Thursday, 17 July 2014

For the love of family food

While I am a qualified children's doctor, I'm only relating my experiences with my children on this blog. The NHS has plenty of information available for mums and dads in the UK about weaning and other children's health issues.

I'll be honest right off the bat and say that this isn't Sam's first tastes of food. He started with cucumber ten days ago or so and we've just returned from a big family holiday where my mum and my siblings delighted in offering him bits off their plates.  Whenever I recommend baby-led weaning to anyone, their first question is always "what sort of foods do you give him/her?" My answer, whatever we're having, doesn't seem specific enough so I guess this post is me fleshing that out a bit.
When I say 'whatever we're having', I do mean it literally. That did require some changes to what I was cooking at first (more fruit & veg, less salt) but with two children already eating with us four days a week, our family meals are pretty baby-ready these days.

We've literally just got back from a week-long holiday in the Lakes so there's pretty much nothing in our fridge and I had no plan for dinner. That usually means oven-ready food or pasta and sure enough I scavenged up the ingredients for tuna pasta bake. Since the replacements straps and padded insert for the highchair arrived while we were away, there was no reason Sam couldn't join us.
I started off with some pasta and 'bits' in a bowl but he's not quite tall enough to see into it yet so we quickly moved on to using just the tray.
This is a new experience for Sam; it's only the second or third time he's been in a highchair so he has no idea what to expect. He's fed-up! I hand him a single pasta twirl and he takes it to his mouth to suck.
He struggles to pick up the pasta initially and gets frustrated so I pass him pieces of pasta. I also put smallish bits of tuna and sauce on my fingers and offer them to him. He takes the food eagerly and moves it round his mouth. I'm not sure he's swallowed anything yet but he's very happy just 'playing' with the food.
After a little while, maybe 10 minutes, he's getting frustrated with the pasta so I slice a nectarine into quarters and offer him one. Again, he doesn't know what it is or what it's for, so I gently wipe it across his lips. He licks the juice and realises this is good. And then he's off. Nectarine is a winner!  He struggles occasionally to pick up the slippery fruit but for the most part he's doing this all himself.
After finishing most of the nectarine, he goes back to the pasta. Random food combinations are a big feature of BLW; strawberry petit filous and king prawns, anyone?! He's getting the hang of it now and quite confidently brings pasta to his mouth for a suck and a chew. I'm sure I've heard him swallow at some point but I guess we'll know for sure with tomorrow's nappies!
This is all going on during a family meal. We're talking about our favourite parts of our holiday with the children and discussing our upcoming house project. All four of us, the children are great at this, are positive and encouraging to Sam. Lots of smiles and praise for what he's doing. We've also introduced the signs for 'more' and 'finished'; these are the two I found most useful with Isaac at this age. It'll take a while before Sam joins in but the repetition is key to getting it to stick.
A note about the floor; weaning is a messy business. No, sorry, children are a messy business. And never more so than when they eat. Isaac knocked his cup over, spilling his squash. Anna doesn't wear a top whenever we have tomato-based sauces. We have tile flooring that wipes clean beautifully. Usually anything that hits the floor comes straight back into the bowl to be played with/eaten again. But like I said, we've just got home from a week away, leaving the cats in the house and I haven't cleaned the floor yet. Plus tuna and pasta are a pretty good cat-attraction device!
On clean-up; start at the top and work your way down. I wear rubber gloves and remove the food first. I wipe the tray, knocking leftover bits onto the floor mostly. Then I wipe the child and remove bibs or dirty clothing. As it happens, hubby is running a bath so I offloaded Sam to him but if I'm on my own, I get the baby something to do before I carry on. Quite a lot of meals are easier to clean up once they're dry anyway. Then I wipe the highchair from top to bottom, not forgetting the rails on the floor. And finally the floor. I don't generally use disinfectant unless there's some stuck-on mess or it's really gross. Hot soapy water on an e-cloth is enough for me; wearing gloves means I can use really hot dish washing water.
And highchairs? I love our East Coast folding wooden chair. I bought it for Isaac along with a traditional, padded PVC one, which was a nightmare to get clean and went mouldy in storage. I've just ordered a new insert (from Argos but look online for the best price) and new straps (from east coast) and it looks great. The tray lifts over the top so you can sit them right up at the table too. But if I were buying again today, I'd get the ikea highchair. I can almost guarantee you've seen it out & about. A white plastic seat with a removable tray (both dishwasher safe!!) and long grey legs. It's so easy to clean, light and it's only £12 (£16 with the tray)!!

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