Can you feed your family for a day for £2 per head? It costs £2 to feed and educate a child in Zambia per day. Voucherbox are donating £50 to Zamcog to feed children in a school in Zambia, for every blog post published as part of their £2 challenge (before end of Feb 2017)
It got me thinking about how much we spend and how much some of our meals cost. Here’s a family favourite that comes in under budget…. cheesy pasta bake with bacon, broccoli and cauliflower!
I’m a huge fan of Tommee Tippee – we use their bottles, perfect prep machine and steriliser, so I was VERY excited when they sent me a steamer blender to try out – and perfect timing as we’re about a month in to our weaning journey.
As you know, we recently started weaning and we’re going with a mostly baby-led weaning approach (with some limited spoon feeding). On our journey we bought a really useful book and by chance the author, Julie Clarke, got in touch with me on Twitter and I asked here if she’d be happy to do an interview for the blog… well here it is 🙂
How did you become an expert/interested in baby-led weaning?
This is actually quite an interesting question and my answer may surprise you! Before I had my first baby I had not even heard of BLW. Being a Nutritionist I was determined to plan and eat well before my pregnancy and during my pregnancy but then reality hit me and I found myself craving things I wouldn’t normally eat such as ham and cheese sandwiches and my perfect nutrition went out of the window. I then had the most horrendous labour ending in an emergency (& very distressing) c-section. I then struggled with breast-feeding and bonding with my baby and the vision I had of the perfect pregnancy and delivery left me feeling such a failure. I was then determined not to fail at the weaning stage and wanted to introduce my baby to a good whole food diet. It was by chance that my health visitor asked me if I’d heard of BLW. As mentioned before I had not so she simply said look it up I think it will resonate with you. Well, resonate doesn’t even begin to sum it up, it was like a light bulb moment for me and it has since changed the direction of my career. I love BLW, as a Nutritionist I obviously know what foods a baby needs as well as their nutrition requirements but using a method that encourages a good relationship with food, reduces the risk of being fussy and obesity is absolutely huge. I found that my friends with babies were asking me lots of questions and asking me for recipes and eventually they persuaded me to run a course. I guess becoming an expert in this subject comes from my experiencing with both my children, my knowledge of nutrition and the fact that I have helped 300 or more parents wean their children this way.
I’m guessing that spoon-feeding is the norm, but have you seen growing interest in baby-led weaning? if so, why do you think that is?
BLW is growing in popularity at a rapid rate. It seems to stem from the fact that we used to wean at 4 months when a baby could not feed themselves and purees/spoon feeding was used but move on 6 months and many babies are refusing to be spoon fed. At 6 months the vast majority of babies are more than ready and capable of feeding themselves. They do not want to be spoon fed and this had led many parents down the road of BLW. The method is not new but the phrase is and as more people get to know about it and see the benefits the more the word is spread. You also have people like me who are looking at ways to improve a child’s relationship with food and getting in at the weaning stage is the best possible place to start.
I’ve seen a bit of snobbery among mums who BLW, they can look down on mums who give babies puree, I would have thought they give BLW a bad name – what’s your view on this?
I have seen this myself and I do not have an issue with people spoon feeding or mixed feeding as long as they are doing the right thing for their baby. I do get frustrated when I see a Mum trying to spoon feed a baby who clearly wants to do it them self. I truly believe that if a Mum had all the facts they wouldn’t just spoon feed their baby unless there was really no other way (i.e. due to medical reasons etc). I’m on a lot of BLW groups and it does make me laugh how people can react to someone wanting to mix feed and most of the time it’s the people looking down that actually do not really understand the method. I see people say you are not doing BLW if the baby uses a spoon and only finger foods are allowed, this is completely ridiculous!
One of my friends started their baby on home-made purees, and missed the ‘gag reflex’ window so the baby is now struggling to eat ‘proper food’ – do you think there’s more that can be done to help educate new parents on weaning? If so, how? e.g. should everyone have a compulsory weaning check with their health visitor?
Yes I absolutely 100% agree that all new parents be given some nutrition and weaning education which is why my weaning course (Happy Little Eaters) is a 6 week course covering both nutrition and weaning. The biggest problem with keating this to the health visitors is that 1) there are not enough of them and they do not have the time and 2) they do not have any nutrition training!
