Purees vs Baby Led Weaning

There are seemingly endless choices to make as a parent. Breast or bottle? co sleep? Baby wear? Then when it comes to weaning,  traditional purée or baby-led weaning? As I wrote recently I think there is far too much judgement which ever way you choose so I am not here to say one way is better than another. Different things work for different babies, and indeed parents.

WP_001227With Monkey I didn’t know much about BLW other than that you had to start at 6 mths. Monkey was a big baby and I will be honest, by 4 ½ mths milk just wasn’t cutting it anymore so we started down the road of purées. I spent ages making purées during his naps and he scoffed almost everything we gave him (though he never did like banana!). We then extended out to finger foods and he ate everything we gave him until around 13 mths when the fussy eating began.

It is something we still struggle with at times now. He will eat most things but he says he doesn’t like things we know he does like and often refuses to eat his dinner. We have tried various tactics with this and most of the time once we have convinced him or he has decided to take a bite then he will eat quite happily. Other times he sits with the food in his mouth and refuses to swallow it. It’s like a psychological barrier and seems to be the most random of foods that he decides he doesn’t like.

I have heard it said that baby-led weaned babies are less likely to be fussy than their purée fed counterparts. Something to do with the fact they learn to chew early on (as opposed to a purée which just requires swallowing) and that they get to experience different textures early on as well as different tastes. Texture has been one of Monkey’ sticking points so the idea that you can prevent fussiness does intrigue me.

I will admit that I have been put off baby-led weaning in the past by some of the attitudes I have encountered from its advocates. Not all of course and I guess I understand that if you feel passionate about something that you will want everyone to try it, but a few such parents have gone a bit OTT and made other parents feel bad for their choice not to do it. That is not the fault of the technique but it is easily tarred with the same brush as the over preachers so I have judged baby-led weaning harshly in the past, which was wrong of me.

WP_20150425_10_15_26_ProNow, enter LM. At 5 ½ mths she too seemed to just not be as satisfied with milk anymore, so we headed down the same purée route as with Monkey. Though there are some differences this time. One being our experience with Monkey and knowing that we tried so hard to introduce tastes and textures to him but he still is a fussy eater. Two is that actually LM is already much fussier about which purées she will and won’t eat than Monkey was. The combination of these led me to fret a bit as I want to do as much as I can to try and prevent having two fussy children in the family!

But where to start? How to approach it when she is already eating purée? How do I even do it? Regular readers will know I got a bit het up about it and was over-thinking it a lot. But that’s what I do I’m afraid!

As mentioned, I believe that the same approach isn’t necessarily right for all babies, or all parents, and I think that is my biggest sticking point with BLW. I’m not sure that I am that well suited to the approach. The mess is part of it, though I can cope with that. But I am not the most patient person and I can definitely be a bit of a control freak, yep I know my flaws! So the idea of basically leaving baby to it to eat or not eat is really hard for me. As mentioned, LM isn’t satisfied by milk alone anymore, and the thought that milk should be her main nutrition for many months to come is confusing for me. Isn’t that why we start weaning? Because they need more nutrition than they can get from their milk at this point?

LM also gets massively annoyed when she is hungry if she doesn’t get food inside her pretty quickly. This leads to her getting frantic and screaming her head off. I have read that as part of BLW you should let them get annoyed as they are frustrated at their lack of skills rather than with hunger. But what if they are frustrated because they are hungry and can’t get the food in quick enough? I have quite a low tolerance for the sound of baby cries, especially when Monkey is chattering away at me too, so if I can help keep her calm by feeding her then I am going to. For my sanity as much as anything else!

With her reflux I do think it is important for her to have solids in her tummy too so that is another reason I won’t let her get frantic, or rely largely on milk, because I do believe she needs solids to help keep the reflux at bay.

WP_20150524_17_39_26_ProSo I have accepted that we won’t be doing the full baby led approach. We are using a combination of purée and finger foods with a variety of tastes and textures. I have read staunch baby-led supporters who say that BLW is all or nothing and that saying you are combining the two approaches is like saying you are a vegetarian who also eats meat. You either BLW or you don’t. And that’s fine, I understand why they say that.

