By Gretchen Reynolds
How many parents, especially those with full-time jobs, really have the time to make baby’s food? Let’s find out. A carefully designed scientific survey of the four other working moms in my toddler’s play group produced the following responses: "Yeah, right," "You must be joking," "Make what?" and "Has my mother been complaining to you?"
At a time when many working parents (the author included) can barely muster enough energy at dinnertime to order Chinese take-out, cooking, pureeing, and serving homemade meals for our babies can seem overwhelming. Can the overscheduled – and/or the culinarily inept – really start whipping up healthful dishes for the little ones?
In the indelible words of my Aunt Rosalie, who fed six children while working full-time in the 1950s: "Sure you can, darling. You just have to expand the meaning of the word cook." And she’s right. Don’t get trapped into thinking that "homemade" means exhausting rituals involving many boiling pots and virgin coffee grinders. Remember these simple words: If it’s good enough for you, it’s probably great for your baby. You don’t need to make special baby cereal, for one thing, unless you wish to. You can simply cook oatmeal, then cool and mash one small portion for the little one. Ditto for pancakes. Omit the syrup and watch your youngster thoughtfully gum the soft pieces and experimentally rub a bit into her hair. You may also discover that your child introduces you to a favorite dish or two. I’d forgotten how satisfying Cheerios can be until I bought a box for my son to use as finger food. Now he merrily drops them in a heap on the floor while I munch a bowlful for breakfast.
As for dinnertime, your mantra remains the same: "Homemade is as homemade does." If you’re ordering take-out, make sure one dish is mild and easily mashed. Most babies love rice, so order extra, add some breastmilk and voilá, dinner. You can do the same with pizza. If your child shouldn’t eat tomato sauce (which is too acidic for infants), pull off some cheese, chop it up, and maybe add a side dish of Cheerios.
Most important, don’t flagellate yourself if, from time to time, you resort to makeshift meals – or even, let’s be honest, baby food from a jar. Your time is better spent cuddling than cooking. And as a side benefit, your mate may feel you’ve gone all out when you pour the leftovers from the babe’s jar of mango-kiwi puree over ice cream. Now that’s cooking.