Autumn is nearly here - and how do I know this? Because yesterday we re-introduced last year's tradition of Sunday lunch at Wagamama. We would drive to either Brighton or Guildford and indulge in a noodle-edamame-gyoza feast which meant that no dinner was required afterwards. We stopped doing this once summer arrived because traffic was just getting too bad and frankly it was much nicer to stay in our garden with the sun shining down on us than sitting in the car for 45 minutes. But yesterday we were back and Wagamama is probably Luca's favourite restaurant, after Pizza Express (or any other place that serves pizza).
9 months later - grilled chicken noodle dipped in sticky sweet sauce is still the favourite.
When Luca was six months old we decided we were going to do 'Baby-led weaning' (BLW) with him, meaning he has never had a spoon of puree in his mouth or seen a jar of baby food. No spoons, no mush, no purees, it allows a baby to control his or her solid food intake by self-feeding from the very beginning of the weaning process at the age of 6 months. Well if this meant less work for me, I was all for it.
At 6 months, babies learn to chew and grasp objects with their hands, making it the ideal time to introduce finger food. They often begin by picking up and licking food before progressing to eating and at first, very little food is actually ingested as they tend to be more interested in exploring textures and tastes, but soon they start swallowing and digesting. It is important that milk (breast or bottle) is continued together with weaning until the age of 12 months. The belief is that self-feeding supports the child’s motor development on areas such as their hand-eye co-ordination and chewing and it encourages the child towards independence, which can provide a stress-free alternative for meal times. Some babies refuse to eat solids when offered with a spoon, but happily help themselves to finger food. It is important that no salt is added at the beginning which means meals should be cooked from scratch, and you can add salt after you’ve taken babie’s portion out. But within a few months they can pretty much eat what you’re eating, meaning less cooking and work for you.
At first we were worried about choking so we attended a first-aid course which put our minds at rest. Soon a first plate of steamed and roast vegetable was laid out in front of Luca and within a week or so he had figured out what to do with these odd bits and pieces and the result could be seen in his nappies …. Luckily there is no history of allergy within our family so soon I started to introduce soft boiled pasta which still today are his favourite, with various sauces, as well as bread, egg and finally meat and fish.
I don’t know if it is because of BLW, but still today Luca will refuse anything offered to him on a spoon, unless it’s yoghurt. Everything else must go on his plate first and then he decides which bits he wants to eat in which order. He loves strong flavours such as smoked mackerel and olives, and pasta is still a big hit. Messy? Yes, very but as with everything you learn to relax about it, and it does get better. In the meantime an old newspaper or a towel under the highchair certainly help, or a dog (so I have been told). Also there were weeks when he was eating like a log followed by a week where he wanted to prove to us that you can indeed survive on a handful of grapes and a cup of milk. But deciding to wean him this way was certainly one of the best decisions we made, it made the whole process very stress-free and a lot of fun.
These are a few basic principles of BLW:
- At the start food is offered in baton-shaped pieces or in natural shapes with a ‘handle’ (such as broccoli)
- Food is not cut into bite-sized pieces until the baby has mastered the pincer grip.
- First foods are soft cooked, steamed or roasted vegetable and fruit. Harder foods are lightly cooked to make them softer.
- Dangerous food such as nuts are not offered and raw food such as carrot and apple withheld until the child is able to handle them.
- No sugar or salt is added to food.
- Meals should not be hurried and water offered at all times.
- Child is allowed to decide how much he/she wants to eat.
- Food can be offered on a spoon and baby should be encouraged to grab spoon and guide it to the mouth.
If you're looking for more info have a look at this website and also the fabulous ladies at the BLW Forum, they have been a lifesaver on many occasions. If you have a little one and are coming up to the six months mark, please please please think about this, it's great fun, you won't regret it and you won't spend hours pureeing and mashing food that might end up on the kitchen floor.
So to celebrate Luca's love of food, here are some of my favourite glorious food moments.
October '08: And we're off .....
Broccoli? Not sure!
I thought I'd just move this around the tray a little ....
... and then stick it in my hair.
Multitasking - two plates, cup, fork and spoon? Easy!
Beetroot is good for you!
And mixed with tomato sauce makes a fabulous face mask.
And finally: Proof that food is fun, fun, fun!