A Daily Dose of Mush – The History of Baby Purees

Birdie’s 6th month on this earth is fast approaching, and I can’t help but feel the pressure to feed her mush. Mushy rice cereal. Mushy peas. How does runny peach mush sound to you?

Dinner is served???

Or maybe mystery meat mush with gravy? Have you actually smelled that stuff? It stinks like canned dog food.

Canned dog food

And I’m expected to spoon it into her mouth with a goofy grin on my face while making plane noises to distract her enough to swallow. Perhaps there’s something to the fact that babies don’t want to eat their daily mush.

Anyone who has played the blindfolded baby food game at a baby shower knows that the flavor is definitely lacking and the texture is gag inducing.

Birdie's daddy, the Cubs Fan, can't even swallow his mouthful of baby food.

Birdie's Papi grimaces during the baby food game

If babies protest so much, why do modern parents continue to spoon mush into mouths clenched in disgust? Let’s look at the significance of baby purees throughout the years for some insight.

Throughout history and up until just a few generations ago, it was generally recommended that babies who were not breastfed and couldn’t tolerate cow’s milk should begin to receive cereal and pureed foods as early as the first month after birth. (Don’t believe me? Ask your grandmother.) Since the babies were so young, the food had to be pureed in order to be swallowed since their tongue thrust reflex was so strong.

  • What’s the tongue thrust reflex? Have you ever seen a baby being fed a spoonful of something and his tongue pushes it right back out? That’s the tongue thrust reflex. From the time a baby is born until somewhere around 4 months of age, his tongue naturally pushes anything that enters the mouth outward, protecting the baby from choking. Between 4 and 6 months the tongue thrust reflex begins to diminish, allowing the natural progression from exclusive breastfeeding to solid foods to begin.

An excerpt from Sophia Hale's book, Cookery for Children, published in 1852.

Thus, pureed vegetables and fruits became a staple baby food and have been ingrained in the minds of parents that they must be the way babies are fed. Why? Because that’s how babies have been fed from generation to generation. Food historians have found recipes for feeding infants like those found in Cookery for Children by Sophia Hale in 1852, tucked in sections for feeding invalids since they shared similar qualities; the foods required to feed babies and invalids needed to be high in nutrients and easy to digest, and they were generally made of strained/mashed vegetables and finely ground grains. Women who followed the practice of pureed foods spent hours each week cooking and straining foods to feed to their babies.

The industrial revolution and advances in sterilization brought the advent of manufactured baby food, which was touted to be superior to food that was prepared at home. In 1928 The Gerber Canning Company advertised its new line of baby foods in Child’s Life magazine at the special price of 6 cans for a dollar; a real deal at half of the price of other baby foods on the market. The affordable price of canned food in general led to the expansion of the Gerber company as well as the success of canned baby food. Over time, mothers switched from feeding babies homemade food to exclusively spooning manufactured meals stamped with that sweet baby face into hungry mouths.

  • Interesting fact: The Gerber baby, often thought to be the image of someone famous like Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn, is actually that of mystery novelist Ann Turner Cook. In 1928 Daniel Gerber was searching for the face to represent his baby food line and was so enchanted with the simple charcoal sketch of an infant Ann Turner Cook, that he used the unfinished image as the logo for his baby products. Even after 80 years, the cherubic image of the Gerber baby is one of the most easily recognized product logos on the market.

You may be wondering why I’m giving you the historical run-down of pureed baby foods, so I will explain with a somewhat extreme analogy. Modern medicine has dispelled through research, practices that were commonly regarded to be healthy such as smoking cigarettes. With the progression of science and the advances made in the medical field, we now know that cigarettes are highly unhealthy and cause a multitude of problems, some of which they were claimed to cure. Thus the public who once regarded smoking as a way to advance health, now know that smoking carries high risks of cancer and other health hazards. In short, advances in medicine have shown practices thought to be healthy and normal to be hazardous.

Although the discovery mentioned below is not as extreme as that mentioned above, we can thank modern medicine for showing us that feeding children under 6 months can be a very dangerous practice since babies are born with an open gut.

