Don’t get me wrong. I am a lover of tools and the amazing inventions we enjoy today make our lives better, safer, fuller, and more wonderful. I am not interested in forgoing modernity in favor of a Spartan, sterile, or otherwise difficult existence. However, where does a new family begin to sort out the true needs from the money, time, and storage sucking items marketed to us? I am aiming to address one tiny category in this blog post: baby food gadgets.
By all means, you should follow the direction of your pediatrician in regards to what to feed your baby in the manner they direct. One of the many reasons I love my pediatrician is because I’d bet he’s a Wildflower at heart too. Every time I have asked, “Should I buy…?” his answer has been “No.” He’s old fashioned in that way and I love it.
If you are reading this, regardless of if you are currently agonizing about how to feed a small child or not, you are likely aware of the vast number of gadgets out there designed to transform food that once was solid to a puree-type thickness. This food is for the time between when a baby is eating only liquids to when they have enough teeth to chew grownup types of food. This time frame can be for a few a couple months up to a year at most, depending on when the baby in question gets their teeth. In a very general and conservative guesstimate, many doctors say you can start feeding baby food to a baby at six months of age and then you could expect many teeth to be present by one year. Some babies can’t or won’t eat food till they are one and surely lots don’t get teeth till after one but I would bet that most moms would agree that they are truly in baby food land for only 6 months.
It is important to remember that not only is a parent making a sort of solid food into less solid food for not very many months but also that baby is still getting lots of calories daily from milk or formula. So not every meal needs to include baby food. In terms of time spent in a particular stage consider this: Baby is in diapers (and you are dealing with and thinking about diapers) every day for about 2 years. You are in the bathtub daily for a long time. You are either nursing or making formula many times a day for a year or more. Baby food by comparison takes up a LOT LESS time and importance in the grand scale.
But if you search on the internet, “baby must haves” or stroll the baby aisle of any big box store, there are countless gadgets for making baby food that are aggressively marketed to new moms. There are hand and motorized blenders, mashers, feeders, tiny containers, and the like. You may have a friend who has one or more of the gadgets and they may love them and I think that’s great. I am here to say you DO NOT NEED those gadgets and you would likely be very glad you didn’t spend the money on them or the time purchasing, cleaning and storing them and then figuring out what to do with them when you are no longer in baby food land.
The baby blenders are my favorite to criticize and here’s why. They are just a small blender. That’s it. They don’t make the ingredients more wholesome, more age appropriate, or more palatable to baby than a regular blender. They cost more than a regular sized blender of a similar quality, and are a total racket. It’s not like when you are done blending pears into puree you can give your kid brother the baby blender with the teddy bear on it to make margaritas in his first college apartment. There’s no where near enough room for blended drinks! The market for used baby gear is of course an option but the fact remains that families could easily have blended in a regular blender or food processor or used a fork or potato masher to soften food for baby. By skipping buying the tiny blender you save the time of figuring out where to store it or get rid of it when your days of pureed peas are over.
One item marketed to new moms is baby food cookbooks. I will admit that it was very handy to have a reference for when it is a good idea to introduce certain foods to reduce allergic reactions, and nice to have a reminder that these baby foods shouldn’t hang out in the fridge for weeks before being served, but the cooking instructions in these books are all the same. Steam or boil harder foods and blend/mash using an expensive device and for soft foods, soften further with an expensive device. Sorry for the spoiler but that’s about all the cooking instructions are going to give an eager new mom. The only verb you will find is some variant of ‘mash’.
The tiny containers are seemingly useful but again I argue their use is very limited and the time for which they are useful is very brief indeed. I used a couple of gifted tiny containers to freeze the nice sweet potato I prepared for baby and dutifully filled the awkwardly tiny receptacle and froze them only to find that baby hated the sweet potato and despite periodically defrosting and trying again, it was wasted effort. Sure, you can freeze baby’s favorite mashed treat but my feeling is that you are likely cooking or at least in the kitchen anyway- why not mash up what you are eating or mash up something fresh?
So how did I mash up food for my babies? I mashed with a fork, I sliced into tiny pieces with a steak knife, and I used a small food processor that I already owned that I use for lots of non-baby related tasks. I never felt compelled to use the grownup blender I already owned. I would say that if a family owned one motorized, grownup appropriate device such as a food processor or regular blender or even a hand or stand mixer, that would suffice. Truly, a person could mash almost everything with a fork and knife, hence the graphics at the top of this post that I chose very purposefully.
What do you think, Wildflowers? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!