Here is the much anticipated Part 2 of Let’s Talk Baby Food with Debbie Knighton-Fitt our Pure Beginning eco-mamma. Both Part 1 and Part 2 of Debbie’s Baby Food posts have been compiled using the expertise of Deidre Lindeque, Nutripaeds Dietitian and Lactation Consultant. If you haven’t seen Part 1, you can find it here.
I promised we’d tackle the topics of Baby Led Weaning and the The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. Grab a coffee – it’s another long one. Let’s dive straight in!
Baby Led Weaning:
(Personally I did ‘normal’ weaning for my first (you know, it felt like I was ‘sticking with the rules’), and then significantly more baby led weaning with my second. I’m imagining continuing the baby led weaning with number 3 – almost more for ease of eating times than anything else…)
Many moms ask if they should do “baby led weaning” or “normal weaning” – and Nutripaeds does not believe that one should practice one OR the other but ideally an amalgamation of both. For soft foods e.g. yoghurt, oats, nut butters etc. spoon feed as you would be eating such things in the same manner as an adult. Important however is not to underestimate an infant’s ability to self feed non-pureed foods much earlier than what was commonly practiced, so there is no problem with incorporating principles and ideas of Baby-led weaning into “traditional” weaning routines.
Baby-led weaning is, it must be said, a somewhat cheesy term for just letting your infant self-feed. You cut food up into manageable sticks and offer it, they eat. It’s really pretty simple.
The key difference between BLW and traditional weaning, when you think about it, is in the order that children learn to eat. With a puree, they learn to swallow first and then chew, which works fine until they meet a lump. With BLW, the babies learn to chew first and swallowing might come sometime later.
It’s ‘baby-led’ in the sense that you let them do what they need to do while they’re learning, and as the parent you resist the urge to get wound up in knots about how much they’re eating, whether they like the food you thought they’d like and whether it’s mashed into the nearest carpet. The main thing is… it’s all good clean (messy) fun.
Some Simple tips for getting started: (How great is this advice?)
- Forget ‘baby food’. Food is food – as long as you’re not adding salt and sugar. To start off with, think chip-sized because it’s an easy shape for little 6-month- olds to grip, but you’ll soon move on to smaller pieces as it’s more interesting for a child developing a pincer grip.
- No bowls, they’re just asking to be flung heavenwards. Put the food on the highchair tray or table and remember, it’s all a learning experience for the baby at this point.
- There will be mess! If you are weaning in summer don’t be afraid to eat outside or semi-naked. For winter invest in a great cover-all and pelican bib.
- Putting a wipe-clean tablecloth under the highchair is a good idea if you have carpets and some people find that a crinkle cutter is handy to make food extra-‘grippable’.
- Experience suggests that the more effort you put into making something special for the baby, the less likely they are to eat it ? Give them what you’re having. If they hate it, that’s okay, they’re getting their calories from milk anyway.
- Of course it would be perfect if we ate every meal as a family but this isn’t always possible. Try to keep your ‘social activity’ head on, though, even if it’s just you and your baby sharing a sandwich at lunch. Keep smiling, keep enjoying, keep paying attention. It’s just good manners at the end of the day, something it’s never too early for a child to learn.
- Don’t get too hung up on three meals a day, it may take a while to work up to that. Whatever’s convenient and enjoyable for you is best.
- And don’t put too much on the highchair tray at the one time, just a couple of pieces of food will stop them feeling overwhelmed.
- Actual hunger can be frustrating for the babies when they’re still getting to grips (quite literally) with things. Timing ‘meals’ to between milk feeds seems to be best, and because it’s just finger food you aren’t limited to staying in. There’s no reason why you can’t pack a wee Tupperware with some carrot or cucumber, buy a banana when you’re out or just pull some bits out of an undressed salad.
- Never put food into a child’s mouth, let them put it in by themselves so that they can control it as it moves backwards.
- Nappies and their contents will soon fascinate you in ways you never thought possible. Raisins re-hydrate, little pieces of still-green broccoli sneak through the digestive system and bananas produce poo with strange black threads.
- Have a camera ready to capture those first gummy, carroty smiles because as daunting as it may seem, weaning is a very short time in your child’s life. So remember to enjoy it…
Finger Food Ideas:
- Steamed (or lightly broiled) whole vegetables such as green beans, baby sweetcorn, mange-tout/sugar-snap peas).
- Steamed or lightly broiled florets of broccoli or cauliflower.