So I am not sure what to call it but we are using a combination approach. For example earlier today she had some beef, sweet potato and carrot puree alongside some steamed vegetables. The puree filled her tummy a little while she explored, picked up and munched on the veg. She also had a go with the spoon and fed herself some of the puree on mummy-loaded spoons.

WP_20150428_11_10_00_ProThe ideal will be that this will only be temporary and that as she learns the skills needed to solely self feed I will feed her less and less. but in the meantime, to prevent her getting frantic and to keep me sane, we will do it our way. I have to admit that I love seeing her munch on a whole chunk of pasta or bit of cooked chicken. I love seeing her work out how to pick things up and get them to her mouth. I really really hope that by introducing all of these textures we may prevent some of the fussy eating issues that we have with Monkey… but only time will tell I suppose!

How did you wean? Purees? BLW? Or a combination like us? Do you have a fussy eater?

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Lots of cooking and baking

My word of the week this week is “cooking” as I seem to have spent a lot of time cooking and baking lately! Mainly food for LM as we continue her weaning journey and I am looking for easy freezable finger foods I can take out and about with us or just have readily availble at home so there is not a huge amount of prep at every mealtime.

So, in the last week or so I have tried the following new recipes: salmon croquettes, cheesy flapjacks, carrot muffins (which I made correctly this time after forgetting to add the butter the first time, d’oh!), meatloaf, and an apple oat cake plus the usual things for us to eat like a big batch of carrot and honey soup, sausage carbonara, sweetcorn fritters etc etc. (I have intended to share these recipes on here for some time but never get round to writing the posts!)

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Carrot muffins, cheesy flapjacks and carrot soup, the fruits of one morning’s labours!

 

Most of the new recipes have come from the baby-led weaning cookbook and I am afraid to say that so far I have not been that impressed with them. The exception to this is the salmon croquettes as even I don’t mind those and I am not a big fish fan. The carrot muffins aren’t terrible but the cheesy flapjacks are just odd and I’m not that keen on the oat cake either (Icooked it for 15 mins longer than it says but still is soggy in the middle, is it supposed to be like that?). I suppose the meatloaf wasn’t terrible either but it wasn’t exactly delicious.

Difficult as of course recipes for babies do tend to be a little more bland as they contain much less salt or sugar than we would usually use. Having said that though, the sweetcorn fritters are based on an Annabel Karmel recipe (just with the addition of a few more veggies) and they are lovely, as are many of the other things we have tried from her cookbook so I don’t think that recipes suitable for babies necessarily have to be bland.

It’s a shame to be spending so much time and effort in the kitchen and being disappointed with the results to be honest! Thankfully because at least 50% of the food I have made this week are tried and trusted recipes, they are lovely but it’s a shame none but one (the salmon croquettes) of the new recipes from the weaning book are going to be added to our repertoire I don’t think… I’m not even sure how to tweak them to improve them… as I’m not sure they are worth the effort!

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the slightly soggy centred oat cake

Monkey has enjoyed helping me cook and bake though so it is always nice to have him in the kitchen with me helping weigh out and mix ingredients. The low point though was when trying to do some with LM awake and eating/playing in her high chair in the kitchen with us. She wasn’t having any of it so I ended up holding her in one arm & balancing her on my hip, while hastily whizzing some fruit, greasing a pan, stirring the mixture (with Monkey’s help), filling the pan and putting it in the oven. It is blimmin amazing the things you can accomplish with one hand when you have to, but my goodness it makes it hard work!!

The kids are enjoying the oat cake and it is full of goodness so I may not like it but at least they are!

WP_20150603_001The over-riding success of the week actually comes in the form of not a recipe exactly, but more of a cheat. I love Paprika Chicken at restaurants but we have never been able to recretae it at home, none of the recipes I have tried seem to have the right balance of seasoning. So when I saw some funky new pre-seasoned papers that you wrap the chicken in, I thought they had to be worth a try. And they were great!

