Our kids were born in week 36, weighing less than 6 pounds each. For some parents of preemies it’s probably a lot but since both my husband and I were almost twice as big when we were born, I was expecting to see two chubby babies. The twins seemed to me only skin and bones! So for me it was always a big deal that they ate everything they were supposed to and didn’t skip any meals. At the beginning, we mixed breast milk and formula but after 3 months and several sleepless nights they only got formula. Following the schedule and without pushing too much, they religiously finished the amount recommended in the formula instructions/packaging and gained weight at a good pace.
I took a 2-hour “cooking class” that our midwife taught and she suggested we start with solid foods at 4 to 6 months. We started with lunch, introducing only one vegetable at a time, carbs after a week (potatoes, rice, pasta) and meat/fish after a couple of weeks. I steamed the vegetables together, cooked the meat separately in a pressure cooker, and blended a large batch that I froze in single portions. When I warmed it up, I put a little bit of oil for helping with the stool (refined sunflower oil, not virgin olive oil!). It took them a while to realize that what they were eating was going to fill them up so I gave them a little bit of formula as dessert and they were happy again.
I gave them all different types of vegetables, meat and fish and they seemed to like them all. After 3 weeks, we introduced the fruit: also only one at a time, for the morning snack and for the afternoon snack mixed with some sugar free baby cookies. I used to prepare the fruit fresh every time unless we were traveling that I bought it from the jar. And finally, we introduced one cereal after the other with dinner, in the mornings I kept giving them just the formula. I was relatively strict with the schedule, not more than 5 minutes difference each day, which for some of my friends might have seem too much, but it worked for us and I was able to plan many things knowing exactly when they were going to sleep, eat, and get tired.
I used no salt or sugar for the first year and also pureed everything, a little thicker as they were getting older. They both got their first teeth at around 11 months old and we had a couple of “almost choking” incidents with bread so I practically avoided giving them anything to suck for a long time. My fear that they wouldn’t gain weight was totally unnecessary since they actually were almost too eager! I had to give one of them 3 spoonfuls of puree, the pacifier and then feed the next one, 3 spoonfuls, pacifier, etc… it’s not so easy to feed 2 hungry babies at the same time!
They eventually got tired of purees and we practically transitioned from that to regular food in no time. They were always seated in high chairs but together at the table with us and we let them grab the silverware and eat by themselves. They made a mess, but they ate and it was also more relaxed and time efficient for us to do it at the same time. We used to cut the meat in small pieces until they were able to tear it with their teeth and of course helped them if they weren’t able to pick it up with the spoon or fork. I also like to cook stews and legumes (lentil soup, garbanzos…) since it’s not too watery and also easy to chew. On the other hand, I read somewhere that chewing is a necessary exercise for the jaw and for speech development so they also eat fried meat but not cooked too strong.
Now that they are almost 3 years old we feed them pretty much the same food that we eat, only that my husband uses hot sauce a lot of times (but only on his plate) and they get a glass of milk during dinner. They are really good eaters and like trying new things, especially if we are also having them. They love fruit so if they don’t want the main course I don’t force them to eat it because I know they will at least have fruit for dessert. I hope they don’t change, I’ve heard it could be the total opposite all of a sudden!
Some routines that I think definitely help are:
- No snacking. If they are not hungry, they don’t eat. Stick to the amount of meals, we only do 4 now.
- Let them help with the cooking, maybe just by washing the vegetables, stirring the soup, cutting the lettuce with their hands…
- Let them serve themselves, it also helps them to manage the portions
- Only drink water. No juice or soda. That’s only for very special occasions
- Don’t worry. I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter what you do, they will only eat if they want to… so enjoy your own meal!
Some recipes to get you started
Recipe 1, afternoon snack, 8 months old:
- 3 Tbsp. oats
- 3 Tbsp. water
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 apple
- ½ cup carrot juice
Warm up the water and let the oats boil for half a minute. Dice the apple and steam it for 10 minutes. Put everything in the blender and add more juice if necessary.
Recipe 2, lunch, 10 months old:
- 1 filet of fresh salmon
- 1 tsp. sunflower or olive oil
- 1/2 cup of pasta (elbow macaroni works well)
- ½ leek
- 1 zucchini or 1/2 cup pumpkin
- ½ broccoli head
- 1 carrot
Dice all the vegetables and steam them in the microwave or on the stove top. Boil the pasta according to package directions. Fry the salmon on low heat in a pan with the oil. Smash everything together with a fork so that it is not too thin. Add some of the water used for steaming if it’s too dry.
Recipe 3, lunch, 15 months:
- 1 cup stew meat
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 carrots
- 2 potatoes
- 1 tomato
- 1/2 cup peas
Dredge the beef in flour and fry it for a couple of minutes in the olive oil. It does not have to be done, just a little brown. Peel the tomato (I usually pour some boiling water over it, so that it’s easier to peel), remove the seeds and dice it. Peel the carrots and slice them. Peel the potatoes and cut them in pieces trying to tear it so that the starch thickens the sauce. Put everything in the pressure cooker and cover with water. Once the pressure is reached, lower the temperature and let it cook for 45 minutes. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can cook on the stovetop for about 1 1/2 hours on low.)
Marta Tolosa is a native of Spain and has been living in Germany for the last 12 years, where she met her American husband and raises her twin 2-year-old boys (who have 3 nationalities!) She studied computer science and works in IT. She likes to watch romantic comedies and walk back home from the movie theater. Marta is a volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.