And some more practical questions…
Baby W loves omelettes – do I need to limit how many eggs he has in a week?!
Eggs are a great food, packed full of essential fats, protein and nutrients. However, egg is one of the most common foods for babies and young children to be allergic to! There is no limit to amount of eggs you can use and babies are very clever and will only eat what they need.
When giving baby W fish I’m petrified that there will be a bone in it – do you have any tips on this or do I just need to carefully check each morsel?!
I still worry about this myself and my children are now 3 and 5 years. I always tell the fish monger (and this can be at the supermarket) that I’m giving this to young children and I need the fish to be filleted without bones. My local farmers market fish monger gets out a magnifying glass and tweezers to fillet the fish!!! Then even when I’ve cooked it I will go through it carefully before giving it my children.
Jenna from Tinyfootsteps asks: I’d like to know when 3 meals a day should be fully established? Jasmine (nearly 8 months) still only has 2 meals a day but still isn’t overly fussed about food. We are BLW.
Most babies will be having 3 meals a day around 9-10 months so it sounds like your baby is doing just fine. Remember that all babies are different though and when your baby needs 3 meals a day she will eat 3 meals a day!!
Sarah asks: Please ask Julie for meal ideas for dairy and egg allergic children. Particularly along lines of pancake and muffin type recipes. I’m at a real loss as to what to cook.
I often post up recipes on my facebook page and recently added a guide for allergy substitutions. For example you can substitute egg as a binder in recipes with mashed banana. Dairy alternatives are easy because you can use lots of different dairy free milks and spreads etc. Have a look at my page Spring Nutrition.
Hannah from hannahsays asks: Our little boy is 5 months at the beginning of December. We’re being recommended by the health visitor to keep breastfeeding up to six months and then start to wean. He’s starting to get upset at meal times because we all sit down to eat but he doesn’t get any but also if he’s on our laps rather than in his chair he tries to steal food from the plates (it’s happened once or twice on the last week or so).
We bought a high chair last week and so now at meal times we put him in the high chair so he knows “now we eat” but actually it’s not his mealtime. I give him his weaning spoons to play with rather than toys to distinguish further than now is a meal time.
When can we start and what should we start with as there seems to be mixed opinions.
Hannah you need a copy of my book!!! The recommended age for weaning is 6 months but some babies may be ready earlier. Getting him sat up with some spoons and a beaker of water is a great start. You can also give him a raw carrot to play with and gum. As soon as he is showing all of the signs – sitting up unaided, holding head up, showing interest in food then give him something to eat that he can play with and taste. At 6 months anything goes if a baby can pick it up (with the exception of honey, salt and anything processed). The best food to start with is fruit and vegetables. Try giving some steamed veg and see what he does. Do not wean earlier than 5 months though unless advised to do so on medical grounds.
So there we have it, thanks Julie for doing the interview and for some really helpful answers! If you’re interested in more about Julie, I reviewed her book here where you can also buy it, and you can follow her on facebook and Twitter
So you’ll know from our first update that we were taking things relatively slowly, I was happy to just try one meal a day for a while – we were also loosely following the #5stepweaningplan and working up to the final 2 steps of meat/alternative and then 3 meals a day.
But a week ago today, I took baby W to get weighed for the first time in about 6 weeks. At 6 and a half months, he weighed 16lb 3oz – all good but he had slipped every so slightly under the 25th percentile for the first time.
Nothing to worry about, but the health visitor suggested ramping up to 3 meals a day, and giving him some protein (meat/fish/egg) to make sure he didn’t slip down the growth chart any further. She was really happy with our initial approach to baby-led weaning but just wanted him to start actually consuming a bit more of the food instead of just nibbling on it 🙂
So, for a week now we’ve been having 3 meals a day – still very much finger-food led, but I have been spoon-feeding him a bit, when spoon-feeding him I try to guide the spoon towards his mouth and let him guide it in so that he still feels like he’s in control 🙂
So here’s some of the foods he’s had:
Cucumber (he loves this – so easy to eat!)
