Thursday, 5 September 2013

feeding baby food: 6 things I know now.

There comes a point in your little ones life when baby milk is no longer enough. It's time for food! In this, the latest in my series on babies, I am talking about starting to feed your baby actual food.

6 things I know now about feeding a baby

1 - I know it's tempting, but don't start too soon

Baby's wee tummy is really not ready for food until about 6 months, so try not to start too soon. Sometime between four and six months they're likely to develop an interest in food, and try to eat something. This is more about curiosity and learning than hunger. Around this time too, baby is likely to get a bit more grumpy and wakeful. This will pass. But while it's driving you mad, you may well think baby needs food. It is t really very unlikely that they do, but have a chat with your health visitor, or breastfeeding supporter about it. Don't trust what your mum has to say on the matter. All the rules have changed lots over the years. Sometimes the rules are wrong (eg peanuts in pregnancy: you really should eat them), but that's usually just down to over-caution. Mainly the rules change because we know more, and that's certainly true for not feeding babies 'til six months.

2 - you don't have to sterilise
Snail anyone?  Picture from Wikipedia - thanks

Seriously big caveat on this statement - you don't need to sterilise so long as your baby is healthy and fit and at least six months old.  Some things tell you to sterilise until the baby is one, and for anything that is going to be in their mouths a long time - like dummies, or bottle teats.  And anything that's going to touch formula milk should be sterilised, but if you're breastfeeding, your baby is healthy, and you're not using a dummy (which by the way is up to you and your baby, and there's no 'should's' about it), you don't need to bother.  Let's face it, by this point, your baby will be putting all sorts of nonsense in their mouth.  Things that my children put into their mouths included:

  • stones
  • a live spider (eaten)
  • a snail (I thought it was a stone, and only discovered it's true status when I fished it out of her mouth, and the little eye-tentacles popped up.  Bleurgh)
  • food that another baby was eating, fished out of their mouth and handed over to my baby (don't worry, it was reciprocated)

A rather unflattering picture of my mother-in-law
feeding my daughter mush.
See the joy it brings them?  No?
3 - You don't have to mush everything

For my first child I read Annabel Karmel and I mushed everything I gave to my baby.  I expressed milk to put in his baby cereal.  I peeled grapes.  I froze cubes of pureed food and defrosted them.  I faffed endlessly.

For my third child I did mush a bit, because that was what I was used to, but mainly I gave her finger food.  I tried to give her weetabix (with blue milk) or porridge, but she wasn't having it, so I handed her bananas, fingers of toast, cooked veg, in big spears she could hold on to.  I did balk a bit at apple, so did give her fruit purees for puddings, but it was SO MUCH EASIER, and very healthy.  She did gag a bit at times to start off with, but gagging isn't choking, and all babies have to learn to eat.

OK, so she doesn't look happy here
either, but this was organic, local
broccoli!  She has got the pincer
grip down though.
The way I fed my third child is commonly called 'baby led weaning', and the main person to look to on this topic is Gill Rapley - it's well worth looking her up to get more information, because the idea of giving a tiny child an oatcake is SCARY!

By the way, Gill Rapley's latest book is on breastfeeding.  I don't know if it's good or a load of guff.  Have you read it?

4 - You don't have to buy stuff

The food babies eat is just food.  You don't need to buy anything special.  Do avoid sugar and salt, but do that for yourself too.  A healthy, tasty diet is perfect.  If you are eating out you will often be offered a jar of food for baby.  Mine wouldn't eat it, and having tried some, I don't blame them.  Bland orange mush.  You do get some that are good (I recommend Plum Baby or Little Dish), which can be useful to have in the creaking-at-the-seams-bag just in case, and all kids seem to adore rice cakes, which come in lots of flavours now, but mainly, just feeding baby what you're having works great.

5 - Mess is good

You didn't really want your carpet/walls/clothes to stay that colour did you?  I cannot fathom why baby food seems to involve staining everything orange (and the jars are especially bad for this), but it does.  Bibs help, but there really isn't any point in the little ones - you need the full sleeved, down to the knees efforts, or a muslin, if baby will tolerate it (mine just pulled it off).  Messy mats helps, but your best bet is a mopable floor, and an acceptance of mess.

I know mess is very hard to handle for some people.  I knew one Mum who insisted on spoon feeding her child until he was almost two, just to avoid the mess, but honestly, a kid has to learn to eat, and you can't do that without a bit of a mess.  If you're prepared you can handle it.

Personally we have a rule - kids can only eat in rooms with lino, or outside, and if a drink is going near soft furnishings and carpets it's in a closable bottle... We also have a Vax!

6 - Don't be bland

It's a great idea to have a healthy and varied diet , including tasty strong flavours.  What you eat when you're pregnant changes the flavour of the amniotic fluid, so baby is used to your diet before they are born.  Flavours from your food are also passed through your milk.  I can certainly attest that my baby has given me a ripe garlic burp!

So when it comes to eating real food there's no need to be bland.  If you let baby try lots of things, you might be surprised at what they like.  If they're anything like mine, as they get older they'll get a whole lot pickier, so enjoy a wide variety of food while you can.  The more things they try, the wider the pool of possibilities left to you when they start rejecting things.

What did your baby like to eat?  What did you think of baby food jars?  Did you mush stuff or go with finger food?  And I know I must have forgotten something, so what is it?

Previous posts in this series:
   - pregnancy
   - early labour
   - labour
   - recovering from birth & remembering birthing
   - breastfeeding

I'm thinking of doing one on sleep next time.  You can read it while you're up, breastfeeding at 2am.