Motherhood // Starting Weaning

January 17, 2020

It's so nice to be back to the blog. Albeit written in haste whilst Freya naps, trying to fit it in around all the other things I rush around doing when she's asleep! But weaning! I can't believe how many messages I've had from fellow mama's on instagram asking for a post about this when I've shared little snippets on stories so far. It goes without saying that I'm no expert at all, I have one bubba who is about a month into this new journey of starting solid foods. And I'll always caveat posts like this with all babies are just so different and there really is no right or wrong. BUT a month ago, I was looking for all the inspo I could get from mama's who had started so this is just me sharing what we've done. Is it right? I have no idea but she's loving her food so far and truth be told, I wasn't looking forward to starting it. I didn't know how I'd find the time to sort out food for her on top of feeding her milk, I loved the ease of her just drinking from me. But actually it's been so fun and actually given some structure to our days now that she's awake for longer between naps. It's so rewarding to see her enjoying food and it really doesn't have to be hard. I'm waffling, let me start properly from the beginning...

Back in November I booked onto an introduction to solids course run by my local family centre, the health visitors were always telling us at the weigh ins to go and I'm really glad I did as it gave such a great overview of it all and it was free. So I'd definitely recommend going to something like that, it just built my confidence on knowing what I could and couldn't give her, things to look out for and how to build it all up. In essence, there are two main schools of thought - Baby Led which is just giving them little pieces of 'real' whole food for them to pick up and gum and learn to eat. Or spoon fed/pureed which is when you puree everything into a smooth texture and feed it to them. In reality I think most people fall somewhere in between? The spoon fed puree route is the traditional one and I was surprised that the course I went on was very anti this, they basically said to only do baby led as babies are so used to having milk/smooth textures that they won't learn how to eat/could become fussy in the future if you don't give them textures now. They also wanted to make it easy for us I guess? Anyway, it was pretty informative and I then went away and read up a little more and found inspiration from some instagram accounts plus baby weaning books - will list all at the end of this post.

We started with the first tastes in the middle of December when she was five and a half months old. I was set on waiting until she was six months, maybe giving her a little taste on Christmas Day just before it, but when I went to a weigh in before christmas with her, the health visitor thought she seemed ready and actually all the advice says 'around' six months so it's very much dependent on when you think your baby is showing the right signs rather than a specific date. The key factors are making sure that they can sit up/hold their necks up to swallow food which she could, that their tongue reflex has gone {when they're younger their tongue acts as a reflex to push food out to prevent choking} which it had and coordinate their hands/bring things to their mouths which she'd been doing well for a while. So she was definitely ready. We started slowly, not knowing how on earth she'd find eating actual food after a life of only ever knowing how to drink milk! Suddenly there would be this whole new skill, learning how to have things in her mouth, how to chew/gum, how to swallow, what things tasted like. It must be mind blowing to a baby to suddenly have so much flavour?! 

I guess the really important thing that I'm remembering is that for the first year milk will still be their main source of calories so that takes the pressure off of how much they eat but I really wanted to introduce as many flavours and textures as possible in the next few months. And although there's the saying 'food before one is just for fun' there are important vitamins/minerals that they need like iron etc which is why they say weaning should begin around six months when their pregnancy iron stores start to run out - it's worth reading up about some baby nutrition as obviously I'm no expert in talking about that. But I guess just offer as wider variety of foods as you can which will be a benefit in so many ways. Ben and I both love our food so we wanted Freya to enjoy it all too and have good principles of food being a nice family occasion for us to when possible, all sit down together. 

From a fairly young age, if she was happy enough {e.g. not too tired or hungy}, we had her up at the table with us when we had dinner or she'd watch as I cooked or prepared food in the kitchen, playing with her little toys. I've always loved the idea of her getting used to eating being a social thing, and so we loved the Stokke newborn attachment. Then last month, when she was around 5 and a half months old, she suddenly seemed a little big for it and ready to sit in the high chair bit. The stokke chair seems perfect for her at this age, she's really sturdy in it compared to other high chairs we've tried in cafes. We've got the tray part on it right now but as she gets older I think we'll just push it up and she can use the table. Before we gave her any food we made sure that she seemed happy in the high chair and it was a fun thing with toys to get her used to it and also gave her a spoon to play with/again get used to. She'd started having some teething granules off a spoon and loved taking it.

her very first taste of food! Broccoli.

The first proper meal that we gave her was colostrum from the freezer mixed mixed with a teaspoon full of readybrek. We'd defrost a few syringe worth in a cup full of warm water and mix it with the fine oats. She gobbled it down, her mouth covered! We had a few weeks worth of colostrum which we wanted to use up before you're meant to use it - around 6/7 months maximum I think, so prioritised this as breakfast, a good meal to start with we felt. To start with I think she literally ate about two teaspoons but over time it's increased, and I look at photos of toddler's porridge on instagram in awe at the amount she'll eat in the future!

So we mainly started with breakfast if time allowed in the mornings. Then we'd find a window in the day to give her first tastes of vegetables, usually around lunchtime but to start with we just did it as and when - not necessarily everyday.

