Food can be a contentious subject within our family. Both of our mothers have difficult relationships with food, which isn’t surprising considering that they were raised by parents directly affected by the rationing during the second world war. My partner Kirsty and I both grew up with unhealthy attitudes toward food, which we have worked hard to correct as adults.
I’ve been a little reluctant to wean the twins; it’s reassuring to know that they’re getting every last nutrient they need in one simple liquid. We will be raising them on a vegetarian diet and whilst I realise that it can be just as healthy as an omnivorous diet, if not healthier, it’s nice not to have to worry about complete proteins just yet. Recently however they have started to demand more than just tastes of what we’re eating; they want mini meals. They pull themselves up and shout for our food and last week Balthazar had what looked worryingly like a tantrum when Kirsty took too long mashing his banana with porridge. It gave us a disturbingly clear insight into what his adolescence might look like!
Food is such a controversial thing. It comes with a whole host of anxieties. You want your child to enjoy it but not to be obsessed with it. To eat to live rather than live to eat, to not define their sense of self-worth according to whether they can resist a meal.
We’re working on the Vital Baby #weaningwarriors campaign at present and Dr Rana Conway has supplied us with the following top tips for weaning a baby.
1. Offer your baby a wide range of foods so she gets used to different flavours and textures. Babies naturally like sweet foods to start with, but offer slightly bitter foods too such as spinach, broccoli and green beans. Don’t be surprised if these are rejected at first. Every time you try, the chances of success increase.
2. Let your baby set the pace. ‘Responsive feeding’ is key, so if your baby shows signs that he’s had enough don’t keep trying for one more spoonful. Teething and colds can put a baby off their food and pressure to eat will just cause food battles.
3. Don’t give too much milk, as this is one of the main reasons for babies not taking to solids. Babies under 12 months need 3-4 breast feeds or 500-600ml of formula a day and giving more than this can make them too full for meals.
4. Give your baby plenty of opportunities to handle food. Whether you’re starting with spoon-feeding or baby-led weaning, give some finger foods every day. Steamed vegetables such as carrot sticks or pieces of broccoli and soft fruit like bananas and pears are ideal.
5. Make meal times enjoyable by sitting and eating together whenever possible. If you relax and take your time it will help your baby develop a healthy relationship with food.
One thing that we do with the twins that has raised an eyebrow or two with our family and friends is that we don’t have high chairs. Instead, we strip the twins down to their nappies and sit them in a plastic crate to enjoy their meals. It’s genius. They can be as exploratory with the food as they might like and all of that mushy baby mess is safely contained.
Better yet, the crate also doubles as a portable bath so when they have finished eating we can just whip their nappies off, bring in a couple of buckets full of warm water from the bathroom and sluice them down! It is a wonder that every parent doesn’t do this.
Poor, crated babies.
They love it really.
Over the past month or so we have introduced a variety of foods and the only one that they really haven’t enjoyed is watermelon. I think that it is probably the texture rather than the taste because who doesn’t love the taste of watermelon? We’ll persevere. I’m not sure whether there’s a name for how we’re weaning them… it’s not baby-led because we’re definitely poking food in those little mouths, but they don’t eat those pre-made things from jars and pouches. I must admit that I get a real kick out of making baby-sized versions of what we’re eating, tiny omelettes and microsalads. Not to mention, I can’t bear to leave our Josephine-dog out of communal meal-taking so she tends to get a baby-sized portion too.
How did you wean your baby? And did you feed them in a crate?!
If not, you should give it a try.