Rice cakes – his favourite food so far, I started with plain ones and also tried Organix apple ones – he loves both!
Plain omelette (SO much less messy than the hard-boiled egg!)
Pasta – plain, and with some tomato sauce on it
Avocado – he finds this too slippery to eat so I might just mash it up next time and pop it on a spoon… or on a rice cake?
On a spoon
Flakes of cod mixed with sweet potato mash, and normal mash
Yoghurt – I bought Rachel’s diary yoghurt as a) no added sugar b) they’re made in my hometown (Aberystwyth)
Baby porridge – the only thing he hasn’t really liked so far! We tried it with some puree that Cow&Gate sent us and he definitely preferred it with the puree!
A jar of lamb/sweet potato puree – due to our baby-led approach, I wasn’t going to bother with purees but seeing as we were sent some, I thought we might as well try it – we tried the meaty one to up his protein intake – and he quite liked it!
Weetabix – this is our usual breakfast
Our learnings so far
Now we’re pretty much past the gagging phase, we’re enjoying it! He puts most of the food in his mouth and I can tell by his weekly poo that he’s definitely swallowing more and more – it’s starting to get more solid – gross!!!!
I think both find finger food more fun – it’s so cute watching him grab something and hold it in his fist while he munches on it – I gave him yoghurt the other day but he still had omelette in his fist which he would NOT let go!
His favourite thing so far has been Rachel’s banana yoghurt – he was kicking his legs in excitement for this one!
Our daily routine is out the window as having 3 meals a day probably takes about 2 hours of day in total (prep/eating/cleaning up)
It’s nice to give him undivided attention for that time – obviously he needs to be supervised while he’s eating so it means proper quality time where I can’t do any chores and I make a point of not checking my phone!
I need to get better at eating with him – although when I do, I’ve finished mine in 2 mins while he obviously takes ages so I’m not sure if it really matters! (well practised from when he was younger and I had to snaffle my food down!)
Meat! I want to give him meat but it seems so grown-up! Not quite sure if he’s ready for it – might practice with some more textures first??
Water – I’ve kinda given up giving him the doidy cup with every meal, but every now and then I give him some water using it and ‘directing’ it into his mouth
I’ll take him to get weighed next Thursday – hopefully he’s back on the curve 🙂
Before we started weaning, I bought a few books to help us through it as I found all the information online a bit overwhelming! We wanted to try baby-led weaning so we bought a book by Gill Rapley as a lot of peers named her as a guru. In case this route didn’t work, we’d need to try purees so I bought a book by Annabel Karmel who is known as the queen of weaning through puree recipes!
While buying these, Amazon also recommended ‘Baby-led weaning, step-by-step’ by Julie Clarke, and this ended up being the most useful book of the lot!
I found Rapley’s book very theoretical – one big, long advert on why you should do baby-led weaning (the most useful bit being lots of quotes from parents who had gone through it). But I’d already decided we wanted to do weaning the baby-led way, so I wanted something more practical on what foods to try and when etc.
This is where Julie Clarke’s baby-led weaning book excels – it’s very practical – full of advice and tips including:
which highchair to buy
which yoghurts to buy that aren’t packed in sugar
what mix of food types you should try and give your baby
an example menu schedule
ideas on which first foods to try
how and when to drop milk feeds
The other big selling point for me is that there’s a real-life case study running all the way through the book – you get to follow baby Rosie’s weaning journey – it’s always useful to hear real-life stories e.g. how they initially missed a few meals due to nap times etc (something we’re trying to work our way around!)
The chapters are split by the age of the baby, but obviously not all babies are the same and they might not follow these months religiously! Like with everything, I tend to read and then do things my own way – so for example, the book recommends starting straight away on 3 meals a day, but we wanted to start with 1 meal a day initially (check out our first weaning update) – so I’d recommend you use this book as a guide to suit you, not a rule book! We’re also doing a bit of spoon-feeding (or guiding the spoon in the right direction) and initially tried a bit of baby-specific food like baby rice – the book recommends against this but isn’t judgemental about it – again, do what suits you!
