Feeding Miss Etta

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I’ve posted a little bit about feeding my girls, but after a few comments on Twitter and Instagram about Miss Etta’s eating habits, I thought it might be helpful to go ahead and write a more detailed post about my semi-Baby Led Weaning table-food-eating one year old.

We started introducing solids in the form of purees around 6 months, but from the start, Etta wanted little to do with being spoon fed. She likes to do things by and for herself, and the whole thing was largely a very messy battle with her wanting to control the spoon, and very little food winding up in her mouth. By about 9 months, she was still mostly not eating food, so we decided to try “Baby Led Weaning,” which I had mostly heard of on mama message boards. Basically, Baby Led Weaning is giving kids pieces of food that they can feed themselves. I never read the books on the subject, but there are many, as well as websites, so feel free to seek that stuff out. We just started giving her steamed hunks of sweet potato and carrot, about adult finger sized, and from there eventually wound up graduating to just feeding her foods.

These days, my entire fridge is full of little tupperwares of Etta meal components. Then her meals are basically just multiple choice problems. Breakfast is usually fruit+grain+dairy, and lunch and dinner are protein+veggies+grain, with an occasional dairy item thrown in.

Fruits:

  • No sugar added applesauce (the only ingredients are apples and apple juice, but I may start adding cinnamon to give her some flavor), served in a Yummi Pouch.
  • I buy canned/jarred fruit a lot, and either give it to her to feed herself in chunks, or puree it in my Ninja Blender and serve it to her in a Yummi Pouch, often adding oatmeal baby cereal to it. We like peaches, pears, pineapple, and mixed tropical fruit in juice (not syrup).
  • Fresh fruits like pears, sliced into wedges she can hold and gnaw on. Hunks of banana or mango, sliced berries, and clementine segments have also gone over well. I’ve even bought frozen berries, thawed, and served them to her, though they were a huge mess. In the future, I may restrict berries to purees in the Yummi Pouch so she looks less like an extra from a zombie flick.

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Grains/starches:

  • We are big fans of toast+spreads, both for breakfast and dinner. Toast is usually a halved multigrain English muffin or multigrain bread. Spreads include guacamole, butter, hummus, jam, pumpkin butter, tahini, almond, and peanut butter. I cut the toast into strips of about adult finger size, and she goes to town. 
  • Tortillas, spread with any of the above spreads, or as a cheese quesadilla.
  • Earth’s Best baby crackers or graham crackers
  • Veggie pastas, like the kind with spinach and tomato in it, either plain or tossed in some simple tomato sauce (this is messy). Bowties and Penne seem easy to hold.
  • Spinach and cheese raviolis, cooked and cut into quarters.
  • Rice
  • Mashed potatoes, though this is a messy proposition and usually necessitates a bath as she smears it in her hair.
  • Roasted potatoes.
  • The occasional French fry.

Proteins:

  • BEANS! Etta loves beans. I buy organic canned beans (I admit, I’m not stressing about BPA in canned foods at this point, though I buy BPA free items whenever possible), and she likes kidney, pinto, black, and garbanzo beans. I just rinse them and keep them in a container in the fridge. She gets a handful at a time. Hummus on toast, as mentioned above, also counts as a serving of beans. Warning: you will see the bean peels when you change a poopy diaper. Do not be alarmed!
  • Cooked chicken, shredded or cubed. She usually only gets this if we’re having chicken for dinner.
  • Fish. So far she’s just had salmon when we were having it for dinner, but she was a fan. She loves flavorful stuff.
  • Scrambled tofu. She loved scrambled eggs until we had a pretty strong allergic reaction, and she likes scrambled tofu almost as much, particularly flavored up with chili powder and cheese.

Veggies:

  • Frozen mixed veggies have been a staple. They’re easy to steam in the microwave and store in a tupperware, and she gets to try a large variety. I often add butter or olive oil and some sort of spices or herbs, because I’ve discovered through serving her bits of our meals that she really loves flavor. Peas, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini, squash, butternut squash, edamame, and lima beans are all easy to get in the freezer section.
  • Sauteed, steamed, ora roasted fresh veggies are great too– whatever we’re having for dinner, she often gets some. Zucchini seems to be a fave.
  • Halved cherry tomatoes. She loves these. The acidity often irritates the skin on her face and hands though, so I can’t give them to her as often as she’d like. She noms all the goodness out and spits out the peels.
  • Weird stuff, like hearts of palm from a salad we had, are always fun for her to try, and she often ends up loving them.

