To Wean or not to Wean…

The title of this may be slightly misleading to some. The term ‘Weaning’ has different meanings, but both boil down to the same thing.

When you begin to wean, as far as I was brought up in England, it’s when you start your baby on solids. But the majority of people also seem to understand Weaning as meaning stopping breastfeeding. Both terms are actually correct – Weaning (solids) is the beginning of the end of the breastfeeding journey, no matter how far away that may be, because baby no longer relies solely on breastmilk for nutrition.

Now we’ve got that out of the way – this week we’ve started to very gently wean Elia. Weaning meaning the solids version. She meets the full readiness checklist, as suggested by KellyMom (my bible when it comes to infant feeding):

• Baby can sit up well without support.

• Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue.

• Baby is ready and willing to chew.

• Baby is developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger. Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.

• Baby is eager to participate in mealtime and may try to grab food and put it in his mouth.

On paper, she is 100 percent ready. Yet… she’s just not that keen. Last night, she nibbled on a strip of chicken, chewing away happily. She gobbled a piece of Swiss chard without a blink. It was lovely to watch. But this morning, and the rest of today, she’s not been that bothered. She had a nice chomp on a chicken leg bone (so much like her sister). She had great fun playing in the scrambled eggs and avo I gave her (I didn’t see any enter her mouth, but her breath had a distinctly eggy smell afterwards).But here’s the beauty of Baby Led Weaning – it really doesn’t matter. As we did win Stevie, we want Elia’s experience with food to be fun. Especially at such a young age, it’s more about her tasting her foods, playing in them and fully understanding the fun behind eating. It’s messy and filthy and the dogs definitely put on some weight when Stevie was younger, but I love it. We don’t have to rush – when she’s ready, she’ll show us. And, if she’s anything like her sister, she’ll be eating like a grown-up at 3 years old (and by that, I mean eating when she’s hungry, and declining when she’s not). No, seriously – I’ve never seen anyone that size shovel so much food into their mouths in one day. Little food monster!

Leftovers for Lunch

So, last night we made excellent stuffed peppers for dinner. I stuffed them with quinoa (boiled in chicken stock with peas), mince beef (stir fried with coriander, cumin, paprika and turmeric), finely chopped baby spinach and grated mature cheddar.

So today, for lunch, I wanted to do something that both Stevie and I could enjoy – something healthy (because I am not getting fat this time around) and tasty and filling.

So I decided to use the leftover stuffing for a quinoa bowl – with a twist.

I should explain now – we love quinoa bowls in this house. They’re a staple meal for when we’re feeling lazy. Before Stevie could use utensils, she could get her hands in and dig around, and as far as sensory experimentation and pincer grip goes, it’s fab!

So back to the recipe. I just made more quinoa-and-pea mix, and strained some baked beans. Stevie adores any kind of legume, and they’re full of goodness. She sometimes brings me cans of kidney beans from the cupboard if she’s hungry… I know, odd child. Maybe I should move them up a couple of shelves.

I chopped more spinach, grated some more cheese and fried everything off in a coconut oil-filled pan.

And voila! We have a glorious, healthy, economical lunch that both adults AND toddlers can enjoy. Next time I’ll add a soft-poached egg!

The best thing about this, is that you can meal prep as it’ll stay good in the fridge for a good 3 days – and it can be eaten cold or hot.

Weaning Sense

So this week I was invited to the launch of a new book, Weaning Sense.

The majority of South African readers will be familiar with the author and occupational therapist Meg Fauré. She’s written countless baby books. As a Brit abroad these days, I wasn’t all that familiar. So I went into this launch with a nice, open, new mind.

The launch was in the gorgeous Broadacres Mall in northern Joburg, in BubHub. This is now my new favourite shop. They act as almost an old-fashioned community centre, with preggy belly Pilates classes and a coffee bar, and a baby clinic alongside the all-natural baby toiletries and amazing boutique buys (my favourite was Little Me – black and white, high-contrast pram toys, muslins and baby crockery). Pete and Stevie took themselves off to browse the pet shop and look at the duck pond.

I was introduced to Meg and her co author, Kath Megaw (clinical dietician). They said that this book has been the most fun the write of anything they’ve writtten before, and I can understand that completely.

Their concern is that the amount of ‘noise’ around baby feeding and weaning (in the traditional sense of weaning baby onto solids and not off milk) has taken the fun out of the whole exercise. The whole book concentrates on both parent AND baby being involved with the weaning process – no force feeding baba pureés until they literally scream for no more, but rather giving them an interesting variety of complimentary foods and putting some of the enjoyment back into eating. Because who wants to be that person who doesn’t enjoy food?

The book categorises babies and toddlers into different types of personalities, and by understanding which ‘type’ your child is, you can learn to help them eat and experience food better. For example, there’s the slow-starting baby, who needs time to understand food instead of it just being shoved in their mouth. There’s also the settled baby, who is so laid back they’ll just go with the flow.

Each section of the book is accompanied by scientific research to back it up, and recipes (with beautiful pictures, of course!) to accompany each ‘stage’ of eating. The photography and recipes are truly beautiful – I will not be waiting for baby no 2 to arrive and start solids before attempting the quinoa beef meatballs! And, as a bonus, there’s a freezer guide for each section, too! For myself, with my 3 freezers (no joke, but one is full of dog food) this is VERY handy.

This is a commercial baby book, but the general feeling is to take the business out of it, and to strip the whole experience back so parent and baby both have fun experimenting with new textures and tastes. If you only buy it just for the recipes, it’ll be so worth it.

The book Weaning Sense is available at Takealot and in select Exclusive Books stores. Meg Fauré is a renowned Occupational Therapist, and Kath Megaw is a clinical dietician and contributor to Nutripaeds. BubHub is based in Broadacres Mall, near Fourways, Johannesburg.