Five things I’ve learned about weaning
Weaning can be one of the most daunting aspects of new parenthood. Making the move from boob/bottle to food can be a little scary to start with, but once you and the nipper have got the hang of it, the weaning process flies by. Before you know it you’ve got a fully-weaned toddler demanding toast every morning at 6am. Whether you’re pureeing, doing baby-led weaning, or (like most of us) winging it with a mixture of both – here’s a few lessons I learned along the way...
You don’t need loads of gear
Don’t splash your cash on weaning gadgets. Puree machines, tiny blenders marketed by ‘weaning gurus’, moulis to strain potato puree through? All totally unnecessary. If you have a mini chopper/small food processor already, use that. If you don’t, a £10 stick blender from the supermarket will do the job. I bought special ‘weaning’ freezer pots for puree portions, before realising that £1 ice cube trays from Jeremy’s Home Store were just as good. Bonus: they now have an afterlife freezing ice cubes for mummy’s special water*.
Frozen veg is your friend
Let it go, let it go...straight into the freezer. Don’t look down your nose at frozen veg – which is full of nutrients as it’s usually frozen soon after picking. Babies eat such small portions that using frozen veg can save a lot of money. Some supermarkets do frozen cubes of butternut squash which saves lots of time. Frozen spinach is brilliant for stirring into sauces – you only need a block or two at a time. I also love a trick from the Chiappa sisters – blitz fresh kale into a powder in a food processor then save it a bag in the freezer to sprinkle into sauces and purees.
Don’t introduce allergens on a weekend
A serious point, this. Hopefully your child will be able to eat every food under the sun. If not, and they have an allergic reaction to, say, egg the first time they try it, you don’t want to be rushing them up to A&E on a weekend because the doctor’s surgery is closed, and the hospital is understaffed and full of drunk people. I speak from experience here. My son has egg, peanut and sesame allergies. We found out about the latter when he had a bad reaction to sesame aged 11 months and we spent a Friday ‘date night’ in A&E instead. Not good times. Follow all the official advice about when and how to introduce allergens.
Parental effort vs likelihood of consumption
It’s scientifically proven: the more effort you put into making your child a from-scratch recipe out of the baby cookbook, the less likely they are to eat it. If you spend two minutes chopping up some cucumber and cheese, they’ll wolf it down. This is especially true if the book shows you a picture of an angelic, spotless baby enjoying said recipe. I’m thinking particularly of the ‘delicious’ white bean and tuna puree I made my son, which he threw against the wall. I tried it, it was gross. Which led me to put down the baby cookbooks and trust my cooking instincts instead...
I’ll have what they’re having
Don’t feel you have to cook your baby/toddler and the grown-ups separate meals every time. That way madness lies. Make enough of say – soups, stews, pasta sauce – for everyone, scoop out baby’s portions (one for now, one for the freezer), then you can season the rest for the grown-ups. Don’t be afraid to add flavour – try cinnamon, cumin, harissa, garlic etc to interest tiny tastebuds. And if they still throw it on the floor, at least you haven’t spent time and money on a separate meal.