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.

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