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Cooking for Hugo


In early December I started feeding Hugo his first solids. Since then I've gotten so many requests to write about what I feed him that I started to realize that just one post to cover it probably wouldn't do. After all, what I feed Hugo changes every week and anyway, it turns out that the whole topic of baby food is way more complicated than I ever thought. There's a lot of ground to cover.

(Who knew? I didn't. Oof.)

It's been heartening, really - I've found navigating what to feed Hugo often very confusing, and all those requests clearly show that I'm not alone. So I've been thinking: how about a once-weekly post where I write about what I fed him this week, what's been working and what hasn't, what tips I might have figured out and what frustrations I'm currently dealing with? It would be lovely to hear what those of you with small babies are dealing with, too, as you navigate the world of solid foods with your little one.

I'll call the column, as it were, Cooking for Hugo and it'll show up here once a week. I'll hide most of it behind a jump so that those of you who are interested can click your way on in and those of you who aren't don't feel assaulted by mushy peas and carrots. It'll cover everything having to do with feeding babies, from recipes to gear to differing "philosophies" on how babies should be fed. I think it'll be fun? I hope it'll be helpful.

Let's get started. Come on in!

To kick things off, I thought I'd give a little overview of where we stand these days. Hugo is 7 1/2 months old and has been eating solids since he was 6 months old. Our pediatrician had recommended that we start at 4 months, but after a few days of giving him a few spoonfuls of puréed squash or carrots, our peaceful little boy got an upset stomach and awfully disturbed sleep, which I took to mean that he simply wasn't ready yet and went back to nursing him exclusively. At 6 months, he was far more interested in what we were eating, his eyes following our forks' every move. So one day, I plopped him down in his little bouncy chair, puréed a boiled carrot, and spooned some into his mouth. The reaction was instantaneous! His eyes lit up, he swallowed and then opened his mouth eagerly for more.

Since then, we've gone through quite a few different vegetables - carrots to start, then parsnips, potatoes, fennel, beets, broccoli, leeks, peas, zucchini and broccoflower. I bring a little bit of water to the boil, slice in whatever vegetable we're having, boil until tender, then purée with a bit of the cooking water until it's creamy and loose. Before feeding the purée to Hugo, I mix in a drizzle of olive oil and then we're good to go.

The first few times I pulled out the immersion blender, Hugo would start to cry - he hated the noise. But then he figured out that soon after hearing that noise he would get something delicious to eat and now whenever I start to blend, he gets all impatient for food.

At first, I'd feed Hugo each vegetable for several days in a row, to get him used to it. But when I realized that he really just didn't like some things (potatoes and sweet potatoes, for example - weird, right?), I didn't insist. Then I started getting daring. We were out an Indian restaurant one day and he was getting very loud and insistent - whenever we put a forkful of food in our mouths, he'd open his and then scream when he didn't get any! So I fed him a little raita, a bite from my mashed potato dosa filling and a tiny dollop of coconut chutney. The look on this face as he tasted these things was hilarious - slightly horrified and also very intrigued.

Hugo already has clear favorites. He adores parsnips, fennel, beets and zucchini and will gobble them up in no time. He loves fruit (I was making my own purées for a while and then decided that I needed a break from all the constant prepping, cooking, and cleaning up - and that he needed more variety than what I could find at the store, so now I buy puréed fruit mixtures from the store, like blueberries in applesauce, or peaches with passionfruit, and feel much better) and thinks plain whole milk yogurt is the most delicious thing on the planet. I think I could probably mix chicken liver in with yogurt and he'd eat it.

With an Italian mother, a German mother-in-law, and my own (American?) ideas about feeding babies, I've got a lot of conflicting information swirling around in my head at any given time. Add those cultural differences to the more than 30 years that separate my mothering experience from both of Hugo's grandmothers' and there's even more to discuss and (gently) disagree on.

I feel pretty good about where we are right now - with Hugo dipping his toes into the varied and colorful world of fruits and vegetables. (We also give him hot cereal once a day - right now cream of millet is his favorite, but he's showing a keen interest in oatmeal, too.) How about you? What cultural differences do you struggle with when feeding your baby? What does he or she love (and hate?) to eat? Furthermore, what other aspects of baby-feeding would you like us to cover here? From baby-led weaning to high chairs to "French"-style baby food versus "American", there is so much to explore...