  • When an infant is born, the cells lining his digestive tract have spaces between them allowing macromolecules such as pathogens and proteins to pass through the cell wall and enter the blood stream. This spacing is commonly referred to as an open gut. The baby, who was designed to be fed naturally with breast milk, receives beneficial antibodies that pass through the open gut and coat the lining of the digestive tract, acting as a natural barrier against illnesses and foreign antigens that could trigger allergies.  The spacing between the cells does not discriminate between the macromolecules that pass through, so large proteins from a foreign substance can just as easily enter the baby’s bloodstream and trigger an allergic disposition or reaction. Generally speaking, anything fed to a baby whose gut has not “closed” (the cell walls have grown closely enough to block passage into the blood stream), can enter the baby’s blood stream and carry with it the building blocks for illnesses and allergic reactions.

That's some wicked gas

Science has also shown that an infant’s digestive system does not have the proper levels of gastric acids and enzymes required to break down proteins, starches, carbohydrates and fats until 6 months of age. Introduction of solid foods like baby cereals and purees before 6 months of age can lead to constipation, gas and digestive upset, all of which lead to a very uncomfortable and often cranky baby.

The medical indications surrounding infant nutrition are so strong that the following organizations all recommend that babies be feed an exclusive diet of breast milk until 6 months of age:

So, back to that mushy stuff that everyone seems to be pushing you to feed your baby. If your baby is younger than 6 months of age, her little body is not mature enough to handle solid foods. My sweet Birdie falls into this category, so she’s still a boob-only gal.

When babies hit the 6 month mark or begin to show the signs that they are ready for solids, pureed foods are unnecessary because the baby, regardless of the number of teeth, can actually consume food that hasn’t been mashed and beaten to a pulp. Remember that purees were created because they were used for very young babies and over the years became “the norm” for infant nutrition.

This baby enjoys feeding herself whole pieces of broccoli; not a pureed, green mess spooned into her mouth.

A baby who shows all of the signs that she is ready for solids, no longer needs the food to be runny. She also doesn’t need it to be spooned into her mouth as she has the ability to pick it up herself and place it into her mouth. This “revolutionary” way of feeding is often called baby led weaning, and has older generations in an apoplectic tizzy of unease despite the fact that it has been the normal way of weaning babies in countries where women do not have the time or resources to cook and puree baby foods. Babies simply breastfeed until they are able to handle food and feed themselves. At that time they join in on the family meals, enjoying the same foods that their mom, dad and siblings eat. Sounds pretty simple, right?

But we who live in industrialized societies seem to look down upon the ways of the third world. In fact, most don’t know anything about baby led weaning, so parents gladly follow tradition and frown on anything but that which is a runny mess for baby’s first meal.

As for us, we’ll pass on the mushed peas and carrots. We’ll say, “No thank you,” to the pureed potted mystery meats and slimy peach goop. Instead our Birdie will simply say, “I’ll have what you’re having, Mom,” with a big gummy grin full of wholesome table food.

Posted in Baby, Baby Led Weaning, Breastfeeding | 5 Comments

Help Shape Legislation for Breastfeeding/Pumping in the Workplace

The US Department of Labor needs your feedback to help shape legislation for The Reasonable Break Time For Nursing Mothers law. By clicking here, you can leave a 2000 word comment that will remain unchanged when it is provided to the Department of Labor and posted on its website. For this reason, keep confidential personal information (address, social security numbers, telephone numbers) OUT of your post. The deadline for submitting your feedback is February 22, 2011!

Here’s some information on the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers law taken directly from the US Department of Labor’s website.

  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. The break time requirement became effective when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010.
  • Employers are required to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.”  Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
  • A bathroom, even if private, is not a permissible location under the Act.  The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk.  If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement.  A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.
  • Employers are not required under the FLSA to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk.  However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time.
Posted in Activism, Breastfeeding | 1 Comment

2011 Cribsie Award Nominations

Hello friends! It’s time to nominate your favorite products, brands, services and websites for babies and tots.Sponsored by Diapers.com, the Cribsies are poised to become THE definitive hot list for new moms. It took me less than 5 minutes to nominate my top two favorite websites, The Leaky B@@b and Banana Peels Diapers. You can nominate up to 3 of your favorites.