I had no idea how she'd find food and so I wanted to take it at her pace, but she took to it all so well that it all moved on pretty fast.

I was adamant that I wasn't going to spend hours in the kitchen steaming things, pureering and freezing them - the traditional way to wean a baby. There's nothing wrong with this but the weaning course I'd been on said it just wasn't necessary and that you should try to give as many textures and real food as you can. So, partly out of my laziness for not wanting to spend hours prepping extra smooth baby food, I just kind of winged it and gave her something new every couple of days prepping as I went. So to start with, I roasted some squash in the oven and then mashed it in a bowl mixed with some breastmilk. It was smooth but had some texture still. Likewise, for avocado I mashed it with a fork and mixed with a little breastmilk and then cooked some kale and then blitzed it roughly in our nutribullet with some milk to give her as first tastes. I wanted to give her vegetables over fruit to start with. There's a school of thought that says giving as many bitter flavours as you can is best rather than getting them hooked on the sweet stuff. At the same time we'd give her some finger foods to play with/gum, bits of broccoli, cauliflower, courgette, cucumber, carrots. She didn't necessarily eat much of these but loved sucking the broccoli head and it was good to get her used to picking up food and bringing it to her mouth.

The course I'd been on had showed a really useful video on the difference between gagging and choking. When doing the baby led method, there's more chance of choking than when spooning in pureed food and it can be scary. But gagging is a natural reflex as they learn how things feel in their mouth. At the beginning she'd gag quite a lot but that's really subsided in the last few weeks. I brushed up on the baby first aid course we'd been on to know what to do should choking occur - gah just the scariest thought ever?! But as a general rule if they're noisy and gagging/red then don't intervene as it can make it worse to try and remove something from their mouth and they'll then spit it out. BUT if they're silent and blue, they need help from you. I really feel so totally unqualified to even give any advice on stuff like this though so please do your own reading and research! 

I've found it a tough balance between cutting things up small enough for her not to choke/be a shape that could get stuck in her airways - e.g. tomatoes, blueberries or grapes, but with things like that they tend to be slippy so it's harder for her to pick them up and get them into her mouth. A lot of the time I mash up berries with my fingers and just feed them to her. Over time I'll be able to leave them a little bigger/she'll get better at scooping them into her mouth but right now it feels like a good compromise. This chart has been helpful at working out how best to cut things. It's amazing how fun it is to see her feed herself with things though. 

We then started giving her some of our dinners, whatever we deemed appropriate texture wise and making sure nothing has too much salt for her. My friend had given me a bag of pouches her son no longer needed. That weaning course had made out they were the devil {I think they mainly meant the ones like Ella's Kitchen where it will say broccoli on but is mostly pear for example} so I hadn't even looked down the baby aisle. But actually I've found the organic meal pouches to be really great and can't see a problem with them. I've found the brands called Little Freddie, Piccolo and Babease to be fully organic and full of only the good stuff, they're proper meals and have no fruit in. I wouldn't want to give them for every meal, I want her to know what food looks like/feels like/learn how to feed herself/have more textures, but they're really great a few times a week when you don't always have time to cook something or when we're eating something not that suitable/we're out and about. They're also a lot less messy and squeeze onto a spoon really well. To start with she'd have about half a pouch but now will demolish one pretty fast. My friend said you can mix them in with quinoa/rice/pasta to bulk them out when they get a little older too. Freya's absolute favourite is the squash mac n cheese. I've found some in supermarkets but a huge selection on Ocado {I did my first order the other day}. I've ignored the age ranges on them and gone for some that say 7 months +/textured as I don't want her to just have really smooth ones. I've been so impressed at how in these past few weeks she's really got the hang of it all and now doesn't flinch at any texture, which must be weird without teeth - she kind of just gulps it down?

I started to introduce allergens one at a time - again with anything like that then read up on what possible reactions look like - so gave her peanut butter in some porridge a couple of times to make sure she was ok with it - giving no other allergens that day and making sure I gave it first thing so I could monitor her through the day. Then I introduced almond butter, egg, dairy and fish at different times. And touchwood she's been fine with them but I know young babies/toddlers can be prone to different intolerances/allergies whilst they're small so I'll keep a close eye out.

For the first few weeks I found it was making her really windy, it's such a big change for their digestion? So a friend recommended we didn't give her food after 4pm as it was too close to bedtime, and I didn't want her to fill up on dinner compared to having enough milk before bed. But over the past couple of weeks now she's got the hang of it, and I think her stomach has stretched, she's got plenty of room for both and now we give her dinner with us around 5/5.30pm and it's been working well. She now gets SO excited when it's dinner time and I think she'd really miss it if I didn't give her dinner now, it's become such a part of the routine before bed and I think the protein helps to keep her full too.

So that's pretty much where we're at right now with three meals a day if time allows. She sometimes has a pouch where I'll then give her a few chopped up bits/finger food to go with it or she'll share our dinner. 