Dairy:

  • YOGURT. I make homemade yogurt, and she eats it in a Yummi Pouch.
  • Cheese. Cubed cheddar, jack, or mozzarella are easy, as is pre-crumbled goat cheese and feta. She loves them all.

When I have several of the above components, meals just become a simple matter of pulling out the containers and giving her a little of each category. Any time I don’t think she’s eaten a lot of the food, I give her a pouch of yogurt or apple sauce to round out the meal and fill her up. So far, she’s pretty willing to try just about anything, and she’s not very picky. I will be sure to update with a new post once we’re further into toddlerhood!

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homemade yogurt: one step closer to hippiedom

I know blogging’s been sparse around here lately. I fell off the vegan wagon and the blogging wagon at about the same time. It’s a good thing though: I’m studying feverishly to try and pass the last step between me and an MA in English Literature: the dreaded comps exam. So, expect blogging to resume something resembling regularity sometime after the first week of April, at which point I’m sure I’ll have cute Bufflo Gals’ 1st Birthday photos.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a new routine going in my kitchen, and it involves living organisms.

No, I’m not raising goats or something out in our rented back yard. I started making my own yogurt and now I don’t even know who I am anymore. I distinctly remember a friend saying she made her own yogurt one time, and thinking to myself, “that’s nutty. Just buy the yogurt, ya weirdo.”

But then I got my almost-one-year-olds off formula, discovered they love whole milk, and discovered further that they REALLY REALLY love whole milk yogurt. And that YoBaby shiz ain’t cheap.

Yogurt faces.
Yogurt faces.

Another problem: though Claire loves to be spoon fed (she lives on purees, after all), Little Miss Feeds Herself wants no part of me lovingly spooning yogurt into her mouth. If I let her try to spoon feed herself, every end but the end with the yogurt gets in her mouth, and it’s an epic mess. If I try to feed her myself, it’s an insane battle of waving arms and yelling at me as she tries to grab the spoon while I’m trying to stick it in her mouth. About every 5th bite gets in there, which is nuts.

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So, to solve the “my kids eat 8-16 oz of yogurt per day” problem and the Etta loves yogurt but eating it with her hands is difficult problem, I have discovered two solutions.

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The first, as I mentioned before, is making my own yogurt. I basically follow this process from Annie’s Eats. I heat half a gallon of milk to 180 degrees to denature the proteins in it (which is apparently important). Then, I pour it into a Pyrex glass bowl and cool it to between 110 and 120 degrees. Then I add a couple of tablespoons of yogurt (at this point, I use the last bit of my homemade yogurt, but my first batch used plain Stonyfield Farm whole milk yogurt), and stir. Then, I preheat my oven for one minute (which gets it to about 120 degrees) turn it off, and turn on the light. Meanwhile I put a lid on the Pyrex and swaddle the whole thing with a few kitchen towels.

I leave the Pyrex in the oven with the light on overnight, for about 12 hours. In the morning, when I wake up, I go in, take off the lid, and it’s yogurt. Well, yogurt swimming in whey. So, I line a colander with either a couple layers of cheesecloth or a thin dishtowel like a flour sack towel, and set it in a bowl (you could just do the sink, but I’m saving the whey because I’m crazy and want to try making whey ricotta cheese), and strain the yogurt until it’s nice and thick and creamy. Half a gallon of milk left overnight yields 1.5 quarts of yogurt and 2 cups of whey. Scraping it off the towel with a spatula is really as tough as the work gets here.

What the yogurt looks like when I take it out in the morning, pre-straining.
What the yogurt looks like when I take it out in the morning, pre-straining.
Straining yogurt through a colander lined with a flour sack towel.
Straining yogurt through a colander lined with a flour sack towel.
Resultant strained yogurt and whey.
Resultant strained yogurt and whey.

