The Working Mother’s Dilemma: What to Feed Baby

It starts when you return to work after maternity leave. How often do you pump during the workday? What do you do about business trips? How long can you keep it up?

The dilemma continues into the world of baby food jars and pouches. Which ones are the most nutritious? Which ones will my baby actually eat? Lead and BPA free? Least amount of sugar?

Pumping as a Working Mama

I made it through one month of full-time pumping and part-time work, which I was fortunate to have as a transition period, followed by full-time work and part-time pumping. That first month back started with an awkward series of pumping sessions amidst an overnight business trip that involved:

  • enough clean, spare pump parts and a portable battery pack for rushed airport mother’s lounge stops (and the sweetest Alaska Airlines lounge attendant ever)
  • runs back to my hotel room in between meetings and networking events which made me arrive late to everything
  • an incognito cooler to carry that precious cargo through TSA and all the way home
  • a poncho, the pumping mama’s wardrobe hack!

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The Long, Slow Wean

My first month back to work full-time was less motivating. I started looking out at the horizon to a 3-night business trip, which coincided with the 6-month mark, and it felt like the right time for me to start a long, slow wean. It was hard to find resources on weaning over a 4-week period, but fortunately I found a post that showed me the ropes.

I dropped one feeding at a time every few days (starting with workday pumping) until I was nursing every 12 hours (first thing in the morning; right before bed), then every 18 hours, then once a day, every other day and so on. The grand finale was one last nursing session after I returned from my work trip where I had made it three days without pumping. It was also the night before my son turned 6 months old.

I think the decision to wean is entirely personal and I admire the working mamas who keep it up through the first year and beyond. You are true warriors!

Formula for On-the-Go

Sometimes formula is the only option and I found early on that my hungry little guy needed to supplement the real thing. I did a lot of research and found Baby’s Only to be the closest to mom, with the cleanest ingredients:

Baby’s Only Organic Dairy with DHA & ARA Formula, 12.7 Ounce

However, when I figured out that there was a room temperature option, that was also portable, organic, and didn’t create a powdery mess, I made the switch to these handy pre-mixed 2-oz containers:

Similac Advance Organic Infant Baby Formula, 48 Bottles, 2-Fl Oz, Ready to Feed

I eventually discovered auto-shipments directly from the manufacturer were the most cost-effective and mom-brain proof. They were perfect for the first few months at daycare, trips to the gym, and traveling.

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The Best Baby Food Jars & Pouches

I left behind any notions of making my own baby food, despite how much I like to cook, when time became precious as a working mom. Our weekends were for rest and play; I didn’t envision myself in a baby-food making frenzy. So I searched for the closest thing I could find: jars with the purest organic ingredients.

Stage 1 favorites included:

Earth’s Best First Apples, Og, 2.50-Ounce (Pack of 12) ( Value Bulk Multi-pack)

Earths Best Organic First Beginner Food – Pear, 2.5 Ounce — 12 per case.

Stage 2 favorites included:

Earth’s Best Organic Baby Food Stage 2 Apples and Apricots — 4 oz

Earth’s Best Organic Stage 2, Corn & Butternut Squash, 4 Ounce Jar (Pack of 12)

Earth’s Best Harvest Squash Turkey Dinner (12×4 Oz)

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Then we graduated to pouches, which were even easier to feed on-the-go. Favorite pouches for stage 3, 6 months and up:

Earth’s Best Organic Stage 3, Pumpkin, Cranberry & Apple, 4.2 Ounce Pouch (Pack of 12) (Packaging May Vary)

Plum Organics Baby Food – Organic – Quinoa and Leeks with Chicken and Tarragon – Stage 3 – 6 Months and Up – 4 oz – Case of 6-95%+ Organic – Wheat Free-

Favorite toddler pouches:

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Super Foods, Apples & Butternut Squash + Super Chia, 4.22 Ounce (Pack of 16)

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Super Foods, Apples, Spinach, Peas & Broccoli + Super Chia, 4.22 oz (Pack of 16)

Happy Tot Organic Toddler Food Plus, Kale Apple & Mango, 4.22 Ounce (Pack of 16)

I’ll admit when I first started feeding solids, I was focused on ingredients and wasn’t yet thinking about sugar. Later in the toddler stage, I searched high and low for the least amount of sugar and it came down to these two.

