Sunday, May 06, 2007

Finger-Lickin' Good, Baby!

Many of you have already noted my preoccupation with The Bhaeblet's food habits and nutrition. In part this is because V and I have terrible food habits ourselves, and in part it's because WB is such a skinny runt.

After WB's weaning was begun I went online looking for ideas for baby food. I didn't think very highly of the stuff I saw (not sufficiently detailed, not very appetising being my complaints) and so am posting on the dishes I have found both delicious as well as nutritious. In addition, they are fairly easy to make. This last is important for me because I only have a part-timer coming in the morning and do all my own cooking and housework.

Early weaning, from 4 months on, I'd say:

1. Juice. Always from a bottle, never mind what anybody says. You need a manual citrus juicer (electric ones are harder to control, and sometimes overjuice the fruit, making it bitter), a fine strainer and a toothbrush to clean them both.

2. Some sweets. WB was partial to moong dal laddus. Give your baby only a pinch at a time and never more than say half a dozen pinches. You can also give him chapattis to suck on, to keep you company at mealtimes (but not parathas).

3. Crushed bananas. I prefer to grate them, because it's faster and easier.

4. Steamed apples. They are traditionally boiled in a pressure cooker, but I think steaming is healthier, and very easy to do in a microwave. All you need is a big pan with a lid. Fill it with a cup or two of water. Place peeled, cut, cored apples in a bowl in the middle, so the water surrounds but does not touch the apple. Microwave for 4,5 min at full power. Afterwards, crush the soft apples with a fork and feed your baby. Good apples will not need sugar. Powdered cinnamon is a nice change.

Weaning, from approximately 6 months although most babies are ready earlier:

1. I'd start with a baby cereal. It's easy to make and for the fortnight or so that your baby's on it, you learn how best to feed him, which is not as easy as many imagine.
You need to keep a wet rag handy, to wipe his mouth from time to time, and some water in a bottle. Also, it's wiser to start with really runny cereal (cake batter/ dosa batter consistency) and only one solid meal a day. I found it very useful to feed WB with those bottles with spoons.

2. Overcooked rice. Take basmati or gobindobhog. (The finer varieties, I mean.) Cook it over a medium flame until it's gooey and fallen apart. I strain it then, although my mother doesn't, because I don't like the starch and also because for babies just being weaned, starch may be a little difficult to digest. WB had no problems, though.

To this you can add:

a) Milk and powdered sugar/honey.

b) Milk and crushed bananas.

c) Butter and runny mashed potatoes.

d) Lightly cooked chicken or fish curry (with only basic spices, any old veggies, very little oil and lots of watery gravy).

e) Chicken soup. (Chicken boiled with onion, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, pumpkin. The longer you boil the greater the nutrition and taste. Vary vegetables for changes in taste.)

f) Fish or chicken stew (same as above but with cinnamon, maida to make gravy, cloves etc.)

Mostly, I recommend cooking with very little salt. It makes sense to add a good dollop of butter/ghee to the food before serving (ahem!) and then it becomes salty anyway. Babies need butter, the more the better. Especially skinny little runts.

Also, mash all foods until your baby's got teeth, because otherwise they may choke. Mashed food still retains a lot of textures.

WB hasn't shown much interest in rusks (too dry) although he does enjoy crumbling and sucking on strips of toast (toast soldiers).

Now when we go out, I find he is interested in and likes to share our food. He hasn't had any problems so far (touch wood!) and has eaten biriyani, pulao, kebabs, even cheesecake, not to mention other desserts. I try to give him light, non-oily foods.

There will be a follow-up post on time-saving baby cooking. (Not cooking babies, so don't make that tired old joke.) I just need to stay awake long enough to do that.

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