Taste-wise, the homemade yogurt is just as good as the plain whole milk yogurt I was buying. It works great as a sour cream substitute, too. To serve it to the girls, I usually mix it with some pureed fruit and some oatmeal baby cereal so they get a complete breakfast. For snacks or when they need a little something after dinner, I just stir in a smidge of agave syrup for sweetness (because they can’t have honey yet).

This brings me to: how do I get the yogurt into the girl who won’t be spoon fed?

I had seen on Pinterest some reusable baby food pouches that are basically the same as those Plum baby food pouches, except the spout is on the side and the top is like a Ziploc bag. So, after searching on Amazon and reading some reviews, I decided to go with the Yummi Pouch (consider this a mini-review, I guess) because they were cheaper than the Little Green Pouch, which I was also considering. They are awesome, y’all. I just fill them with 4 oz. of yogurt, zip up the top, hand it to Etta, and she knows exactly how to hold it and suck the yogurt out of the spout, a feat she figured out within seconds of having the first drops squeezed onto her tongue and realizing that sweet yogurty goodness was inside that thing.

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The Yummi Pouches claim to be dishwasher safe, but I’m not sure I trust my dishwasher to hold it open enough to get clean. So, I’ve been washing them by hand using a bottle brush, and drying them on my bottle rack. Works fine. One tip I did read in one of the reviews: the lids are easy to lose, but are the same diameter as the disposable baby food pouches, so if you use those, just save the lids in case you lose the lids to your pouches. I’ve tried the lids from a GoGoSqueez applesauce pouch and they worked just fine!

Overall, my newfound yogurt-making hobby is saving me money– a 32 oz. container of Stonyfield Farm plain whole milk yogurt costs me $4ish, while an entire gallon of milk, which yields 64 oz. of yogurt, costs the same. So the homemade is literally half the price, with none of the trash of the packaging. And since I also mix it with fruit purees, we can compare the cost to the YoBaby yogurt, which would be almost $11 for the amount a gallon of milk yields in homemade yogurt! Maybe I’m not as crazy as I once thought my yogurt-making friend was!

nothin’ says lovin’ like something from a jar

It’s hard to believe the Bufflo Gals have gone from this:

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To this:

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And as they’ve grown, things have changed with the way we feed them around here. Some things have worked great, others haven’t worked out.

I really wanted to make my own baby food.

And then I met my babies. One wants nothing to do with being spoon fed (as I mentioned in an earlier post) and the other vomits the minute she tastes my homemade food. Not just spits it out. Vomits.

At first, I was sort of offended by this. I thought I had a picky baby, since she would happily gobble down jars of purees both veggie and fruit, and then immediately gag and choke on my homemade stuff that, to my eye, seemed exactly the same as the stuff in a jar. In fact, I remained irritated and offended by this for a few months.

And then I finally googled “spina bifida texture issues” and learned that this is common to many babies with spina bifida, and often requires occupational therapy to fix. And then I felt like a jerk.

IMG_0419We’re looking into our OT and PT options and will be getting a referral soon, but in the meantime, I have accepted that homemade baby food is just not our thing. I can make a few very thin varieties that she will eat (like tomato carrot!), but, since straining every puree through a fine mesh strainer is a huge hassle, I will just be buying jarred purees for Claire. There’s a huge variety of organic Earth’s Best foods available, so that’s mostly what we’re going with. I even got over my aversion to pureed meat, because if she’s gonna be on these things for longer than average, I want to let her have some proteins, and the only other option is lentil dinner.

Meanwhile, Etta is doing a sort of half-assed version of Baby Led Weaning. I haven’t read the books, but I’ve read about it on the internet, and, like most of the rest of my parenting, am sort of doing what feels right. She gets soft chunks of things cut into pieces she can hold in her fist. Sweet potato, pasta, carrot, watermelon, cantaloupe, cheese, and toast are all favorites. It’s going pretty well.

Etta loves eggs.
Etta loves eggs. Or did. Until she had an allergic reaction this morning. No more eggs for a while.

Next step: transitioning from formula to milk in about a month, and also trying to transition from bottles to sippy cups. Anyone have tips on that? Both of my girls still have issues with fast-flow nipples, and they nearly drown in sippy cups.

She'll gnaw it, but she won't drink from it.
She’ll gnaw it, but she won’t drink from it.