August 2015

Doing My Best

My Food Baby with her Boon divided plate full of fruit, natural yoghurt and chia seeds.

I am doing my best – this is my mantra. Like most parents I feel the daily dose of guilt – am I playing with My Food Baby enough, is she stimulated enough, having enough fun, cuddles, love, is she warm enough, is she too warm, is she tired, should I leave her to cry, should I comfort her? Argh! It seems like a day with a baby is chockfull of opportunities for parental guilt, and meal times are no exception. One of the wonderful things we can give our children is a healthy start in life and a balanced nutritious diet is vital. I know that when it comes to food, what is healthy is certainly debatable. Whether you are a carnivore, omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, fruitarian or anything in between, people have a wide range of views and I don’t know enough about them, or have the inclination, to debate their various merits.

In our house Mr. Food Baby is your true blue meat and three veg Aussie, I eat everything except meat (so I do eat fish/seafood), and Miss Toddler and My Food Baby eat everything. I like to think I eat (and cook) relatively healthy food, I don’t like to eat too much unhealthy stuff myself as it leaves me feeling crappy, but that’s not to say that I don’t love pizza, (hot) chips and chocolate, and not necessarily in moderation! I just prefer to eat them cooked in a particular way or from certain places. Mr. Food Baby would happily eat pizza 8 nights a week – haha! So it is down to me to make sure we don’t……

Zucchini & mushroom muffins

I have my own views on the type of food I prefer to buy, and this is where I get into my “I’m doing my best” mantra – we are a family of 4 on a single income, and so all organic is, for us, not a practical reality. If I had unlimited time (inclination) and money I would buy all organic and cook every single thing from scratch – but I don’t have or do either. I do the majority of my shopping at Aldi, I find that I can buy the most fresh food, and do the best cooking by spending my dollars there. Where there are organic options I buy them, where there aren’t I try not to panic.

Deadly Strawberry (marmite sandwich)

I say I try not to panic, but it doesn’t stop me worrying, agonising over whether I am doing my daughter serious harm in giving her non-organic strawberries. She LOVES strawberries, if you follow @myfoodbabyblog on Instagram, you will see she regularly has a strawberry in one hand with whatever else she is eating in the other. I have read that strawberries are one of the deadly dozen – ok so in all fairness I think it is actually dirty dozen but my guilty mummy brain reads, thinks, remember, agonizes over deadly! The dirty dozen are 12 fruits and veggies that have the largest amount of pesticides and chemical associated with their production. So this is my predicament – I currently don’t have access to organic strawberries – I feed My Food Baby lots of strawberries – am I a terrible person? Am I doing serious damage to my daughter? Or will she be completely fine? I am sure that there are people that will tell me that I am doing as much damage as putting bleach in her sippy cup and this scares me a little, but then I never had organic strawberries and I have all the right numbers of eyes, fingers, toes etc, and am a relatively healthy person, so for now I will continue with my deadly strawberries, and live with the gut twisting guilt when it washes over me.

When it comes to buying chicken and eggs I would never buy a product that wasn’t free range and when I buy something that contains egg, such a mayonnaise, I make sure the ingredients state free-range egg. I know that people will say that free range is not good enough, or it can be manipulated etc, but this is the best I can do, and I am strict on it. If “farm fresh” is the only option, then they don’t get into the trolley (or more usually, underneath the pram) and we go without. When it comes to meat, I buy the best available option, outdoor reared, free range, organic, that is within my budget. I am a big one for buying when things are on special offer, or when they are reduced and I will change that night’s meal to fit that in if it doesn’t affect whatever else is due to be cooked or go out of date at home.

My Food Baby eating turkey breast slices, fresh tomatoes and covered in bolognaise sauce

I try to avoid processed meats, but then I do waver on this as I have started buying turkey breast slices for My Food Baby and her daddy’s lunches. I am torn on these. On the one hand they are probably not very high welfare, so this concerns me, and they are processed so they are somewhat unnatural, but on the other hand, they are a lean protein so they fall into the healthy (depending on your stand) category, they are easy and affordable and together these three positives override my doubt, but don’t assuage my guilt. Again, argh!