Lowest sugar toddler pouches:

Happy Tot Organic Stage 4 Baby Food, Love My Veggies, Zucchini/Pear/Chickpeas & Kale, 4.2 Ounce (Pack of 16)

Once Upon a Farm Cold-Pressured Wild Rumpus Avocado

Safeguarding Against Contaminants (and Mom Guilt)

And then this morning, while I’m trying to enjoy a few sips of coffee in between chasing my toddler around, I hear that lead and other contaminants were detected in 20 percent of baby food. Lovely. Just what this paranoid mama bear needs to hear.

I double checked that all of the formula, jars and pouches mentioned above made a list of “clean” baby food in an independent study conducted by the Clean Label Project, and/or were verified directly with the brand (in the case of Happy Baby and Once Upon a Farm).

Avoiding overly processed, packaged foods is always a good idea for babies and adults. Also, the reality is that soil contains lead and other contaminants, so when in doubt, check to with the baby brands directly to see if they conduct testing.

When mom guilt rears its ugly head, we have to remember we do our best for each moment. Hopefully my research can give busy mamas back some time and peace of mind.

Breakfast bars of champions

In search of a toddler-friendly breakfast option for busy mornings that’s not too crumbly or sugary, I went to good old Pinterest for inspiration. 

Unfortunately a lot of the easy recipe options called for honey or other sweeteners. So I took a cue from the deliciously simple, classic combo of oats and smashed bananas. 

(Plus peanut butter, but any nut or seed butter will work just fine.)

I hand mixed the following ingredients and then baked it in a muffin tin at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

You can also cut down on dishes by folding the ingredients together over parchment paper in a baking dish and then cut it into bars afterwards.

1 cup oatmeal

1 banana

1/2 cup peanut butter


French Toast Egg Cups

A sudden craving for French toast paired with a leftover baguette led to a new approach to eggs cups this morning. 


In each cup of a muffin tin, crack one egg and add a splash of almond milk (vanilla works great for a French toast flavor, or unsweetened for a savory option). 

Next take a slice of a French or sourdough baguette (previously buttered is a bonus) and submerge one in each muffin cup. Flip it over with a fork to get the bread nice and soaked.

Bake at 350 degrees until cooked through.

They’re tasty with maple syrup for a sweet French toast inspired breakfast…


Or savory with ketchup. Cheese would be good too!

Egg Meatball Breakfast Bake

Somehow I hit the jackpot this morning by successfully experimenting with eggs and meatballs in a muffin pan. They were David and Emmett approved, to the point that the latter cleaned the scraps off my plate by the eager fistful.


I’ve tried similar recipes from Pinterest before, like this partially successful bread loaf bake, and had mixed results. Today I did a quick search and didn’t find any examples of using meatballs or scaling it back to such a basic and speedy combination. 

With a roll of the dice, it was literally as simple as dropping one meatball and cracking one egg in each of the muffin cups, then baking at 400 degrees until the whites were solid. 


I sprinkled salt and pepper at the end, but ideally you’d do this before baking. (When you’re rushing to clean raw egg off your hands while your toddler is fussing from the other room, you choose your battles.)

The best part is that a full belly led to nap time so I could write this post!

How Sun Basket & Postmates Saved Weeknights

Commuting, daycare pick up, dinner and bedtime for a squirmy toddler was making it hard to feed ourselves before 9 p.m. on weeknights. So we did what every parent quickly learns to do – bring in reinforcements!

After trying Blue Apron and Sun Basket this spring, I ended up going with Sun Basket because they focus on regionally sourced, seasonal ingredients and have a Paleo option.

It worked out well for several months; Emmett would go to bed and I would unwind in the kitchen. It was a win-win to fuel my joy of cooking and our desire to eat healthy, while preserving some of the energy that goes into finding recipes and getting groceries accordingly.

The only challenge was that as Emmett’s bedtime crept later this summer, we found it harder to get dinner on the “table” (aka our couch, in front of Netflix or HBO’s latest) and get ourselves to bed at a reasonable hour – a necessity when your toddler wakes up anywhere between 5:30-6:30 a.m.

