As I was preparing for the end of my maternity leave, I was faced with a familiar problem for most parents: what will my baby eat at daycare? Baby ASM was nearly 6 months old when she started daycare. We had just begun to introduce solid foods, and she was still eating only single-ingredient meals.
In my naivety, and out of pure love for my daughter, I had a grand plan to puree my own baby food, ensuring only the best ingredients would pass Baby ASM’s lips. I ordered ice cube trays with lids so I would be able to freeze the batches of food that I made into perfectly sized portions ready to be warmed and devoured. I purchased a butternut squash for the first time in my life. Yup, that’s right. I roasted it, pureed it, and I froze it. Success! Then, I started work. And that was the last time I purchased, roasted, and pureed anything. Who has time for that when you’re working, commuting, sleeping, and trying to spend some quality time together?
I began sending Gerber My First Fruits and My First Vegetables tubs to daycare. Baby ASM liked them and they were easy; no cooking involved. All I had to do was throw her name on the lid so her teachers would know it was hers. They were made by the brand I grew up on – a household name that I trust. I felt good about this decision. Plus, most of her nutrition was still coming from the breast milk I was sending, anyway.
Soon, Baby ASM began to graduate to more complex foods, she was drinking less milk, and mom guilt kicked in. I couldn’t help but think I should be giving her better meals now that she had moved beyond those single ingredient foods, now that she was eating more and drinking less. So once again, I was faced with the problem of what to feed Baby ASM at daycare. Could I be one of those moms who sent GASP! baby food pouches? I’m better than that, aren’t I? Yes, I am. Baby ASM deserves better than pouches and tubs. She should be eating organically sourced vegetables and grass-fed meats.
While I was struggling with packing nutritious yet edible meals for my daughter, I opened the daycare refrigerator one day and saw another child’s bowl labeled, “Salmon.” Talk about mom guilt. I can’t summon the time to puree a banana for Baby ASM and this mom is sending salmon? But seriously, Karen, who are you trying to impress?
My next task in the baby food search was to find a home delivery service that would bring ready-to-eat, easy-to-prepare meals right to my doorstep. There are a bunch of options out there: Nurture Life, Little Spoon, Hello Yumi, Tiny Organics, and so many more. Each one offers something different - different ingredients, price points, food stage. Some of these are really expensive. I mean, REALLY expensive. So, after shopping around for price and ingredients, I went with Raised Real. I loved the concept of this company. The foods are plant-based and flash frozen, helping them retain their nutritional value. They are heated up in about 5 minutes on the stove and can be pureed or served as finger foods depending on what stage food your little one is on. Perfect! Except it wasn’t perfect. Baby ASM did not like these meals. Every single meal that I tried to get her to eat went like this: big opened mouth bite, begin to chew, furl eyebrows, look of pure disgust. I still have 17 frozen packages sitting in my freezer. I sent a couple into daycare hoping Baby ASM would have a different response if someone other than me was feeding her. No luck. She does not like these meals.
One day at Target I grabbed a few of those pouches, you know, to have just in case. Guess what? Baby ASM loves them. She gets a different flavor every day, she gets various fruits and
vegetables, and she gets meats like chicken and beef. I would never be able to make for her "Carrot, spinach, turkey, corn, apple and potato" or "Harvest vegetables and chicken." I’m not that good of a cook and I don’t have time to do it. So now I send pouches to daycare. Every day. And I don’t feel guilty.
I’m not a bad mom because Baby ASM doesn’t have salmon for lunch (OK, Karen?). I mean, the day I sent pretzels and cheese because I didn’t know what else to send, I probably didn’t qualify for World’s Best Mom, but, still not a bad mom. I’m a pouch mom because it works for us. And I’m a good mom because I’d rather spend an hour every night playing with Baby ASM than cooking her a gourmet meal that she’s going throw on the floor anyway.
When you have a baby, you hear the phrase, “Every baby is different,” nearly 10,000 times before their first birthday, but seriously, Every. Baby. Is. Different. Hopefully your mission to find the best daycare meals is not as cumbersome as mine was, but if it is, keep trying. You’ll eventually find the solution that’s right for you and baby.
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