The way I see it, we are simply introducing foods, to get them used to it before it becomes a significant part of their diet. In the beginning, I usually offer them about a tablespoon or so once a day. After 4-5 days, we try a different food. After we've introduced several foods (always waiting 4 days between new ones in order to rule out any food allergies), I start making combination dishes. And then the real fun begins!
Unlike the typical rice cereal that our generation was always given at first, I like to start with something more fun. Something with, well, FLAVOR! While it's absolutely fine to start with a rice or oatmeal cereal, I like to start with things like bananas, avocadoes, and sweet potatoes, then add in the single grain cereals (I actually don't make my own baby cereal - I like this brand). Maybe I'm just strange like that, but I want my girls' first food experience to have more flavor and texture than bland cereal. Perhaps that's also why my 2.5 year old loves curry, requests tiramisu by name, asks for hot sauce on her tacos, and will tell you her favorite type of olive is a kalamata. We are flavor junkies in our family and I suspect nothing less from our kiddos.
I especially like to start with bananas and avocadoes because they don't have to be cooked. Simply mash with a fork, add a little water/breastmilk/formula to thin, and you're done! It doesn't get much easier than that, my friends. Unless I have a use for avocado that day, I usually slice it up and freeze it right away. This seems to be the best way I've found to keep it from browning. Check out my method for freezing avocado and the handy dandy little tool I love. As for bananas, it's usually best to keep in the peel and cover the end with plastic wrap. Or just share with big sis!
Now on to the cooking part! As I've said before, you can do without a lot of baby gear/gadgets, but they sure make life easier! With Annalyn, I bought this baby food maker that steams and purees with the touch of a button. You just check it for desired consistency, add liquid if needed, and pour into ice cube trays to freeze. The next day, toss the cubes into a labeled and dated bag for easy freezer storage. Easy peasy! (Well, I'm officially using mom language. Can you tell I spend most of my time talking to a preschooler and a baby?)
Sadly, I didn't get it dry enough after the last time I used it, because when I dug it out it had a mix of hard water buildup and what looked like mold (?) on in the inside of the water compartment. <sigh> Now, I'm trying to decide if I want to buy another and if so, the same model. I whipped up a batch of sweet potato puree using the microwave and Magic Bullet, and while not hard, it just wasn't as simple as the one touch steam/blend. This week, I made apples, pears, and butternut squash in the oven and again, used the Bullet to blend them, but I'm still torn. Any suggestions? Any gadgets/baby food makers I simply can't live without? Here are a few of my other favorite gadgets for making baby food (and food in general):
1. Avocado slicer - saved me from cutting myself for the umpteenth time trying to get the pit out of the avocado. Plus it makes the most beautiful, evenly spaces slices. I just love it.
2. Melon baller - works great for balling melons, but also for coring fruit like apples and pears.
3. Small cutting boards - So great for small jobs when you don't want to get out and wash the big cutting board. I have probably 3-4 of these so that one's always ready to go.
4. Ice cube trays with lids - these are an absolutely must for me. I have 4 that I rotate between. Once frozen, I pop the cubes out into labeled freezer bags.
5. Reusable pouches/smoothie cups - I promise I'll do a summary post about our experience with all the different types of reusable pouches as Emma gets to that stage. We've tried several, but I'm sure there are even some newer ones out there. (Anna's favorite was the Sucup. She still uses it for smoothies!)
Here's my general plan for introducing first foods to a 4-6 month old baby (waiting 4 days after each new addition before adding another food. This helps rule out food allergies if baby were to have a reaction to something):
foods: bananas, avocadoes, baby rice/oatmeal cereal, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, apples, pears. Start by offering single foods until each has been introduced, then you can start giving combinations using foods she's already eaten.
timing: start with giving a small amount at lunchtime (Emma usually naps from 10:30ish-12). She really likes to eat when we eat and it's helped her figure out what to do with this crazy spoon thing we keep putting in her mouth. As she's gotten the hang of it, we sometimes also give her a small amount while the rest of the family's eating dinner (we always push her highchair up to the table and give her teething toys so she's at least included).
how much: In the beginning, offer about a tablespoon. Gradually increase to a whole cube (1 oz, about 2 T.). As baby gets bigger/older and starts eating more, can mix 2-3 cubes for each meal.
I don't know why, but this is one of my absolute favorite baby stages. Maybe because I love food and I love sharing that with my girls. It's so much fun to see her face each time she tries something new, and watch as she acquires a taste for it over the next couple days. I'll be sure to update our progress, but for now, we are still introducing first foods in addition to breastfeeding. And it seems to be working for her - just look at those rolls!