It was David’s idea to start ordering Postmates deliveries using some healthy dishes he stumbled upon during the workweek in our neighborhood. Enter Tri-tip with broccoli, Greek souvlaki, and other meat & veggie combos from local restaurants.

Now, we’re typically able to conjure one home-cooked meal per week (our go-to taco salad or burritos). The other nights, we lean heavily on Postmates to keep our sanity, make the most of our evenings with Emmett, and get a little couch-time after he goes to bed.

I’ve temporarily paused Sunbasket because the three recipes per week option was a little too much for us to handle. But, I hear they’re coming out with a two recipe plan, which I can get on board with!

What do you do to make it through the week?

P.S. If you want to try Postmates, use code 44MG to get free delivery. And here’s my 3 free meal discount on Sun Basket: http://sunbasket.com/3free/Amy57124.

 

 

It Takes a Village to Make Dinner

I finally caved. For some silly reason, I’ve been resisting food delivery services like Blue Apron or Sun Basket. But taking care of a baby and working full time makes trying to get healthy dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes really taxing on my already tapped out brain. 

Hearing friends who had tried it and loved it convinced me to give it a try. Once I surrendered, I finally realized that someone else’s recipe with the ingredients ready to go was not something to be ashamed of. (I think maybe I thought it was like cheating or not being original enough to come up with my own recipe. But the reality was, I was already using Pinterest for recipe ideas.)

As I prepared my first Blue Apron recipe, I quickly learned that the meditative experience of cutting and mixing ingredients is still very much intact. I felt relaxed knowing that the recipe was full proof — I used to love experimenting, but ain’t no one got time for that during the week. 

 

Sun Basket offers a Paleo option and our first delivery arrived with Niman Ranch steaks and seasonal organic produce. Convenient, yet farm fresh.

The bottom line is that we should seek out help wherever we can. Friends, family, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram… Whatever it takes to get something easy and healthy on the table.

Leftover Taco Meat Scramble

To mix up the monotony of scrambled eggs (over-easy, oh how I miss thee), we seasoned the pan by first adding leftover seasoned ground turkey from Thursday night’s taco salad.

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Scramble eggs as usual, and top with your choice of taco-friendly ingredients. In my case, that was avocado, tomatoes and goat milk yogurt.

Thyme-Saving Turkey Meatballs

With a limited window of time to make dinner and workout, I whipped together this super quick meal: oven-roasted squash and zucchini paired with homemade turkey meatballs.

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Preheat oven to about 400 degrees and then prep the veggies:

Toss two sliced summer squash and two zucchini with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme in an oven-safe casserole dish.

Next, prep the meatballs:

Mix 1 lb ground turkey with a generous scoop of almond meal, a scoop of unsweetened and shredded coconut, 1 egg, salt, pepper, olive oil and thyme. Scoop 1/4-cup or smaller spoonfuls into a buttered casserole dish.

Bake both dishes for about 30 minutes, or until veggies are tender and meatballs are cooked through.

More thyme for you!

Bacon (& Broccoli) Lovers’ Scramble

David loves bacon, I love broccoli (really I do, it’s a texture thing). Scrambled eggs can get boring after a while, so I decided to kick things up a notch using the best part of bacon: the fat.

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1. Cook bacon (3 slices was enough for the two of us)

2. Remove bacon and use same pan with bacon fat to cook chopped, frozen broccoli

3. Remove broccoli and use same pan to cook eggs

4. When eggs are set, add chopped bacon and broccoli. 

Optional: if you’re feeling extra indulgent, top with shredded cheese 

Put an Egg on It: Frozen Fan

You can have your hash, and eat it too – without messing up the kitchen. Simply microwave a frozen meal compromised of veggies, grains and/or beans in a bowl, and then top it with a fried egg or two. I used Amy’s Organic Quinoa & Black Beans with Butternut Squash & Chard.

In no time you’ll be singing “Let it go!” to anyone who bad mouths TV dinners. (Just make sure to find one that uses all natural, wholesome ingredients.)