Take the time to tell the folks at Cribsie why YOUR favorite baby store, brand or website should be nominated!

Just go here:http://www.cribsieawards.com/ to share your own nominations.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Baby, The Budget, And the $20 Teether

My baby bird is crying and nawing on her hand while I do my own bit of sniffling over the sad state of our bank account. The truth is, I have teether-toy envy. I keep seeing Sophie the Giraffe everywhere I go. She’s in the mouths of babies in the grocery store, on the end caps at Babies R Us and being grasped by chubby fists in pictures all over the internet. And I want one. BAD.

We’ve tried the cheap route with cold wash cloths and plastic rings. She has a freezer bee that she doesn’t much care for, but I think it’s too heavy for her to hold to her mouth.

And then we bought the RaZbaby RaZ-Berry teether for $5 thinking that she might enjoy the fact that it is somewhat like a pacifier. FAIL! She hates it. In fact, today I handed it to her and she pitched it right back at me.

She won't even hold it

And so, I went online in search of an affordable Sophie. I mean, who can qualify spending $20 on a teether? Then I wondered, just what is it about Sophie that makes her so damn special? I headed over to the official Sophie the Giraffe website to see what makes her “The Most Famous Teething Toy.” I watched the video (complete with a French narrator) and was amazed at how long Sophie takes to manufacture (3 months!). She’s BPA free and painted with food grade paint, which is a plus since she’s meant for little mouths. But what struck me the most, was how she stimulates all five senses. This next section was taken straight from the website:

Why is Sophie such a huge success? Sophie the Giraffe is BABY’S FIRST TOY, stimulating EACH OF HIS SENSES from the age of 3 months:


At the age of 3 months, a baby’s eyesight is still limited and he can only make out high contrasts. The Dark and contrasting attention-catching spots all over Sophie the Giraffe’s body provide visual stimulation and she soon becomes a familiar and reassuring object for baby.


Sophie’s the Giraffe squeaker keeps baby amused and stimulates his hearing. To begin with, the funny sound Sophie makes when she is squeezed helps to stimulate baby’s hearing, and then later, helps him to understand the link between cause and effect.


A Sophie the Giraffe is made of 100% natural rubber and food paint, and is completely safe to chew, just like a feeding bottle teat. Her soft texture and numerous chewable parts (ears, horns, legs), make her perfect for soothing baby’s sore gums during teething.


Touch is the first means a baby has of communicating with the outside world. Sophie the Giraffe’s soft feel, like baby’s mother’s skin, stimulates physiological and emotional response that soothe baby and promote healthy growth and well-being..


The singular scent of natural rubber from the Hevea tree makes Sophie the Giraffe very special and easy for your child to identify amid all his other toys.

•Easy to grip:

Sophie the Giraffe’s shape and 18 cm (7 inches) size are perfect for baby’s small hands. She is very light, and her long legs and neck are easy for baby to grip, even from his earliest days.

And with that, I was sold. Now I REALLY had to have one for Birdie. I could just imagine her tiny hands grasped around Sophie’s neck or legs or face. And of course she would be wearing a baby beret to celebrate the French spirit of it all while chomping away happily.

After waiting a couple of days for the paycheck to hit our bank account, I scooped up Birdie and drove over to my favorite cloth diaper store, Banana Peels Diapers, where Heather sadly informed me that she had sold her last Sophie earlier on in the day. Slump shouldered, I trudged out of the store and drove across town to Babies R Us where I bought our very own Sophie for $23. Pricey? Yes. Worth it? OH YEAH!