This isn’t a sponsored post and I didn’t get them free to review, but we thought they were lovely, and so so easy.You wrap the chicken in the paper, and fry it in the pan. It’s that straightforward. The chicken was juicy and the flavour was yummy. So hooray for a success, I needed one!

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Am I bad mother? Or just a different one?

I have found that one of the hardest and most unexpected aspects of motherhood is judgement.. from other mothers. When Monkey was a baby I struggled a lot with this as I had honestly never expected that I would be so judged by other women in the same position as me. Judged about how I am feeding, what our routine is, how we got our baby to sleep, what he wore… literally everything. As he has grown and I have become a bit more confident it doesn’t affect me as much.. but every now and then I will read something that does affect me.

Because it is happening all the time. Mothers judging other Mothers over their parenting methods just because it is different to the way they have chosen. And it drives me mad.

Am I a bad motherI am a huge believer that all babies are different and that different things work for different children. There is not one method that is right for all babies. The same goes for parents. We are all unique individuals with different strengths and weaknesses so how can we possibly all parent the same? The point is surely that we are doing our best to raise healthy and happy children. I am sure we will all make mistakes along the way because we are human beings and we are imperfect. But we make the decisions that we feel are right at the time.

That is what bugs me most about all the judgement. The holier than thou attitude. The conviction of “I am right and you are wrong.” That somehow your choices make you a better parent than others. How can you possibly, possibly know this? You don’t live their life. You haven’t raised their child. You are living your life and raising your child. You are different so inevitably you make different choices. The right choices for you are not necessarily the right choices for others but that doesn’t make them wrong and it certainly doesn’t make them bad parents.

To illustrate my point I am going to highlight some of our choices, and the reasons we made them. These are choices we have made for us and our children and I am not saying that everyone should make the same choices, but I want to know if you think these choices make me a bad mother.

Natural birth vs Caesarean

I had two C-sections. I have a bicornuate uterus which meant that both Monkey and LM were breech and unable to turn head down. The medical advice was to have C-sections for the safety of both myself and my babies. I did a lot of research into natural breech births and learned that because most breech babies are delivered by c-section, that the skill of naturally delivering breech babies has fallen out of practice. Of course many midwives are skilled and capable of this but my research suggested that not all are and that it can be luck of the draw of who you get on the day. For me that wasn’t good enough and I chose the c-sections.

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This wasn’t what I wanted, I had hoped for a water birth with only gas and air. But sometimes what we want comes second to making sure my babies were safe. It turned out Monkey had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck 5 times, so I can’t regret the decision to have a c-section as I had my beautiful boy safely in my arms, whereas it could have been very different.

There have been some awful posters circulating the internet about women who have had c-sections being lesser Mothers, for taking the “easy” road. Some even go as far to say that we will go to hell because we have gone against God’s plan. That we should have had a natural delivery and if God wanted us or our baby to die then we should have allowed it to happen. I don’t even know where to begin arguing against this.

Do you think having C-sections made me a bad Mother?

Breastfeeding/Bottle feeding

Breastfeeding is seriously hard work. I persevered through some very difficult days when Monkey was a baby, mainly due to my own stubbornness and breastfed him until 6-7mths old. I stopped for many reasons. He had teeth from 4 mths and his lower teeth grazed on the underside of my breast giving me horrible sores. But mainly I stopped because I wanted my body back. I struggled with baby blues and needed to feel like myself. Selfish? Maybe. Human beings are selfish. I battled on for a while but eventually realised that my negative feelings about breastfeeding weren’t good for Monkey and I didn’t want to resent him.

With LM I breastfed for 6 weeks. With her reflux and (thankfully) temporary Lactose Intolerance, breastfeeding her was a nightmare and a lactose free formula was the right choice for us at that time. There are times when I look back and wish I could have breastfed her longer… but I couldn’t. I was at the end of my tether. Other women may be stronger and may have been able to persevere. But couldn’t and she was miserable and in pain. So I chose the next best thing for my baby. A happier Mummy and formula. Does that make me a bad Mother?