- Steamed, roasted or stir fried vegetable sticks such as carrot, pumpkin, butternut, potato, aubergine, sweet potato, parsnip.
- Raw sticks of cucumber (great when straight from fridge to ease the gums of teething babies).
- Thick slices of avocado (not over-ripe and they become very soft and squishy)
- Fruit such as pear, apple, banana, peach, nectarine, halved grapes, pawpaw, mango – either whole or as sticks.
- Cheese – sticks of firm cheese e.g. cheddar or gouda and well as cubes/triangles of full fat cream cheese.
- Dried fruits such as mango strips. Baby sweet corn and fingers of peeled cucumber and avocado are all yummy and easy.
- Starchy foods are nice ways to incorporate energy especially into fussy eaters, some fun finger starchy include: balls made of cooked rice or quinoa and small pieces of toast fingers.
- Rice cakes, rusks and dry breakfast cereals such as all bran flakes and multigrain oatees.
- Mini brown bread sandwiches cut into triangles, fingers or squares – suitable fillings include mashed banana, hummus, grated cheese, cream cheese, mashed avocado, nut butters.
- Falafels, lentil balls and mini meatballs – beef, chicken, ostrich and lamb mince variants – one can also cook it as a meatloaf.
- Cubes of firm cooked fish, fish balls made with minced fish.
- Cubes of tofu, slices or quarters of hard boiled eggs or strips of well cooked omelette.
- Fishcakes or fish fingers (not processed variants).
NB: You do not need to use recipes designed especially for babies – just keep salt and sugar (and heavy spice) to a minimum.
Don’t be fearful of choking, as long as you are always present when your child is eating and as long as food is soft and pieces are small, your child will learn to chew and navigate his way through his finger snacks. Remember practice makes perfect and if you never allow your baby to practice with new foods and foods that need to be chewed then he won’t become an expert at chewing and he will be a choking risk. So relax and keep it simple and nutritious and watch as your baby enjoys this new feeding experience.
THE DIRTY DOZEN and the CLEAN FIFTEEN.
The dirty dozen and the clean 15 refer respectively to the fruits and vegetables that are the most and least contaminated by pesticide use, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Why do we care? Pesticides are toxic by design! Different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems, including hormone disruption, cancer and brain toxicity (and many, many more). But for most people, switching to organic produce is a gradual process. Because organic foods tend to be more expensive than their counterparts, making informed choices in the produce aisle helps minimize pesticide consumption while keeping the budget in check!
Should you avoid the dirty dozen? Absolutely not! Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a healthier choice than processed foods. Besides, non-organic processed foods are sure to contain loads of chemicals too. Instead, let the guide dictate your allocation of organic vs. non-organic purchases.
Why eat organic food? All of this opens up a bigger discussion about the choice to eat organic food — and the reasons that not everyone does. Often, the decision comes down to bottom line. Non-organic foods usually cost less money. But there are other costs — hidden costs — that have to be considered too. These include abstract factors like the cost of demanding more from the earth than it can produce and the long-term health costs associated with ingesting chemicals.
There are also ways to offset the increased out-of-pocket expenses incurred by prioritizing organic foods.
Committing to cooking whole foods from scratch – alongside careful meal planning, home gardening and food preservation – can largely counteract the cost of organic food purchases. The process is gradual. Change takes time. And all of us have to work within our budgets.
Which is where the dirty dozen and the clean 15 come into play. The list is a resource to help you make the best choices for your health and for the earth, whatever your current budget or state of ‘greenness’. If eating from the dirty dozen list (non-organic) be sure to wash the fruit and vegetables well before consumption. (Find my handmade fruit and veggie wash here)…
The Dirty Dozen (in order of contamination)
3. Sweet bell peppers
The Clean Fifteen (in order of least contamination)
2. Sweet Corn
6. Sweet peas
12. Sweet potatoes
…and that’s a wrap – WOW! Be sure to screen shot the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists for next you visit your local grocery store – or you can use this information to inspire a fresh change, and find a Good Food Club/Organic Drop off/Collection food system (such as Think Organic) in your area. I’m finally in the groove of ordering all my animal products (dairy/meat etc.) from local farmers and so bub number 3 is in for a treat.
Please don’t feel overwhelmed by all this info – one small change is how everyone starts, and often leads to the next small change and before you know it, life is looking a little different. Encourage the change, prioritize and go for it! Good Luck.
Contributor: Debbie Knighton-Fitt, Pure Beginnings pregnancy ambassador & author of the Our Greenish Life Blog.