After two days of Sophie, we’re speaking French. Je t’aime le giraffe. We love the giggles she produces with each squeak and how the dogs come running in the hopes that the squeak was a toy for them. We love how Sophie save our knuckles from nawing and our shirtsleeves from running rivers of spit. Her spindly legs fit perfectly into the back of Birdie’s mouth for an extra hard chomp. All in all, she’s wonderful. And there’s pictures to prove it.

Posted in Baby, Teething | 5 Comments

I Need Your Touch To Get Me Through My Day

Today while taking a bath with Birdie, a great song, “Little Bit of Feel Good” by Jamie Lidell, played through the portable speaker set The Cubs Fan gave to me for Christmas. And as I was singing the chorus,

Little bit of feel good goes a long way
I need your touch to get me through my day
Watching you sleeping I pray
Please don’t make my feel good go away

I started to think of how important our daily bath-time ritual truly is to me and to Birdie’s development.

Before our sweet daughter was born, the lactation consultant and our family practice physician gently urged us to practice skin-on-skin feedings and calming techniques right after our baby was born. Specifically, they said to have immediate skin-on-skin contact after birth and to breastfeed within the first hour. Their suggestions were based on the data gathered from multiple studies, including one given by the Cochrane Collaboration in which the study found, “Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby at birth reduces crying, improves mother-baby interaction, keeps the baby warmer, and helps women breastfeed successfully.”

I took their encouragement and gentle education to heart and urged the nurse to place my daughter directly on my bare breast after she was born so that I could feed her. That first feeding was such beautiful bliss.

Our first time nursing right after birth.

Once we left the hospital, the skin-to-skin contact didn’t stop. I would feed her without a shirt on and she in just a diaper. It was so soothing that we would both fall asleep in the rocking chair or on the couch or wherever we were nursing at the time. As each week passed, the weather turned cooler and made it necessary to remain dressed at all times. Scrambling to find a way to have my “daily skin”, my mother-in-law suggested that I bathe with her. Admittedly, the first attempts were somewhat awkward because she didn’t have head support and I was so nervous about slipping in the bath. But then the experience turned into one of my favorite times of the day.

From the time that Birdie was about 2 months old up until now, she’s been enthusiastic in showing her appreciation of bath time. While we’re waiting for the water to heat up, she kicks around on a towel and giggles at the giant bun of hair bobbing on the top of my head. Then when the water is just right, we slip into the water and give ourselves a few minutes to bask in the warmth than envelops us.

Enjoying a bath with Mommy

With the support of my hand underneath her neck, Birdie floats for a few minutes and stares up into my eyes while I sing with the radio and bend down to kiss her nose every few verses. Then she gets a good sudsing with Burt’s Bee’s baby wash, and with a quick rinse, the best part is next. I lean back and we nurse.

I don’t do this during every bath because she’s not always hungry enough to cuddle up and nurse without getting distracted. But those times that I can truly have that skin-to-skin nursing session are so special. As she’s beginning to finish, I unstop the tub and the water drains out slowly so that by the time she’s completely done nursing, we’re warm and dry. A quick slathering of Burt’s Bees baby lotion ends the bath, and together we step out into the world to conquer the rest of the day as freshly clean, new beings.

Studies have found that skin contact is not only beneficial to babies, but also to mothers. Moms who practice skin-to-skin cuddling tend to breastfeed much longer, are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression, and develop a much closer bond to their babies than those moms who don’t. Mothers can better recognize their babies’ cues and satisfy their needs more efficiently.

As Jamie Lidell sings, “I need your touch to get me through my day.” And when it comes to Birdie, I definitely do.

Posted in Breastfeeding | 3 Comments

My Heart Has Always Known You

My Beautiful Bird,

Even before you began to grow inside of me, my heart already knew you. And when my arms were ready to hold you, I asked for you to come to me and fill in the puzzle space where you belonged. Oh how I waited for you.

This is at 23 weeks

And then you began to grow inside of me. What a tiny seed you began as! We listened as your heart beat a steady thump thump with mine. I’ve never heard a sweeter percussion session. Over the months you grew so much that my skin stretched to hold you. Sometimes at night you would run your ankles up and down my ribcage and I would wake up your daddy to feel you moving inside of me.