Babywearing or not

I love the idea of baby-wearing and always have. With Monkey we tried various slings and carriers but let me tell you he was not happy in there for long so it was a bit of a non-starter. With LM she did like our Beco Gemini carrier and so we did baby-wear to a point.

But the truth is I have a bad back and so does hubs, so baby-wearing hurts. It’s alright for a while but gradually it started wearing me down. I started suffering with my knee too from the jiggling and bouncing it usually took to get her to sleep in there. We found it exhausting and being exhausted does not make us better parents. We were more irritable and snappy with each other and our children so we realised it had to stop.

Does this make us bad parents?

Co-sleeping or not

Co-sleeping, quite simply, is not for me. I’m not the greatest sleeper at the best of times and have a bit of a weird claustrophobia type thing where I hate being cuddled or touched when I sleep. I find it suffocating and have to have my own space. I would rather sleep on my own on the floor than with a child on me. Obviously there have been nights where I have had a poorly child sleep on me in a chair so I can comfort them and they can sleep, but I don’t sleep. Again perhaps it is selfish but I just can’t do it. Does that make me a bad Mother?

Sleep Training

DSC_0552When Monkey was born I couldn’t bear the idea of cry it out, controlled crying, progressive wait, whatever you want to call it. I couldn’t bear the sound of his crying. So we did anything and everything else we could to get Monkey to sleep.

And we failed.

It got to the point where Monkey would spend around 4 hours every night crying in our arms.

We had a bedtime routine around 7pm and then we would spend the next few hours rocking him to sleep, shushing, patting, cuddling, singing letting him suck our fingers…. Taking it in turns to do whatever the hell we could to get him to sleep. Occasionally something would work but we could never make it work consistently and in general he would pass out from exhaustion around 11.

We would then be up regularly throughout the night with either hubs or I leaning over the cot with our little finger in his mouth to suck as that was the best way of keeping him asleep (yes we tried a dummy, many times, but he wasn’t having any of it). This led to me getting mastitis 3 times as I spent so much time pressed up against the side of his cot, crushing my milk ducts so I could reach his mouth to let him suck my finger. (Anyone who has had Mastitis will know that the pain and delirium is not a pleasant experience).

He also woke up miserable in the morning and was grouchy much of the time. In desperation we read Ferber’s book (it was one of many methods we had tried) and as I have said before, we liked the tone of the book and we gave it a go.

The first night it took 20 minutes. 20 minutes of him crying in his bed, with us going in every few minutes to comfort, reassure and soothe. 20 minutes of hell and soul searching and self-doubting and crying and chocolate eating as his cries hurt my soul….

But then he fell asleep.

It took 20 minutes rather than the 4 hours we were used to. He slept through the night and then woke up happy. For the first time since he was a newborn.

The next night it took a bit less time and so on for the next few days until he didn’t cry at all. He has been an amazing sleeper ever since and now when he cries in the night we go to him because we know that something is wrong.

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If Monkey had been content to fall asleep in our arms and then be transferred to his bed then I doubt we would ever have felt the need to try the technique. We have repeated the technique with LM as we have had similar struggles with sleep and it has worked for her. We didn’t try every other technique that we tried with Monkey and maybe we should have. She is a different baby and maybe a different technique would have worked for her. But we made the decision we felt was right at the time and she now loves her bed and falls asleep very easily at naptimes and bedtimes.

Does this make me a bad Mother?

I could go on and on. There’s weaning – purees or babyled? I know someone whose friend told her she was “disappointed in her” for not babyled weaning, even though she weaned her baby at 4 1/2 mths under Drs advice. Then if you do choose purees there’s whether you make them at home or use jars. I’m not even going to begin going into the whole being a stay at home mum vs being a working mother. You can read about why I made that choice here but just because I am a SAHM I certainly don’t think that everyone else should be.

Think what you will about my choices, but my children are happy, healthy and know they are loved. We are not perfect parents by a long shot and we are not raising perfect children, as that is impossible (though I do think they are pretty perfect I suspect I am slightly biased), but we are doing the absolute best we can.

