I have been weaning Zak since he was 4 months old and when I first started it terrified the shit out of me! There is sooo much information out there and so much conflicting information that I didn’t know where the hell to start. There’s baby led weaning & puree based weaning, then there’s the decision of what foods to introduce first. I remember one night I was googling what foods to introduce for weaning and I came across an article that said absolutely do not introduce sweet foods first like bananas as they then develop a sweet tooth and won’t like bitter foods – I’d literally given Zak his first taste of banana that afternoon and I spent the rest of the night stressing I had ruined everything! I had quite a few sleepless nights worrying about weaning and it took me as a couple of weeks to chill out and realise I just needed to do what I thought was right for me and for Zak. Now admittedly weaning coincided with a sleep regression, a growth spurt and was only a few weeks after Tom had walked out so I had quite a lot on my plate.
All I knew was I wanted Zak to eat everything, I wanted him to love food as much as me and have a healthy relationship with food.
The NHS recommends introducing solids to babies when they are around 6 months old and start showing signs they are interested. Zak had a paediatrician check up when he was just about 4 months, the doctor asked when he last ate I said he had 7oz about 45 minutes ago and then he said he was still showing signs he was hungry – I was absolutely horrified and thought I was starving my child! It was his suggestion that I start thinking about introducing solids slowly as he was such a big baby. Not surprisingly being born at 9lb 4oz he has always been between the 75th & 91st percentile so he loves his food!
I decided to start with baby rice (because it seemed the easiest transition mixing it with his milk and was also what the paediatrician suggested. I started with 1 tablespoon once a day and he bloody loved it! We quite quickly progressed to 3 times a day and I kept all his bottle feeds the same. After a couple weeks I also tried some simple fruit purees like apple or banana and mashed rusks with formula. He never spat anything out, he swallowed every single spoonful and couldn’t get enough.
I introduced the solids at the times I was planning for him to have meals as part of his routine and just slightly adjusted his naps around them. Because he took to solids so well we dropped his mid-morning bottle quite quickly and soon started introducing every food imaginable. I wanted to try combination feeding so feeding him purees with a spoon but also give him finger foods to try. I did lots of one vegetable purees, fruit purees and over time I mixed the purees up and added chicken broth to introduce meat.
Finger foods never clicked for Zak and still haven’t even at nearly 11 months. I’m not sure if it’s a coordination thing, if he’s just too lazy or just one of the things he is struggling with, but I have yet to see him bring food to his mouth. He puts bloody everything else in his mouth! I’ve always persisted with finger foods and always give him things like breadsticks whilst I feed him and a spoon. In the last week he has got the spoon in his mouth a couple of times and he seems to be starting to think about the process of self-feeding and tries to feed me things now so maybe he isn’t too far off.
Two things that terrified me about weaning were choking and allergies. Now I ate everything throughout my pregnancy. I followed the advice of my doctor and avoided things that might carry a risk of food poisoning so I didn’t eat raw fish or raw eggs but I pretty much ate everything else so maybe that contributed to Zak being such a good eater now. But I just tried to be reasonable and remind take things a step at a time when I felt brave enough. I didn’t introduce anything other than vegetables or fruit before he was 6 months old and every time I introduced an Allergan type food like nuts, eggs or dairy I made that the only new element of that mealtime and just once that day so if he did have any sort of reaction I could pin point exactly what it was. Touch wood so far no allergies! Choking is a something I think every parent is afraid of because when they first start on solids they all go through that horrible stage of gagging and it’s awful to watch but its all part of them figuring out this eating malarkey! Zak has a big appetite and even now sometimes tries to just follow food whole because he’s too lazy to chew it. Whilst we were in SCBU when he was first born we were given a training session on choking and how to handle it so I just reread my notes on that when I felt I needed it so I could feel confident of what to do. I never leave Zak unattended when he is eating and accept it will be ½ hour out of my day each meal time and see it as an excuse to drink a hot cup of tea!
He absolutely loves his food and maybe So far the only thing I have found he isn’t keen on is Watermelon. He pulls the best faces and tends to spit it out but I will try again in another couple of weeks and see how we go. I wanted to make it as stress free as possible for him so I try not to worry when he doesn’t eat as much as he did the day before or if he doesn’t seem that into it. The past few days he’s lost interest a couple of times half way through dinner but I’ve discovered if you skip to dessert and normally a couple of spoonful’s of yoghurt and he’ll go right back to eating the rest of his dinner and finish the rest of his yoghurt after!
Another worry of mine was that I wouldn’t get portion control right. I know some people think when a baby cries, they must be hungry so the answer is to always feed them, but I was actually worried I would overfeed him! However, babies are very clever, and the doctor assured me Zak would refuse food if he was full or didn’t want it - sure enough he does -and remember the old trick of closed fist means hungry, open palm means full. He’s always been right on track with his weight and he is a very active baby so seems to burn it off very easily. I want him to enjoy his food but its really important to me that he eats a balanced diet and I make everything I feed him from scratch I don’t let him have any ready made meals, excess sugar and I have trained myself to stop cooking with salt. That being said I think its important that he is allowed treats and this often happens at Nanny’s house – but isn’t that what grandparents are for? I love that when we go out for coffee and cake with mum, he tries to eat her cake and she lets him or she sneaks him an ice cream. As long as he doesn’t have it all the time I don’t think it can be that harmful and after all he is my child so loves cake!
A typical daily diet for Zak would be:
Breakfast – porridge with almond /peanut butter or Weetabix with full fat cows milk
Mid morning snack – Wafers, banana or rice cakes
Lunch – Omlette or sandwich (fillings range from cheese & Marmite to peanut butter), yoghurt, breadsticks, rice cakes, blueberries & grapes
Dinner – fish pie or grilled fish and vegetables or vegetable curry, raspberries
He also currently still has 2 bottles one when he first wakes and one just before bed, both 8oz of formula but once he’s one I will swap him to full fat cows milk.
I know I am lucky that Zak eats pretty much everything and he now eats what I eat, meaning I can finally cook for 2 again! I’m one of those people that can’t cook for one so I always over cater which means I have plenty of spare portions for him. I treat myself to 1 Gousto box a month so I can have a tasty/treat dinner without going out and I get the recipes for 2 people so it’s a portion for me and 2 portions for Zak. Tasty wholesome food we can enjoy together and it means he gets to try some exotic meals like last nights Filipino Chicken Adobo! Travel and all the adventures we have yet to experience hopefully also broaden his palette!
In a nutshell I did a typical Tash and overthought the whole weaning process. Zak is a healthy happy little boy that eats everything because I did what I thought was right for him and me. I think that’s the best advice anyone can give you as a parent – do what is right for you and your family. I’m not saying the worrying has gone away, but I try to be a bit more rational about it and if he eats a slice of cake I’ll give him less dinner and make sure its super healthy. If he’s having a day where he doesn’t seem to want much I’ll give him more formula. It’s a joy to sit with him at the table and share our breakfast each morning and it just reminds me how quickly he is growing up!