As you know, a baby’s heart is forever linked to her mommy and daddy’s hearts. So when my own mommy and daddy came to welcome you to the world, our hearts joined together and drew you out of me like a magnet. I opened my arms to you as you opened your eyes and looked into mine. And in those eyes there was the simple affirmation of what I have known all along. My heart has always known you just as yours has always known mine.

Tonight while I held you in my arms, I brushed my fingers over your pink skin, taking in each wrinkle and fold. I kissed your eyelids and elbows and rubbed your earlobe between my fingers. With each tender kiss and caress I made a promise to care for you in the way that my heart knows is best.

And it does know what is best because my heart has always known you and it always will.

– Your Mommy

A special thanks to the following blog for the inspiration to write about what being an “instinctual mama” means to me.

Facebook url http://www.facebook.com/InstinctualMamas

Blogger URL http://instinctualmamas.blogspot.com/

Posted in Letters to Birdie | 3 Comments

The Road to Motherhood

At 19 I was prescribed a baby.

What?! Prescribed?

Yes. After an invasive surgery, I was found to have endometriosis, a condition where the lining of the uterus grows in places it shouldn’t. In my case, it was on my bladder, bowels and ovaries.  The surgeon cut and burned off what she could and then told me that it would continue to grow back and create more lesions over time unless I took drastic measures to combat it. I could get pregnant or go through medical menopause.

Menopause? At 19?!

Yup. And that’s what I chose. Figuring that I was too young to have a baby and wanting to finish my degree and live a little before I embarked on the journey of motherhood, I chose medical menopause. And it sucked. Imagine alternating pits of fire and ice that your body decides to jump through while riding a rollercoaster of freakish emotions. Luckily for me, it was at this time that I found The Cubs Fan who sweetly moved into my college rental and carried me through 6 months of burning rings of fire (and ice).

But back to the baby. Over the course of a year and a half I had three surgeries, after which each doctor told me I needed to have a baby and get a hysterectomy. Ah, the baby prescription.

I had a major problem with the baby prescription. I thought it was entirely selfish to have a baby in the chance that the endometriosis might be kicked into a sort of remission. I wasn’t ready for a baby, much less could afford one. From years 19-21 I battled with the notion of the prescribed baby. Was it fair to me or the child? Would I resent the baby for taking away my opportunity to enjoy my young adulthood? All the while, I spent most of my time at home suffering in an immense sea of pain that, in itself, stole my young adulthood.

Somewhere in year 20 I decided to give the whole baby-making thing a shot. I tracked my fertility meticulously by recording basal body temperature and cervical fluid data as detailed in Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I knew when I was ovulating and timed our baby making sessions accordingly. It became a bit of an obsession. And after a year of trying without luck we gave up. Not in the sense that we wouldn’t pursue it further down the road, but just stopped actively trying.

And then, 5 days before we moved back to the states from Italy, we found out we were pregnant.

What joy! Finally the prescribed baby was on the way to heal my body and heart from years of painful torture. But before that baby arrived, there was 10 months of continued torture in the form of three trimesters of all-day sickness and painful stretching of ligaments covered in endometrial scar tissue.

When I started to have regular contractions, my parents flew from Texas to California and met a very anxious me. There’s a lot of pressure on a pregnant mama to have her baby within a certain time period, especially when there’s return flight tickets involved. Seven hours after my parents arrived in California, we found ourselves in the labor and delivery unit where I received my “liquid gold” epidural and sailed through the delivery. I pushed for 3 sets of 30 seconds and out my squishy baby came. As the doctor handed the baby over to me, I heard my husband sing out the most beautiful words.

“It’s a girl!”

In that beautifully tearful moment, I shed my former skin and put on the glowing cloak of motherhood. Although it’s taken a few good washings to break it in, I think motherhood has begun to fit me like a favorite pair of jeans. And those “mom jeans” aren’t ever coming off.

Posted in Endometriosis | Leave a comment