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I just don’t understand why some Mothers feel they can only justify their choice by disparaging the choices of others., because I don’t see why you need to.

Of course we compare ourselves to each other and we questions our choices and their choices, because we all want to be the best we can be. But before you cast aspersions or treat someone who has made different choices to you like they are a bad mother, stop. Think about why  they may have made the choices that they made. Remember that they have made those choices in an effort to do what is best for them and their child. Remember that their child is not your child and different things work with different children

Also remember that they are not you and they have their own strengths and weaknesses. We don’t become perfect when we become a Mother. We don’t miracuously turn into selfless saints. We do love our children above all else and while many of us try and put everyone else’s needs above our own many of us find that is not sustainable and that to be the best Mother we can be we actually need to put ourselves first sometimes too. So sometimes we make the choice that is best for us as well as our children.

Maybe you disagree with this, maybe you disagree with a lot of what I have said here, and that’s fine. Because you are you and I am me and no doubt our life experiences are very different. If you are happy with the choices you have made and convinced that you are right, then good for you. I’m happy for you, honestly. But please don’t make other women feel bad or less than you because something different works for them.

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Little Miss at 6 mths

I’m a little late with Little Miss’s 6 month update as we were away on holiday when she turned 6 months, but here she is on the day she turned 6mths old. Our little beauty! I can’t believe we made her, I just can’t!

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I got her weighed this week at 6mths 1 wk and she is doing really well. Despite losing a little weight when she had Bronchiolitis and didn’t want to eat, her love of solids and her milk has meant she has put the weight back on and more, which is obviously is wonderful news and she is now 15lb8oz

So yes the weaning is going really well, for the most part. We have gone for the traditional puree style weaning as we started at a little younger than 6 mths, and because we found it worked well with Monkey. (I will go into more of this in a future post). Initially I made purees for her and just had jars on days out but while we were on holiday, jars were the easiest thing as I didn’t fancy making purees on my holidays! The problem being that now she mainly wants to just eat the jars and won;t touch any of the lovely healthy purees I am making at home. Which is really frustrating! So, for the sake of less stress, while we will keep trying her on homemade purees, we are using a lot of jars… so bring on the orange food I guess!

WP_20150425_10_15_26_ProMeanwhile she is the oddest child when it comes to drinking her milk. She hates being held to feed and is much happier lying down while drinking (?) where she can wriggle around to her hearts content and have a good nosey at what is going on around her. Seriously, we get into the oddest positions while feeding her!

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She also has a serious aversion to socks and they get pulled off all the time. We tried sock-ons but she pulls those off too and shoves them (and the sock) in her mouth and well the sock-ons felt like more of a choking hazard than anything so they have gone by the wayside now :?

So what else is she doing? Chatting. Lots and lots of chatting which is adorable. It stopped for a bit but has come back with a vengeance again and is adorable. Here is a little clip of her chatting away in the bathy :)

She’s laughing a lot more now too and we have a gorgeous video of that but it has been vetoed as we make her laugh by saying her name over and over!

She’s not sitting unsupported yet, which is totally normal, but we had hoped she would be by now. Monkey was very stable sitting by 6 months and it is difficult not to compare… although he was a tummy sleeper from a few mths old so I guess he built up his muscles sooner than she has. We are eager for her to be able to sit properly though!

She still loves grabbing and Daddy’s ear is very much a target for her little hands at any opportunity. She also likes grabbing anything and everything that is in reach too, so we are having to be careful about where her little arms are heading! SHe is so inquisitive though and just loves grabbing and eating anything she is able to get her hands on!WP_20150423_18_12_54_Pro

Still no real routine in sight and actually it was ok while we were away as she was flexible and fit in to our plans easily. Now we are home it would be lovely if she settled down, but so far she is more up and down than ever and one day she barely slept at all! She is so good at night though (apart from the 530am starts some days) so we can’t really complain

Another exciting little development is that we have discovered today that our little lady has her first tooth! Very exciting. Not sure why I feel so proud of her about it… but I do :)

She also loves her walker now and is starting to scoot about in it, especially when trying to reach a toy she can gum (now semi-chew) to death!