That’s all I can really say about the book without giving away all the tips! The only thing I would have liked a bit more info on is gagging – it does mention it, but it would be good to know a bit more about what to expect when it happens, I’m not sure exactly what I was after but it was definitely the thing I was most nervous about when starting our weaning journey!
So overall I highly recommend the book, it’s already been really useful and I’m sure it will be over the next few months! It’s very easy-to-follow and understand, and very practical – to buy it, support your local bookstore or click on the Amazon link in the image…
Q&A with the author, Julie Clarke
Co-incidentally, I’ve ended up chatting to the author on Twitter and I will be interviewing her for the blog about all-things-baby-led-weaning! So if you have a question for Julie, please leave it in the comments section below by Dec 1st (2014!) and I’ll give you a mention when the interview goes live early December!
I was delighted to be asked to be an ambassador for Cow and Gate’s ‘5 step weaning plan’ and even more chuffed when our box of goodies arrived to go with it!
The ‘5 step weaning plan’ is pretty self-explanatory – it’s a website that helps you wean your baby onto food in 5 easy steps!
Step 1 – first spoonfuls (e.g. baby rice, banana puree)
Step 2 – Introducing breakfast (e.g. porridge)
Step 3 – Introducing variety (e.g. fruit/veg)
Step 4 – Meat/fish/alternatives
Step 5 – Establishing 3 meals a day
I used this on my smartphone and I was very impressed with how good the website looks, and how easy it is – you register with an email address and password and you’re good to go – working through the 5 steps with lots of useful tips and recipes along the way.
My favourite bit has to be the ‘eaticons’ – cartoon faces you use to rate food to remind you whether your baby liked or disliked something – so cute!!
If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that we’ve already started weaning and that we’re trying the baby-led method which involves giving baby W finger food from day 1 e.g. a piece of banana instead of pureed banana. The ‘5 step weaning plan’ is mostly about purees, but I think you can use it like I do and just use ‘proper’ food instead of purees if that’s what you’re doing?
We also mixed up the steps a bit, so we did steps 1 and 3 together (first tastes/variety), then step 2 (breakfast) then step 5 (3 meals a day) and we still haven’t started step 4 yet (meat/fish although we have given him egg as a protein alternative!)
So however you intend to wean, I think you can use this plan as a really useful guide but personally I wouldn’t stress if you go ‘off-plan’! Use it as a guide not as a rule book 🙂 As well as useful tips and recipes, Cow and Gate also email you money-off vouchers for their baby food so it’s definitely worth signing up – register here 🙂
So overall pros and cons…
Really easy to use
Perfect starting point for weaning
Mobile-friendly, lovely-looking website
Lots of tips and recipes – you can either make the food from fresh or buy it in jars!
Not a con as such, but as I said I tweaked it slightly to suit us – the 5 steps might not suit everyone but Cow & Gate don’t say anywhere that you MUST stick to it rigidly!
Some improvements I would love to see Cow and Gate make are:
the ability to add your own recipes and foods that you’ve tried e.g. baby W loves rice cakes so it would be great to be able to add that as a reminder – it’s easy to forget what you’ve tried!
wouldn’t it be great to turn this into a bit of a community where parents can share their baby’s likes/dislikes and share recipes etc? Now that we’ve started weaning, I notice there’s quite a lot of banter on Twitter about foods to try etc – so I think this website could be a really interactive community for weaning parents
Since our first weaning update, we’ve moved to step 5 (3 meals a day), which I’ll blog about this week including reviewing some of the food that Cow & Gate sent us!
Disclaimer: I wasn’t paid to write this review but I was sent a box of goodies (weaning equipment, food and cuddly cow!) before trying it out
Baby W turned 6 months a week ago, and although I was in no rush (and nor was he really) it was time to start weaning! I think my reluctance was that this signalled the end of an era… the end of a milk-only diet… our baby boy growing up!!
We wanted to give ‘baby-led weaning’ a try but would try purees etc if that didn’t work for any reason.
Preparation for weaning
So a few weeks ago I started sitting baby W in his ‘snug‘ chair on our dining table to sit with me while I ate my breakfast/lunch, to start getting him interested in food. This was a change to our routine as I’d always tended to grab my food when he was having a nap.
