your little one is crawling, scooting – or downright running – through feeding times, it’s time to be a problem-solver to get them fed. Soft pieces of cut fruit like ripe avocado are nutritious and delicious, but until avocadoes come with zippers, they don’t make the best playground food. A diaper bag staple for us was small rice cakes (like these mini rice cakes for self-feeders from PC Organics baby line). They taste great - yes; I’ve stolen a nibble or two from a toddler’s stroller tray; tell me you haven’t - and they’re healthy.
Small, squishable fruit or steamed vegetables are delicious and fun for self-feeders, but as my blueberry polka-dot kitchen ceiling reveals, they’re not always a great choice for travel, especially for families wishing another invite. It’s actually fascinating to observe the havoc someone under two can wreak when given a quarter cup of highly squishable, highly stainable food. So lesson learned; purees and bright fruits are “sitting down” foods.
Wriggly ones can instead get their fruit and veg on the move (with some added fibre) with PC Organic fruit and vegetable oat bars, or try cooked, soft beans or hardboiled egg, (no salt!) that you’ve chopped into bite-size pieces for babies older than 6 months. (Tip: banana tends to dry clear, like white glue, so your mother-in-law may blame your craft making nieces and nephews - and not you - for the mess she finds after you’ve all left Sunday family brunch.)