So there we have it, our little lady at just over 6 mths old – how the time flies eh?

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Yummy baby biscuits and weaning in general

When the time came to start to wean monkey on to solids I have to say I had no clue where to start. I felt pressure that I should make all of his purees so they are all fresh and full of goodness, but really didn’t have the first idea how to puree anything, or at least how to cook things until they were ready to puree, steam? Boil? Bake? There are of course many wonderful jars and pots and pouches out there but as a stay at home mummy I felt that I should be able to prepare most of his food myself. So after a bit of online research I bought a book by Annabel Karmel. Her book had lots of good reviews and seemed like a good place to start.

I’m not going to write a detailed review of her book as there any many available online far more eloquent than I would be, but suffice to say this book has been my bible for the past few months. I skimmed some of it, and followed other parts to the letter. Great as a starting off point for how to make apple puree and others and her recipes really are amazing. We are yet to find one of her recipes that monkey doesn’t like and of course I haven’t made all of them but we have a made a lot of them now and each one seems better than the last. Monkey now seems in a phase where he hates to be spoon fed and only wants to eat finger food, and although they are a little fiddly, Annabel’s mini meatballs are delicious and the rice balls so easy to make.

I have of course used jars, pots and pouches too, mainly to give monkey plenty of variety without spending my life in the kitchen, and there’s only so much space in our freezer! There is no denying that they are also really handy, especially when we go out somewhere , but it’s been nice to know that I have made some of his food, and honestly we love some of the recipes that much that we have adapted them in to adult meals for hubby and I so that sometimes we can all eat the same food together, which is nice.

Our favourite recipe of all time though is for her oaty cookies. They are so good we have even adapted them to an adult version, and everybody who has tried them just absolutely loves them! They are very quick and easy to make, although as with anything baking related with me, it hasn’t always been plain sailing. There have been a few dodgy batches along the way, some where we have cooked them for a couple of minutes too long, or one where I forgot about 3 of the ingredients! They still tasted pretty nice each time though so I don’t think you can go too far wrong with them.

Here is the recipe, almost to the letter of Annabel Karmel’s, although we have adapted things ever so slightly :)

75g flour (the recipe is for wholemeal flour, but we have used plain flour too and they are delicious both ways)
55g rolled oats
¼ teaspoon of bicarbonate soda
85g of unsalted butter (soft)
75g caster sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup (15ml)
1 tsp vanilla extract (5ml)
55g chopped dried apricots
Some chopped white chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 180C if conventional, (160C for fan oven)

All ingredients (except chocolate) into food processor and whizz until well mixed into a dough – all apricot bits should be tiny and the mix is the same consistency throughout, we’ve found that it should almost be shiny for the perfect cookies.

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When making them for monkey I just leave them as they are but if you want to make them for grown ups or older kids with chocolate, now is the time to finely chop some chocolate (we like white chocolate) and stir it in.

Line baking trays with greaseproof paper (use little bit of marge on underside to stick it down if necessary)

P1020678For baby sized cookies we roll them into teaspoon sized balls, and for adult sized cookies, roughly tablespoon sized balls. Place on the baking trays – they will spread quite a bit so space them out on the baking tray. With adult ones you can see we use two big trays to make about 12/13 cookies.

adult biscuits

adult biscuits

For baby sized biscuits, cook for about 9-10 mins, or for bigger cookies, cook for 12 mins until starting to turn golden at the edges. They can overcook very quickly, and they will still be tasty but less squidgy in the middle.

adult biscuits fresh from the oven

adult biscuits fresh from the oven

Leave to cool on the baking tray for a few mins then transfer onto a wire cooling rack.

baby biscuits cooling

baby biscuits cooling

Store in an airtight container.

We often make a double batch with about 16 baby biscuits for Monkey and 12 adult sized cookies. The apricots went in the food processor as a mistake the first time we made them, and though you can’t really tell that they are there, the cookies were so good that we haven’t dared make them without them in. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” as they say!

Happy baking!