Thursday, 30 September 2010

BABY-LED WEANING: first tastes

I've been thinking a lot about control. I like to be in control of my finances, our kitchen cupboards and of course, my bodily functions. We're not talking freakishly controlling, just enthusiatically organsied. So the core principle of baby-led weaning could be challenging for me - your baby is in control of what she eats, when and how much, and you sit on your hands.

A common weaning question is 'when should I start weaning my baby?'. But there ain't no 'I' in the BLW. You simply watch baby watching you eat. When they look very interested and try and grab the food out of your hand, that's the cue to introduce solids.

Gracie is an observer. People often comment on how alert she is so my every action is quietly noted, from drying my hair to peeling carrots. And to start with eating was just another spectator sport until the sandwich incident at five and half months.

While I was eating a supermarket cheese and pickle sarnie (I'd prefer not to reveal which supermarket, we had to do a smash and grab while on the road), she lunged forward and clamped down on the malted granary bread, sucking eagerly on the mild cheddar. A few days later, she excitedly nibbled on a bread roll and then on a park outing, attacked my ham and cheese baguette.

The baby has given the nod. Give me food and make it snappy. And who am I to argue.  

Thursday, 23 September 2010


A new stage in life provides a new reason to shop. When I got married, I spent hours buying stationery, fabric and flowers. When I was pregnant, I scoured the high street for the perfect-fit elasticated jean and non-wired bra. And now it's time to shop for weaning.

Clearly a six-month-old baby feeding herself is going to be messy. In fact one of the mums at the recent BLW talk said it was "insanely messy". Embrace the mess, advises Gill Rapley, and get tooled up with a few BLW essentials - high chair, bibs and cloths.

So to the high chair (yes, I'm actually blogging about moulded plastic). My mother-in-law, Trisha, lent us her Ikea number to try for size and it's a winner - with a large tray, compact shape and cheap price tag of £10.99 for the basic chair, it's a veritable design classic. I've spotted the Antilop in many a restaurant including the stylish Canteen.

Then to the threads. Most of the bibs I've seen around look insubstantial and not up to the challenge of an overexcited baby let loose with solids, like using a hand towel to dry off after a shower. I want the bath sheet. And in Bibetta bibs, I think I've found it. I saw these in Waitrose in Cambridge when we were visiting my sister Amy and they are the bees. Neoprene body and plastic sleeves are surely the stuff of BLW dreams. Worried about stained clothes? Bring on the Ultrabib with sleeves.

And the last item on the shopping list is definitely unglamorous but infinitely essential - floor cloths. Realistically the kitchen floor is where the party will be at for the first few weeks. Squished tomatoes, regurgitated pasta and half-chewed rice cakes will be mingling like unwanted guests on our wooden floorboards. But I'm not going to be anal about it. Just wipe up and move on. 

A hot tip from Gill's book 'Baby-led Weaning' suggests a fresh cloth for each clean-up. You start with the baby's mouth and hands, move on to the high chair and then wipe up the mess on the floor. The food goes in the bin and the cloth goes in the wash. I bought two packs of basic white dish cloths from Morrisons.

So there we have it, plastic seats, bibs and floor cloths. Shopping ain't what it used to be.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

WEANING: Carmel vs Rapley

So clearly, I'm not a super mum. Gracie B is nearly six months old and I've managed just one blog posting. My fanciful notion to cook, photograph and write about my every meal was just that, fanciful. But hey, I'm not going to beat myself with a tea towel about it. Let's simply fast forward a bit, through the early newborn stage where I'd only go into the kitchen to raid the biscuit tin, past the "I'm back" phase at three months where I reclaimed the oven and discovered that you can chop veg with a baby in a sling, and onto the dawning of the weaning era.

As apparently there are many ways to skin a cat (although I can only think of one), so there are many ways to raise a child. But with weaning, it seems there are two definite camps - the Annabel Carmelites who purée and spoon feed and the Gill Rapleyites who dispense with blender and implement and let baby feed themselves. So which side will I gun for?

To help make the decision, I booked myself onto a baby-led weaning workshop (BLW for those who love an acronym) led by the chieftain herself, Gill Rapley. Leaving S with a bottle of milk and a teaspoon in case our bottle-shy daugher woke up, I headed to the Active Birth Centre one Wednesday evening and sat on bean bags with other mums.

Gill took the floor and confirmed that she wasn't a crazy loon but has baby credentials (20 years midwifery and health-visiting experience). Okay. Then she made clear that we would need to buy her book to get the full story. Hmmm. But after an hour of q&a, the main principle of BLW became clear - at 6 months a baby's digestive system can handle whole foods so make your life easier and let them eat what you do. Yeah but, no but, eh?

Here are the FAQs...

Q: Why bother?
A: 'Cos babies want to be in control of what goes in their mouths plus you're less likely to have a fussy eater later on.

Q: What about choking?
A: Babies gag all the time as a defence mechanism, get used to it.

Q: What about milk feeds?
A: Let the baby feed continue to feed on demand.

Q: How can I tell if they're eating enough?
A: Trust your baby. Between six and nine months they get all they need from breast or formula milk so just let them play and experiment with different foods.

Q:Can I give them meat from the off?
A:Yup, a good idea to start with meat as iron levels in milk are starting to taper off. Just cut cooked meat into chip-sized pieces

Q:What about spice?

A:Bring it on.

Q: And added sugar and salt? How can I avoid that if we're eating out?
A: The same rules apply, avoid added sugar and salt where possible. But the occasional slightly salty meal in  a restaurant isn't going to harm them.

Wow. This was eye-opening stuff. Compared to the Annabel Carmel doctrine of purees and introducing foods one at a time, it felt free and easy, like Germaine Greer telling Mary Whitehouse to throw out her girdle, and I liked it. Okay Rapley, sign us up. Gracie will try weaning in a BLW style. And then we'll blog about it, honest.