I bought a couple of books, a ‘doidy’ cup, a cutlery set and off we went! In good timing we were given some wipe-clean Christmas bibs as a gift!
Attempt #1 – carrot, avocado, sweet potato
2 weeks ago we had some spare time on a Saturday lunchtime so we decided to try him with some foods – we gave him carrot sticks, avocado strips and some sweet potato mash and put them on his snug tray. And we both just stared at him, willing him to eat the lot! He didn’t like any of it – pulled some faces, gagged and puked!
In hindsight, we made a few mistakes – we weren’t eating at the same time as him (one of the key points of ‘baby-led weaning’), we maybe gave him too much choice and maybe the flavours were a bit too much for him after nearly 6 months of milk!
Oh and we also ‘helped’ guide the food into his month so it wasn’t strictly baby-led! It was still a great experience – while he pulled some really funny faces, me and my other half couldn’t stop laughing! (Bad parents ;))
Attempt #2 – banana and baby rice
Exactly a week later, we placed some banana strips in front of him and prepared some baby rice for him. Baby rice seems to go against the baby-led weaning approach as it’s not something that adults eat, but we just wanted to try him with something plain/bland. We kept putting it on his spoon and watched him get the spoon to his mouth but never in quite the right position! He enjoyed sucking on the banana!
This time daddy was eating banana with him, and mummy was pottering about – so a bit less pressure for him than the first attempt!
Attempt #3 – mango and blueberries
A few days later I was having a healthy breakfast of ready-made pancakes with mango, blueberries and raspberries. I put some fruit on his tray, including squishing the blueberries… and he seemed to enjoy sucking/munching on the blueberries 🙂
Attempt #4 – banana, baby rice and houmous
Another lunchtime, another tray of bananas and baby rice. This time he was more adventurous in trying to eat the banana -twice he gagged up pieces of banana. Good progress but very scary for me watching him gag so much!
I was eating pitta bread and houmous for lunch so he also had a suck on that!
Attempt #5 – carrot and broccoli
Friday was time for (over) cooked carrot sticks and broccoli florets. I read on some baby-led weaning forums that gagging on banana is quite common as it’s so squelchy, whereas carrot and broccoli break up easier. He definitely enjoyed sucking and chewing on the broccoli. He gagged some broccoli up once, but it wasn’t quite as scary this time around!
He somehow ended up with carrot on his shoulder 🙂
Attempt #6 – more carrots and some trifle!
Yesterday I went for Sunday dinner with my parents, baby W was very excited when the food arrived! I gave him 2 of my baby carrots to munch on, and I’m pretty sure he swallowed them as there was only a tiny bit left when I cleared up afterwards – clever boy! My parents also couldn’t resist spoon-feeding him some cream and custard from their trifle. I don’t really want him to be spoon-fed or to eat too much sweet stuff so lucky he doesn’t see my parents too often otherwise I’ll be having words 🙂
The good bits
Watching him play with, discover and explore food is great fun to watch, already I can see why people advocate baby-led weaning for this alone!
Even though I said I was in no rush, it was encouraging to see him suck and chew on food after just a few attempts, and swallowing food on his 6th attempt seems pretty good to me!
The bad bits
The gagging – not nice to watch and a bit scary. I plan to watch some videos on it to make me feel less guilty! The baby-led weaning books I bought don’t seem to address how to deal with it or what to expect!
I’ve just bought some all-over bibs. We still need to buy a highchair (after consulting with other mummy bloggers the faves are Ikea, Stokke, Chicco and Cosatto.) No rush, I think he’ll be fine in his snug for a while… I never leave him unattended in it!
We have carpet in the dining room so I need to buy a plastic sheet or shower curtain to cover the floor!
So we’ll carry on with our version of weaning – lunchtimes only to begin with and maybe some breakfasts. I’m going to make a conscious effort to eat healthier lunches so that we can try and eat the same food eg fish with veg.
I will also keep offering him different flavours and textures… Cucumber is ready in the fridge for him and I think we might try mash this week too.
Also need to start offering him water to drink with it… I imagine this will be fun and messy 🙂
We’ll keep you updated on progress – to stay updated follow me on twitter or bloglovin!