I buy, what I consider to be, very little processed food, but my condiment shelf would probably disagree. I take the point of view that for example tomato sauce / ketchup is fine, you know what you’re getting and you use it accordingly, but with jars of sauces like pasta sauce, all the hidden salt, sugar and whatever other crap goes into it can be a bit of a trick – you see the picture on the front with lovely tomatoes and other nice veggies and you think it’s lovely and healthy, but sometimes you’d be better of mixing a snickers bar into your spaghetti. However that is not to say that in a pinch I would never ever buy a jar of pasta sauce – it’s unlikely, but it is conceivable. Baked beans is another contentious one for me, I am a big fan – must be the British in me! But I worry about all the salt and sugar in them for baby, I know they have the salt/sugar reduced ones but the levels were still significantly high for me to feel that the ridiculous price of them was not worth the miniscule benefit….I plan to make my own, apparently it’s really easy, but as with so many things I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Last weekend I gave My Food Baby a teaspoon’s worth of regular full salt, full sugar Heinz baked beans when we had a yummy Sunday breakfast with eggs and mushrooms and hash browns. I’m not sure if she actually ate any, or if they went on her clothes, the floor, or in the dog, but I gave them to her. I felt bad, and guilty and ok about it at all at the same time. I don’t put any salt in my cooking, I avoid anything that could have a high salt content, like soy or fish sauce, and so I think, and hope that the odd time she gets something like a small amount of regular baked beans she will survive and her kidneys won’t shrivel up like raisins.

Mummy is still in pyjamas but My Food Baby is clean, fed and dressed – winning!

I think feeding My Food Baby is an excellent metaphor for how I feel about bringing her up in general. I am naturally a highly anxious person who is regularly engulfed by guilt, for real or imagined mothering transgressions. I am very lucky that Mr. Food Baby regularly tells me that he thinks I am a wonderful mother, which means the world to me, and helps soothe my anxious mind. I try to do the very best I can to be a giving, warm, engaging and loving mother, I want to ensure my daughter is safe, happy and learning. I do my very best, most of the time, with the resources I have available – sometimes, most of the time this means good fresh food, cooked from scratch sourced from the best possible origin, and sometimes toast is a perfectly acceptable meal. To all of the mummies and daddies out there, raising babies, doing the best you can, trying not to drown in a sea of self-doubt and guilt, remember you are doing a wonderful job and you’re not alone!

My Food Baby watching Charlie & Lola while mummy chats to her friend on the phone – Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do

Hello world!

Hello world! Welcome to our blog to accompany the @myfoodbabyblog Instagram account.  I hope to give a little more insight – in case you’re interested – into how and why we do what we do, what works, what doesn’t and anything else you might like to know about our baby led weaning adventure.

I am Mummy to My Food Baby who is (almost) 9 months old and step-mummy to Miss Toddler who is 2 years old.  Miss Toddler was weaned the traditional way by her mummy and Daddy and I got to be a part of that exciting adventure.  However when My Food Baby came along, the reading I had done left me keen to try the baby led weaning route.  I believe it is slightly more common in the UK, where I am originally from, than Australia where we live, and so maybe that had something to do with it, or maybe I just (really really) liked the idea of not having to prepare and travel around with everything necessary for feeding purees! But in all honesty there were a variety of reasons which really piqued my interest the main ones were;

  1. Baby led weaning helps develop / improve baby’s fine motor skills and is said to be a benefit when it comes to developing their speech.
  2. It is easier for mummy (or daddy) – no preparation and storage of purees – and enables baby to be a part of family meal times from the get go.
  3. It is said to encourage a wider range of foods, tastes and textures, and can lead to a more varied palate (I must say here that Miss Toddler was traditionally weaned and has a varied palate so it is not to say puree fed babies automatically equals children with a bland tastes!)
  4. Did I mention it would be easier for me?!

I was also of the opinion that if it didn’t seem to be working in any way that it wasn’t a decision that I was unable to back out of, and I could just start pureeing / mashing food so it seemed that there were no obvious disadvantages to going ahead.  When I explained to My Food Baby’s Daddy however, I came up against a bit of opposition to my wonderful, can’t fault it, plan.  He was against it, and not just a little, but quite resolutely.  His objections included;

  1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
  2. She might choke.
  3. He worried that I was just trying to be different.

But he is a good (smart) man, and as with many things he said that although he wasn’t really onboard, ultimately he would go with what I wanted.

