Food and the Baby

What follows is an analysis of my personal experience of introducing solid food to a baby. Please do not take this as medical or expert advice on the matter and always refer to your child’s pediatrician for advice and input on your child’s nutrition. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information.


Food is extremely important in our house.

Ash loves food. I love food. And it was important to raise Jai to love and appreciate food. I knew that this meant giving him a good foundation when we started solids, but I was nervous when it came time to start.

There are a lot of theories out there about how best to introduce solids to a baby. I knew I wanted to wait until his pediatrician gave the go-ahead, around 4 months, but just because he was physically ready didn’t mean that some experts suggested waiting until he was older.

I was excited to start him on solids but concerned he would choke in the process of introducing solids. I know babies are introduced to solids every day with minimal issues, but I had that parental fear that my situation would be unique and I would cause harm.

I followed my intuition and started him as soon as I could, but made sure everything was smooth enough for him and avoided baby-led weaning. I think if we had to do it again with a second child, with my experience, I would feel more comfortable with baby-led weaning, but because I wasn’t sure what I was doing I wanted to make sure I took small steps until I gained my confidence over the whole matter.

Starting Solids

For all my insecurity, I knew there were a couple of things I wanted to do that was against the expert recommendations: when we introduced solids, I would make them interesting for him. He wouldn’t be expected to eat bland food as a child or an adult, so why should I introduce him to boring and bland food?

He was basted for the final two months in utero with pumpkin spice; I ate a variety of foods and spices throughout my pregnancy; and expanded my foods to what I had to avoid during pregnancy while breastfeeding. All of this impacted his palate before he tasted his first solid food and I knew the research that backed this up. Up to this point in his life, he didn’t consume bland, flavorless food. Everything had spice and strong flavors so I couldn’t expect him to be excited over what was effectively gruel.

Doing some more research, I decided to do the following immediately when I introduced the rice cereal: add in peanut butter, cinnamon, and breastmilk. I made sure the food was thin enough so he wouldn’t choke on it, but it was important that I start the process of getting him used to peanut butter in a safe manner. I didn’t want him to have a peanut butter allergy and because neither Ash nor myself had an allergy ourselves, I was confident it would go well.

It did. And he loved it. He got so used to the peanut butter that on the mornings I forgot to put it in or didn’t have any he was more reluctant to eat.

I also wanted to add cinnamon because it was something I knew I would enjoy if I was eating warm rice cereal. I did all of these additions to his first meal with the understanding that if he reacted badly in any way: breakouts, coughing, diaper issues, etc. I would stop immediately. I just wanted to see if he would enjoy the process of eating solids considering all the foods I ate while pregnant and breastfeeding.

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Book Review: Free to Learn

As Jai grew more active, figuring out how to teach him effectively and prepare him for preschool became increasingly important as a parent. How to teach him was the trick…do I sit down with flashcards or do I let the learning happen more naturally based on his desires and interest?

First disclosure: I decided to do the unscientific thing and go with my gut over how I thought best to teach him: through play.

Parenting on instinct is important because no one knows their children better than a parent, but it can be problematic if not done responsibly. I rationalize that teaching a child through play will at best give him the tools he needs to learn complex concepts and at worst delays him for a year on milestone concepts, but nothing that can’t be made up with some rigor.

That said, if I was going to take this tactic of teaching style, I would need to find advice and experts to back it up. Second disclosure: I engaged in confirmation bias as I looked for tools to justify allowing my child to play all day without creating strict structure.

That’s how I stumbled upon Peter Gray’s book, Free to Learn. In my research on the book, I found that he highlighted the importance of allowing what comes naturally to children as a means to learn a variety of important life concepts and lessons.

What follows is my review of a book I chose on my own. I did not receive any compensation for this review.

Book Information

Title: Free to Learn
Author: Peter Gray
Date Published: 2013
Publisher: Basic Books
Pages: 274
Genre: Psychology
Goodreads Link
Amazon Link (non-affiliate)
Official Book Website


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Early Childhood Education Blogs

An important resource for teaching a toddler at home is the availability of blogs on the internet.

Twenty years ago it would be a trip to the bookstore to find a book among whatever the store had to offer. The publisher would vet a resource before printing to ensure the information was accurate and achieved a specific goal. Now we can search what we might need/want on our phone within seconds because anybody can put anything out there.

Therefore, finding a reputable resource can be difficult. Some blogs use tactics to shoot up to the top of the search results, which means that just because it’s on the front page of your favorite search engine doesn’t mean it is a good resource to use.

Not all of us go to school for early childhood education, so we aren’t familiar with the priorities in teaching a little one before they are ready to go to preschool. The researcher training I received means that I can’t just search for a specific milestone Jai should be hitting. I need to be sure whatever information I walk away with is credible.

I don’t want to be teaching him incorrectly or placing an expectation on him before he’s cognitively ready because the blog has their months wrong.

What you’ll find below are some tips for vetting your own research to determine if a blog is worth following or if they are spreading misinformation. Granted, this is less of a concern when it comes to early childhood information, but operating under that belief that a child should learning something before they are ready can make the task of preparing them for school frustrating.

How to Vet a Blog

There are several simple steps that I follow to determine if a blog or article is credible, especially if it’s on a topic I am unfamiliar with, like childhood education. Many of these suggestions seem like common sense, but even I’ve been guilty of skipping a step or two only to find a resource isn’t credible later.

Pre-Research Steps

  • Go to the experts first. Determine what are your national standards for a particular age and their recommendations. I find these sites can be a bit stuffy for their ideas which is why I branch out into the wilds of the internet.
  • Decide what you are looking for: activities or material for teaching.
    • Activities do not need as much vetting. Before you start the project, you can determine if it will be age appropriate or doable.
    • Material for teaching is where it gets dodgy. If your child is interested in space you may find that you stumble upon a set of blogs that advocate for alternative theories on planet shapes. Even the ones that advocate mainstream ideas may have incorrect facts that you inadvertently teach your little ones.

