12 Tips to make Healthy "Expat Baby" Food
Picture this scenario: you have two infants. Your family is far, far away. You just arrived in your new house, in a new country you still know nothing about. You don't know anyone within miles. Husband is probably going on a business travel in about two weeks, and you'll be alone - with infant twins!! The movers arrived, unpacked everything, and left you with piles and piles of things to put away ( hopefully they took away the empty boxes....phew! One less thing for you to do.) You don't have a smartphone yet, and contacts with family are limited to sporadic (international) phone calls, emails, and an occasional Skype chat AFTER you find where you packed your darn computer cables! Your babies were born underweight, and you have all the expat volcano to deal with, along with the responsibility of getting them to gain weight somehow.....That was me, 15 years ago, and if you have been through some or all in that scenario before, you know it would make a fantastic #RealityShow, better than #AmericanIdol or #BigBrother....if you're watching it!
First, let me clarify something before I begin: this post is not supposed to replace any medical or dietary advice. It's simply a description of what worked for me and my twins and is not meant to be a slideshow of my past personal experiences feeding my kids (booring.. 😒 ), but rather I'm sharing with you what I did to have healthy plump rosey-cheeked twins who were born underweight, while being a busy mom relocating around the world. The proof is in the pudding: in their first year of life, they had no colds, no viruses, no illnesses, and no #fastfood!
I always knew I had a knack for cooking. I also happen to enjoy (good) food myself. I grew up in a low middle-class fatherless family. Since mom was away on a full-time job most of the time, and I was her oldest child and only daughter, I had no choice but to learn how to cook and help her out - that was years before fast food chains were near where I lived. I had two younger brothers who couldn't fry an egg to save their lives. I also never complained about this role, I actually kind of enjoyed it - which probably taught me the skills I needed to be able to raise my own children today. #ThanksMom
So, let me make this simple. My Pediatrician from back home remained helping me out over the phone until I managed to find another local pediatrician in our new place. My son has G6PD Deficiency, which is a genetic disorder that happens when the body doesn't have enough of an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD). Red blood cells that don't have enough G6PD are sensitive to some medicines and foods. It is genetically inherited, so there's no cure, or "magic pill" to fix it - he had to stay away from these foods, period. If exposed to them, his body would begin "killing" his own red blood cells, leaving him anemic, and in extreme cases, he would enter hemolysis and could need a blood transfusion to save his life 😟. Every cell on my being knew that the only person able to make sure my son remained healthy, was me. So I took on this role very seriously and watched his foods like a #mamahawk .
At 4.5 months of age, I was unable to produce enough breast milk to feed our twins. A little early for most babies, I know...but the clock was ticking and my pediatrician was the one who suggested it. My obstetrician believed this sudden decrease in breast milk production was due to the stress of moving - our first relocation happened when they were 2.5 months old and they were being nursed and bottle fed since birth. I remember the day I called the pediatrician to tell him they were screaming and I didn't know what it was: "They are hungry", he said. I switched to only bottle right away, and voila', problem solved. Wish I knew it was that simple, I was so sleep deprived I couldn't even think.
The first solid food was rice cereal mixed with mixed formula. They gobbled it like hungry little birds (so cute) and slept like angels. We added that to their regular feeding schedule and didn't decrease the milk amounts. We fed them the cereal first, and formula after. (they were on #Similac ). You can see how tiny they were compared to most 4.5 month old babies, if you compare the size of my hand.
Two weeks later, I began giving them fruits. One new fruit per week, and I was #mamahawk watching for any changes (rash, redness of skin, yellowing of skin, changes in behaviour, colic). No significant reactions, (yay!), so we moved forward with banana, apple (scrape the apple with a spoon), papaya, pear, introducing a new fruit every week and eventually mixing 2 fruits together. The key thing is getting them to recognize flavors. All fruits were pre-cooked in water and passed thru a sieve before offering them to the babies.
At 6 months of age, they began eating cooked vegetables, eggs and meats - again, watching for any changes every time I introduced a new food, and only 1/4 of an egg yolk mixed with food to start, increasing the amount, +1/4 yolk as you go. I made everything from scratch, and never froze anything - honestly, it takes you 5 minutes to peel, cook and blend together one or two vegetables. I honestly didn't see the need to give them any store bought foods, I wanted every little nutrient getting into those little tummies and I wasn't gonna settle for a bottle of God knows what messing up with my plan. At that point, they were both plump, rosey-cheeked babies! .
I had a mini #Cuisinart food processor - I actually still have that same one - and I used it to blend 2 or more vegetables together. They had their first #Thanksgiving at 7 months of age and they had mashed potato, cooked rice, and shredded turkey breast. By 7 months, they already had teeth, so I could leave tiny little chunks in their food. I would run cooked beef or chicken or turkey separately in the food processor, making a pasty, but not creamy consistency - it had some fibery texture in it.
"Your baby's meal is more important than anything else. Plan your day around it, not the other way around...and don't cave in for fast food."
If you are an expat mom and have an underweight baby, here's a few tips:
In a time crunch? Cooked baby food will last 7 days in your fridge. Buy a few good quality glass containers, and make enough for the week in one day ( do it on a weekend or on a day you have extra help around)
Resist the temptation of freezing baby food. If you are teaching someone to enjoy food, you don't want to give them yucky frozen food! And I'm not even considering the loss of nutrients here - which speaks for itself.
If your baby wakes up, feed him. If your baby is underweight and it's time to wake him up to eat, feed him. It's better to have a cranky chubby baby than a sleepy underweight baby. But don't feed solid foods at night, only formula.
If your baby has #colic, cook 1 tablespoon rolled oats with 1 cup water. Strain it, let cool and give THE WATER to your baby, a teaspoon or two. The water will have enough fiber to help him do his business. My kids had that since 2 months of age!
Another tip for a colicky baby is dried prunes. Cook 2 or 3 prunes cut in half in 2 cups water. Let it cool, and give the baby a teaspoon of two of that WATER.
Don't force your baby to eat alone with a spoon, let him learn to bring a food to his mouth first.
If they don't eat enough in one meal, don't double the next meal, but offer them a little more than you would.
Distribute the fruits and vegetables throughout the week so that they have a good variety of fruits and vegetables in their diet.
Be aware of the exact amount of water you need to add to your formula. If you add less water your baby could be dehydrated.
Give your baby filtered water.
No cow's milk and no honey until their 1st Birthday.
Make sure you check with your baby's doctor and with your doctor before you try anything you read in my blog!
I hope this helps you! One last tip: as an expat mom, you'll be sooooo busy that you'll sometimes forget to document things - or you simply won't have time. I look back today and I think " how did I do all that?". You can have all the help you want, but unless you're focused on the quality of what they eat, the outcome might not be what you expected. Make sure you find the time, take lots of photos, make videos, and write your memories if you can! Time WILL pass by faster for you than for the regular family. Enjoy your precious little ones, they do grow up too fast!!
Leave me a comment and tell me what worked for you.