Eating. We all do it eventually. Its like rolling over, sitting up, or walking. But when you have a baby, all these things feel like they will never happen and you’re constantly on the watch for signs of them. You see your baby slightly flail about a bit and spend the next two hours making phone calls to family and friends proclaiming that “he almost turned over”.
We have a wide group of mummy and baby friends, so have a pretty balanced perspective on what’s ‘normal’ for my baby’s age group. I try not to focus too much, however, on the one friend’s baby which has been able to hold on to the edge of the furniture and walk around the room since he was 6 months old. Mine is 8 months and, well, she can sit. No, wait, last night she pushed herself up to standing in the bathtub.
However, as I’m a foodie and a former professional pastry chef in the fine dining industry and my husband is a great…shall we say patron of the fine dining industry…I thought that weaning our baby would be a non-issue.
We decided to wait to wean our baby until she was at least 6 months old. There is a lot of pressure to start introducing foods earlier than this. (Ladies of…ahem…a certain generation, will say that your baby is hungry and needs baby rice (a nutritionally empty food) at…oh, around 17 weeks. Ignore them. They’re the same ladies who were telling you to stop breastfeeding and give baby formula so they could ‘sleep through the night’.) We had a number of reasons which we based our decision upon. There were the physical factors, such as whether the baby was able to sit up on their own and able to shove items into their mouth. (She was). And also that solid foods just aren’t as nutritious as breastmilk or formula. You need the certainty in the early days that 100% of what is going into your baby’s tummy is doing them good and helping them to grow. But mainly, we were concerned that the human gut is not ready to deal with solid foods until at least 6 months of age and while your baby may happily take solid foods earlier than that, giving them any earlier can increase the risk of health problems such as atopic conditions (eczema, asthma), autoimmune conditions (coeliac disease) and other chronic conditions (diabetes). Essentially these are all inflammatory conditions and not something we wished to put our baby at risk for by giving in to our excitement about moving on to the next stage.
I sought my mother’s advice fairly early on. Apparently I threw my bottle of formula on the floor at 3 months old and she decided that meant I was ready to move on to food. As I have suffered with numerous atopic and digestive inflammatory conditions for most of my life, I decided that I would not be repeating that route.
But both my husband and I were incredibly excited about introducing foods to our little girl and in anticipation, I attended the weaning session at my local Children’s Centre. Firstly, I was the only person who turned up. Obviously all the other mothers of 4 month olds in Peckham were at home shoving baby rice down their children’s gullets and marvelling about how they slept through the night now. (BTW, sleeping through the night is an abnormal baby behaviour. Tiny little tummies aren’t designed to go for 8-12 hours without food.) Once the dietician started her session, with just me and my baby in attendance, I realised that I was probably not the target audience for this kind of session. And the dietician realised that I wasn’t, either, quickly glossing over the display of packaged baby cookies and baby rice she’d painstakingly set up to demonstrate to mothers which kinds of sugary foods to avoid feeding their babies. (“I can see I won’t need to show these to you.”) We had a useful conversation on baby led weaning and how to prepare the fruits and vegetables for a baby to eat and a quick demonstration on how to assist a choking baby, but other than that, I came away fairly uninspired and unenlightened.
Finally 6 months of age arrived. First we decided to go the Baby Led Weaning route. I cooked some sweet potato and…my baby very politely tasted it and declined seconds. The same thing happened with broccoli, spinach, peas, red lentils, greek yogurt and applesauce. I do try to avoid giving her too many fruits, as I’d like her to avoid developing the dreaded sweet tooth which my mother and I both have. I’m not sure if this is a futile attempt on my part, but I’m sticking with this approach. She loved over-ripe bananas and she did enjoy gnawing on a piece of pear once and some peach puree, but other than that, I felt I was wasting both my time and some rather expensive organic foods.
And it was just so messy. I mean really really messy.
Sometime just before 7 months of age, I gave up on full-time Baby Led Weaning and got out my little mouli which I then used to prepare most of the above vegetables. I had no better success.
And my red lentil dish, though very well cooked, gave her terrible stomach cramps throughout the night.
So around a month or so ago we decided to go the Ella’s Kitchen route. If only for the sake of convenience. I was tired of cooking nice foods and watching them get gummed around and smeared on the Bumbo tray for a while before being put in the compost bin. And it was around this point that we discovered something. It wasn’t the food that was the problem. It was the person giving the food. Daddy could open up packets of Ella’s Kitchen lentils with cumin, vegetable moussaka and squishy salmon fish cakes and they’d all be gobbled up with relish. I would try to give her the same food and be met with disdain.
At this point, I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer for you. If you’re struggling with weaning your baby onto foods, I don’t have a solution. Each morning I make porridge which I try to share with my baby and am met with a mouth shut tight as a Cabbage Patch Doll’s. My health visitor says this is a phase and she’ll probably grow out of it after she’s two. Great.
As for the other babies we know, well, they’re all eating platefuls of food. Some do baby led weaning and others have been conventionally weaned. But somehow their parents are getting the stuff into them.
I got the The Ella’s Kitchen Cookbook from the library yesterday and intend to copy all my baby’s favourites from the book. My first attempt, a rich and creamy macaroni cheese made with Boots baby pasta stars was rejected last night with a look of utter disgust. So I ate it. It was delicious.
But apparently not as delicious as the manky, half eaten carrot I found the baby about to tuck into from the dog’s bowl…