A few of her favourite meals so far;
Fish pie - I made Jamie's fish pie the other day for us all and it was a huge hit. She had seconds for lunch the next day.
Avocado - I mean, she couldn't not as a milennial's daughter, ha. Easy to mash and a good finger food.
Scrambled egg and buttery pieces of toast
Anything cheesy
Our green smoothie
Deliciously Ella's butternut squash daal, I made a big batch of this and have some in the freezer to pull out in future.
Any kind of beany/lentil based/daal/stew.
Pasta stars
Broccoli and cauliflower
Our beef chilli, I just mashed the beans up
Berries - blueberries and raspberries specifically, can't get them quick enough
Porridge with almond butter {now that my colostrum has run out we make it with organic full fat cow's milk}
Yogurt and fruit
Stewed apple
Tuna and sweetcorn baby pasta stars - she devoured this, I mixed some yogurt and cheese in with it.

I haven't shared lots of photos of her with the baby led stuff as I tend to not have my camera out at that point as I'm checking she's not going to choke eeek!

There is still so much that I want to give her as time goes on and so many new tastes for her to discover.

The only thing she's turned her nose up so far at has been a chia seed pudding and banana porridge. Over the next few weeks I'll start making more things that she can pick up and eat, the young gum's book is really good for this. But right now she's happy to be spoon fed which I'm savouring as I guess she'll want to start only feeding herself soon!

A friend gave me a great tip to get omega's into them which is to mix a spoonful of pumpkin seed oil into their porridge/any dinner which is nice to know they're getting some extra goodness and it doesn't change the flavour. 

We give her water with meals, and for a while she's been LOVING drinking out of a glass which makes us laugh so much, lapping it up like a little kitten. A doidy open cup was recommended {we have the one linked below} which is specially slanted to make it easier and she's taken to drinking out of it really well. She has water or in the mornings, some of our green smoothie which she adores and I'm really pleased she likes.

It does take time to sit there and feed her, often at the expense of my dinner going cold - mama life - but it's so rewarding introducing her to food and I hope will set her up with a good relationship with it. I'm keen to never make dinnertime a battle and so I don't want to ever force her to eat something if she doesn't want to but nor go too far the other way and give too many alternatives as she gets older and screws her nose up at something. Everyday her appetite will differ, just like ours I guess! And if she doesn't like something I'll keep offering it as her tastes will change over time.

I want to do some more reading about food actually as I'm so aware how children feel like food is something they can control and likewise I don't want to overtly praise her for eating well which could then trigger food becoming a kind of binge/reward thing as she's older? I'm probably hugely overthinking this and right now she's blissfully unaware of anything like that! I vaguely remember hearing good things about the book called French Children Don't Throw Food but any advice appreciated.

Things I've found helpful/equipment; *ad contains affiliate links

High chair - the Stokke Tripp Trapp chair was AD/gifted to us but I can't recommend it more highly. It also transforms into a child's chair and then an adult chair so it will grow as Freya grows which I love. Super easy to clean too and comes in lots of colours. We went for white to match our other chairs.

Doidy open cup online here

Weaning spoons, I have this set of bamboo spoons which now says unavailable? Similar here

Although we haven't used them yet as she's not been eating big enough meals, we got this bowl with a suction for Christmas alongside this sectioned plate which I've seen lots of friend's older babies/toddlers use and it's fun to offer a balanced meal on them

Bibs! We have a couple of these long armed washable bibs by Liewood from Scandiborn online here which cover really well plus a friend gave me this 'pelican' silicone bib which has been easy to chuck on and off. And then there are these by Bumkins which are similar but a little cheaper, they have a tie neck so don't cover quite as well but again easy to throw in the wash!

Wipes, I bought some Aveeno baby wipes on offer in Waitrose last week and they've been really gentle on her face. But a few people have recommended Cheeky Wipes which are reusable and washable.

Method spray to wipe the high chair down after every meal. It gets filthy!

- The Young Gums cookbook, a modern approach to baby led weaning with meals for the whole family. I like how the recipes say for 'two adults and one baby' for example so you can all eat the same

- Joe Wicks 'Wean in 15' instagram account for great baby/toddler friendly recipe ideas both in the feed posts and highlights plus honest down to earth stories from him about feeding his daughter Indie who often won't eat dinner/his philosophies on not offering snacks or alternatives. He has a cookbook coming out this May.

- This post was really helpful

- SR Nutrition on Instagram - who works a lot with Joe as a specialist in children's nutrition and is a great source of information and advice for all things weaning related.

- This Weaning Instagram page which I found by chance from a hashtag

- Annabel Karmel's Baby Weaning Book. I got given this as a present when Freya was born and although I've skipped all the purees, it has some really good recipe ideas now that we're onto textures.

- My friend Vicky's blog - she's the weaning queen although her daughter Elodie is over 18 months now so it will be slightly different from the baby stuff.

- Little Veggie Eats

- Savoury organic pouches, I really love the brand Piccolo, Babease and Little Freddie.

- Baby pasta stars

- A visual on how best to cut choking risk foods

We're just at the start of this weaning journey so would love to hear how you've found it and any tips for your baby's favourite foods so far.

R <3 xx 

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