Weaning Baby P has been amazing, I’ve loved every minute of it, both her and I have had loads of fun exploring new flavours and textures, using spoons, sitting high chairs, messing with finger foods, singing songs and cooking up baby storms in the kitchen.
A thought that came to me recently though was how I’ve often reassured myself with the popular phrase “food is for fun until they are one.” Is it really? Is it really just for fun? I read this blog post and the words really resonated with me. Yes as a breastfeeding mum, I knew my daughter would still be getting all the nutrition she needed from me and that food was a top up, a supplement, but this shouldn’t be lasting forever, weaning is a process, it’s a transition from milk (whether breast or formula) and by the end of the process, my daughter should be on solid food and gaining healthy balanced diet with plenty of hydration from water to keep her healthy.
So how did I start the process and how is it going? Well firstly I read up on everything (typical new mum alert!) I researched reputable sources such as the NHS website guidelines, went to my local sure start centre,spoke to my health visitor, read the complimentary cow and gate weaning book from cover to cover, downloaded the Annabel Karmel weaning app and placed the Ella’s Kitchen weaning pathway guide permanently on the kitchen table. The teacher, or maybe even the research student in me was well read, armed and equipped with knowledge to begin weaning.
I decided to follow guidelines and wait until little miss P was 6 months old before weaning having read up on the effects etc and because she hadn’t demonstrated any key signs that she was ready earlier than this nor were there any medical reasons or needs for us to wean early. I decided to do a combination of traditional and baby lead weaning, reassuring myself that “food is for fun until they are one” and that it was about her learning, letting her explore flavours and textures, giving her the chance to develop her fine motor skills like the pincer technique and to learn how to bite, chomp, chew and swallow more than just liquid.
All went well as I tried purees and then followed up with a form of age and stage of weaning finger food for her to explore. Gradually as weeks went on more foods were introduced as per recommended timescales and guidelines, along with appropriate textures and range of finger foods. It was amazing how quickly I saw P learn how to roll food around her mouth, mash and mush food between her gums and little teeth, compliment her experience with sighs and murmurs of enjoyment and pleasure as she devoured new and favourite flavours.
To be honest, the principles of weaning were easy, once I read how and when to introduce different foods safely, avoiding choking, allergy or illness risks, that was all piece of cake (no pun intended). I also found the gradual increase from tasters into regular meals fairly simple too, to a certain extent Baby P guided me on that too as she made it clear when she needed an increase in portion size and started to drop the number of breastfeeds she needed, gradually favouring more solid food.
The thing that I’ve found has been my main concern during this weaning process is the nutrition and that actually, food isn’t just for fun. Yes, she is still getting my breast milk and therefore good nutrition but as stated earlier, she has decreased the amount of breastfeeds and is favouring more and more solid food over milk as time goes on and when breastfeeding you do not know how much milk they are getting each feed so although I keep feeding on demand, I want some reassurance that she’s gaining a balanced diet as she favours more and more solids.
My tips and tricks to reassure myself that she is getting a balanced diet has been to get my Monica from Friends organisational head in full throttle. I’ve been doing a lot of batch cooking and baking. I love cooking and baking and always have and my milk pan has been renamed P’s pan in the kitchen, whenever I cook a meal for myself, I have Baby P’s pan next to it, making her a baby safe version of whatever I’m having, cutting, mashing her food down to an appropriate size and skipping any inappropriate ingredients such as salt (which I don’t use much of anyway) and spices etc. This has been fun, because then I portion up her food into ice cube trays and then store in labelled Tupperware boxes and food bags. I do this for meals and sides/vegetables and this way I have quick easy access on a daily basis to portions of fruit, vegetables, protein and carbs that I know are suitable for her and ready to reheat. It’s cheaper than buying jars, isn’t any extra work for me as I’m cooking anyway and leaves me well organised to ensure I’ve all her major food groups covered so she’s getting her daily requirement of fibre, proteins and vitamins etc.
This cooking up for her has become quite a nice exciting pastime and I set her up playing in the kitchen near me somewhere safely, in her jumperoo or high chair etc, singing, chatting and playing together as I prepare our meals or bake baby weaning biscuits, exploring recipes from my baby weaning apps or Pinterest pages. I can honestly say, weaning has been a wonderful bonding experience, she’s been so responsive and hasn’t turned her nose up at anything I’ve given her to try (apart from chocolate!) and seems to be developing a good palate. That is providing I follow her essential rule, alla Joey from Friends…BABY P DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!! Don’t anyone dare come between her and her tasty morsels, however you must be prepared to share your own with her as she leans over with raised eyebrows to peruse your plate and decide what she wants to taste!
So is food for fun, yes it is, it’s a fun (and messy) experience weaning baby but isnit just for fun, well I’d say no, it’s also about learning and transitioning your baby from pure milk onto the grow up world of solid foods and regular meals and that although it’s a gradual process it is a process and and as much as you know they are still getting essential nutrition from milk, I personally think it’s important to be getting into good habits and being proactive in ensuring they are getting a good range of foods and essential food groups through their solids too.