Weaning. Weaning Weaning. That’s all I’ve been thinking and talking about the past few weeks. I know, compelling and rich. You can imagine the conversations at the FF dinner table have been riveting.
So, what does “weaning” even mean? According to the dictionary it means to “accustom (an infant or other young mammal) to food other than its mother’s milk“. N.b. the babes don’t suddenly stop having their milk, you just start to introduce solid food alongside the normal milk. The process isn’t a quick one. It takes months. The babes don’t stop their “baby” milk feeds until they are around a year old. They gradually start to drop their milky requirements as they fill up on food. This is why it is important to feed them healthily to ensure they are getting the vitamins and goodness they are currently enjoying in the milk. Oh and btw “solid” is sometimes a generous description for food that is really liquid gloop.
When you start weaning, you have the choice of adopting a “baby-led” weaning approach, or a… mummy-led approach?! Basically you can give your baby actual solid pieces of food, that resemble the food that a normal human being might eat, and babe will attempt to grab them and chew or gum them, then lob them on the floor, or you can give them mush in a bowl with a spoon. There’s a high chance the mush will also end up on the floor.
Here’s a quick run down of the pros and cons of each from my initial assessment:
Baby-led: looks fun. Chopping up veg is pretty easy. Sharing your food with bebe is nice (as long as it’s baby-friendly – not too much salt or sugar). Makes an enormous mess. Slow to see any food actual enter bébé’s mouth and stay in there. You can eat with bébé and (enjoy?!) the leftovers.
Mummy-led: looks fun. Mushing stuff is pretty easy. Puréeing is strangely satisfying. Lots of cool pouches of mush ready made in the supermarché. You can do airplane spoon movements. Makes an enormous mess. Less enjoyable eating the leftovers.
So, on the basis of my initial assessment I decided to adopt a mixed approach. i.e. when I have the time, and the patience, let Bebe FF lead the way. When I don’t, it’s pouchy gloopy mush on a spoon or rien.
As with so many things in the UK, weaning is not only a huge milestone but a giant marketing opportunity. As every marketeers dream customer, I am sucked in to purchasing all the “devices” and “equipment” and brightly coloured packets in order to ensure Bébé FF “eats” as much as possible, and to generally render this otherwise slightly painful process more joyous.
Why painful you ask? Surely a baby with gnashers that breastfeeds is the epitome of pain?! Yes, that’s true. Thanks for reminding me. He needs to start eating to relieve my AMAZEBOOBS. FYI I’m now combo feeding. The gnawing was too much. However, this weaning business has been a struggle, for me, as well as for Bebe FF. Why?
- I LOVE food. I love it. I would eat (and drink) all day and all night if I could. Every day.
- I hate waste. I was brought up to clear my plate, be grateful and not be wasteful.
- You know what else I hate? Mess. Especially sticky brightly coloured food mess sprayed up my creamy wall. Yes cream was an error.
- We just got into a routine. I knew when to feed Bébé FF and the rest of the time we were playing or napping and it was just parfait. Suddenly my day has turned into milk feed, prepare food, watch food being thrown around and in some cases regurgitated, clean up bebe then clean up food during nap time, milk feed, prepare more food, watch food being thrown around, clean up food and bebe etc.
- Finally, I’m not the world’s most advanced chef. Ahem. Perhaps an understatement. Ze garlic wrap and yoghurt surprise avec vitamins are a couple of uni “dishes” I will never live down … So when I “cook” it is out of pure love, and it pains me to see the results sprayed on the floor and up Bébé FF’s nose. (Hang on, you could count that as a win as technically it’s inside him…)
Ok let’s be positive here. Weaning is fun. It is. *Grin face* And when bebe actually starts to eat and seemingly enjoy food, then you’re on a path to happy and healthy toddlerhood. You are winning. Plus there is not much in the world more delightful than your little bundle de joie with something delicious smeared all over his little chubby face. Too. Cute.
And Bébé FF’s enormous grin when he discovers that I’m not trying to poison him and the banana purée with a hint of vanilla is actually pretty darn tasty – you can’t put a price on that.
When to wean?
It’s recommended by the NHS to start around 6 months. If your baby has allergies it is particularly recommended to wait for the 6 month mark, and then try to introduce the main allergens before the end of year one. When you start, the main recommendations (as far as I understand) are to try baby rice and porridge first, mixed with whatever milk your little one enjoys, then introduce vegetables and then fruit. Try to get them onto the veg because they have a sweet tooth, thanks to their milky diet, and they need to start to adapt to the world of savoury delights. And that’s pretty much it. That’s about all you will get from most public sources on weaning. After that you are on your own.
I spent a fair amount of time Eugoogling in the first few weeks because BébéFF seemed to gag every time anything hit the back of his throat. It was a bit scary and I felt like I was torturing him. I didn’t really find anything to allay my concerns, and my homegirls didn’t really seem to be experiencing the same issues (shout out to those mamas and their beautiful bundles who are by all accounts nailing this eating business, and the mamas are chefettes extraordinaire). In the end I just eased off for a week and tried again later. After what seemed like a few years (but was actually weeks), he began to swallow, and chew, and bits of food were slowly disappearing. And the detective in me was able to conclude he was actually consuming the food when I saw the popo. Wow. The real food popo. Another thing I just wasn’t ready for. My nose! Poor Monsieur FF practically faints when he has to changé the nappy nowadays. But here’s a positive – it’s much more solid!!!
The aim of weaning: to introduce bebe to flavours, smells, textures, and encourage a healthy desire to eat veggies and fruit and not Maccie Dees every day.
The leading authority on all things purée is a lady who sounds like my favourite sugary treat, and not a particularly healthy veggie fiend: Annabel Karmel. The baby-led arena is not as concentrated (or marketing friendly) but I have a good cookbook by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. That makes it sound like I’ve got past page 5 – chopping up a cucumber. When I really start cooking it will be great. I know it. We just aren’t quite there yet.
As mentioned, another positive is that it’s an excellent excuse to buy more brightly coloured bébé stuff. Minimalist monochrome hasn’t hit the baby-weaning aisle yet. What do you actually need?
- A high chair – think minimal crevices and easiest to wipe. Ikea have nailed this.
- A bib or ten.
- Soft spoons. Bébé FF spends more time licking and chewing the spoons than anything else.
- Little pots to serve the food. They are very tiny and cute. And also help you be realistic about what bébé will be consuming in the first months.
- Sippy cups so bebe can start to have sips of water. Particularly helpful when they start gagging as it helps wash down any food in there.
- Most importantly the food itself!! Weaning is a great reason to go a discover your local grocery store or farmer’s market, and stock up on delicious fresh, organic, brightly coloured and may be even exotic fruit and veg. You will look at the available options with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s exciting. You want bébé to have the best. It’s a challenge sourcing the food and transforming it into something bébé wants to eat, but you can do it and when you do, and they like it, you feel proud. Ref the riveting conversations 🙂
You may also even don an apron. I actually feel more matronly than ever before. I almost want to cook Mr FF elaborate meals. Almost. Puréeing a carrot, it turns out, hasn’t completely transformed me in Mrs FF-Roux quite yet.
We shall return to this sujet again in a few months, by which time I may well have quit my job and be appearing on GBBO. One thing is for sure – the photo ops are endless.