Vetting a non-scholarly/non-expert blog

  1. Do a search for the activity or material you want to do with your little one. Read the blurbs underneath the site header on the search page to determine what the site will offer.
  2. Once you click on the site, make the following observations. These are all meant to help you determine the resource’s motivation for getting you to visit their page:
    1. What is at the end of the domain address? is it a “.com,” “.edu,” or something else? My blog is a “.blog” for reference. This will determine the type of site you are visiting. Anything that isn’t .edu/.gov/.org (though .org can be problematic at times) means that the site is commercially run. It doesn’t mean they aren’t an expert, just that they may have other motives to draw you to their site.
    2. What do you see when you first visit the site? Are you met with pop-ups to join a newsletter? A  bunch of ads (if you don’t use ad block)? Cluttered layout? None of these are bad on their own, because all of these are used as a means to earn the blogger money, but it helps you determine their monetary motivation.
    3. Is the resource sponsored? Many bloggers who want to remain reputable will disclose that the post is sponsored by someone else. If the post is sponsored, is it a company you are familiar with? If it isn’t, again, not a bad thing, but you may want to do a more thorough check to determine if the product is worth getting or if you want to go with an analog. If the blogger does not disclose sponsorship, but it is clear that’s what is happening, then consider finding another resource.
    4. Check to see if there is a clear bias on the page: this can be a belief system, lifestyle, or product recommendation. Again, none of these are bad, but it might affect the material or activity you want for your little one. It is just something to be aware of as you set it up/do your research.
  3. Check the length of the post. Quantity doesn’t mean quality, but I do find there is a healthy balance in some of my favorite resources. If a post has too many pictures before getting to a very short blurb on the activity, I am less likely to stay and use that specific resource because it will be annoying to have to keep scrolling down if my page accidentally refreshes (a problem on my phone). Likewise, if the post is too short, and I need more information, I’d rather go elsewhere because it is unlikely they actually know what they are talking about.
  4. Does the information match up with the pre-research you did on the actual expert blogs? If not, but looks like something you could use later, it would be worth bookmarking until then. But be mindful about all the other information posted on the blog.
  5. See if they link out to other resources within the post, especially if you are looking for teaching information. I try to link out to other blogs/resources as much as I can, especially if I am writing a more informative post because that helps demonstrate my ethos and commitment to quality blogging. This isn’t super important to your vetting process, but it may mean that they are a blog worth following for future ideas.

It may seem like a lot of steps to go through in order to determine a blogs relevancy, but it’s worth it because it can help weed out the bad information or activities out there. Many blogs you stumble upon on the first page of a search are there because they deserve to be, but sometimes you manage to get a less reputable one in the mix.

Below are my current recommendations for some favorite childhood education blogs.

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Toddler Life Lessons

Toddlers are too young to understand deep, philosophical lessons. They are too young to understand moral quandaries. They are too young to really grasp right from wrong.

As parents, we know that just because they can’t understand it, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taught. I feel like this is a “no, duh” moment many parents are saying to themselves right now.

Yet an issue I run into as I parent Jai with Ash is knowing what lessons to teach and how best to teach them. Questions I ask myself on a daily basis: is this something worth correcting Jai on? How do I correct him, with a warning or straight to time out? Should I follow the mainstream recommendation or go with my instinct?

A mentor once told me years ago, well before I met Ash, that you are never truly prepared to have a child. So if you want to have one, you have to just jump in and learn as you go. It won’t be easy, but the payoff will be worth it in the end when you have a functioning, well-adjusted adult that wants to have a relationship with you after they’ve moved out of the house.

But in order to achieve this, I have to begin training Jai to be polite, thoughtful, a good listener, able to share, and comfortable with adults as a toddler. The list is a bit longer than that, but those are the main concerns I have on a daily basis with a toddler.

As I am training Jai, I have to be mindful of several things: I’m an adult, what battles to pick and being humble throughout the whole experience.

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Prepping for Pre-School

Jai is going to be two soon. I still can’t believe it.

What that means is that we have another year before we need to consider enrolling Jai in pre-school. The cultural narrative is if he isn’t already enrolled in a quality pre-school before being born, I might as well accept the fact that he’ll never get into college.

I exaggerate but I do have that fear.

Ash and I looked at a couple of local pre-schools but to the extent of checking out their programs online. We haven’t visited, we haven’t contacted them, we haven’t really discussed our options other than: should we?

For a person who likes to be on top of everything and stresses out when I’m not, this “lack of planning” is a new feeling for me. Part of me is concerned that I am not concerned and another part of me isn’t ready for the idea of sending Jai way for portions of the day to be under a stranger’s care.

I am torn between being more proactive or just waiting until I absolutely have to make the decision to enroll him, around age 4.

Jai may make that decision for me: if he isn’t ready developmentally to join pre-school before 4, then I don’t have anything to worry about other than getting him into a decent program when he’s ready.

Right now, because I have a year to go before he can even be considered for pre-school, even part-time, I am not stressing too much. But I do need to start thinking about it because of applications, enrollments, and other deadlines that come up fast.

I also have to consider: what does he need to know before he steps into the classroom? And how can I, as a parent, work with his future teachers to provide him with all the tools he needs to get the most out of his education?

To be clear, this post isn’t about the first day of pre-school or finding a pre-school to send a little one. It’s about what I can do for Jai before I send him to pre-school so he’s prepared when the time comes. I will cross the bridge of the “do I send him at 3 or do I send him at 4” when I get to it.

This is something I can work on now.

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