I did, of course, take his concerns into consideration and this is what I thought – I totally disagreed with the ‘just go with the norm’ argument, just because something is, doesn’t mean it is the best.  I too worried that she might choke, but I had read that breast fed babies may find baby led weaning easier than bottle fed babies as they are used to working their mouths a little harder for their food and might be better able to work the food backwards with their tongue.  I also felt fairly confident that the first foods wouldn’t provide too much of a risk due to being so completely soft, and finally I read A LOT of blogs, forums etc and they all seemed to say the same thing, yes the baby will gag but as long as they are making a noise they are not choking, because choking is silent – and then they get used to and better at eating and they stop gagging so much.  If everyone was saying it, I tended to believe it was probably true.

And so….at about a week before she was 6 months old I was cooking and I thought  today is the day, I am going to give her a bit of avocado.  Her Daddy and I watched with baited breath as she tasted her first taste of food, and then gag on it, and then throw it up.  Ok that’s not exactly how it happened she ate a little, seemed to be enjoying it, ate a little more and then gagged and coughed a bit and it made her regurgitate a bit, but once she did she carried on eating, she was completely unfazed by it and I felt like it was a complete success.  Her Daddy thought that he had won the argument, baby led weaning was a bust, she had choked and vomited and it was categorically not safe.  I disagreed.  I carried on.

The next day I got an unexpected gift, the most disgusting nasally offensive poo that ever graced the earth.  Ok, I might be exaggerating a little, but it was gross, and unexpected.  Breast fed baby poos are generally pretty inoffensive, there is little waste and so they aren’t very stinky – or at least that has been my experience.  And boy, one tiny nibble of avocado goes through her system and YUK!  It was almost enough to make me consider exclusively breast feeding for the next 10 or so years, or until she is fully potty trained at least….

Over the next month we gave her different things to try, not every day at first, and definitely not in any type of meal regime.  I was under the impression that it was an introduction to food and so I wasn’t concerned about enforcing a feeding structure yet.  We found that she LOVED cucumber and this also coincided with a period of teething so a bit of cold cucumber was a great distraction and soother in one.  At about 7 months she had progressed to having breakfast and dinner every day, and by 8 months she was having lunch as well.  There was no reason for this other than with her feeding and napping, lunch just seemed to get missed.  At this point I should point out that My Food Baby is a breast fed baby, and she is demand fed.  She does have a regular structure to her feeds, but they are not set in stone and if she seems hungry she is offered the boob….. Or now she is offered a snack or the boob depending on what she has had last, and the time of day etc.

For the sake of clarity I should point out a couple of issues that I have found with baby led weaning.  For me personally, they have not been significantly negative to put me off, but I know that for some people they are, and I completely understand that.

  1. Baby led weaning should be called ‘extremely messy baby throws all the food on the floor’ weaning.  Food goes everywhere, in their lap, in their hair, in their eyes, in the dog(!), in their clothes and very occasionally in their mouth.  For anyone with a mess aversion, this is not for you, and I mean that sincerely and kindly.
  2. It is very wasteful because of point 1.  It can be demoralising, upsetting, frustrating to see your $10 raspberries squashed in the high-chair, on the floor, in the dog….
  3. You worry that your baby is not getting food because of…. well point 1.  Sometimes it can be hard to tell how much they have really eaten and whether they have only eaten rice cakes at every meal for the last two weeks and maybe they aren’t getting any potassium, iron, protein etc etc…. I think this is one of the big ones that really gets to lots of parents as with purees you know each mouthful is ‘balanced’ and you know exactly how much they have eaten.
  4. Choking.  My Food Baby has never choked on anything, she has however gagged may times.  The gagging was more prevalent early on as she was learning how to effectively move food around her mouth, and as she tried new textures.  I was expecting it, and after a couple of times of seeing her gag and be completely fine and happy I became quite relaxed with the gagging.  I always keep in mind if she is making a noise she is fine, if she is silent then she is choking and I need to (panic) jump into action!  But as I said, she has never choked, yet.

For me the mess and the waste do bother me but not enough to go to purees.  I also worry whether she is eating enough of the different types of food, but they do get better at getting the food in their mouth quite quickly (it’s surprising really how effective she is) and as she is still breast fed, and still feeds regularly, I feel confident that she should be getting everything she needs nutritionally anyway (I think this would be the same with a formula fed baby).

And so here we are, she is almost 9 months old, she loves eating, she is pretty good at it, and I feel very comfortable with my choice to go down the blw route.  I love that we can all eat together as a family, if we go out and I am stuck without snacks or meals I can relatively easily get food for baby, and My Food Baby and Miss Toddler can share snacks, so basically life is easier, if a little (a lot) messier.

CJ x


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