He EATS!

So let's talk about weaning shall we? WEANING! Really? I cannot believe I'm uttering these words. When did my little tiny squishy newborn start needing more than breast milk? I need a pause button. Sob.

He eats now. Food. The real type. You know, the stuff you have to buy and cook and stuff? He's a proper little human being who we have to consider in the weekly food shopping now. I am  both excited and shell shocked by the whole experience. Excited to be starting a new stage with my little man, an adventure of flavours, textures and colours. I'm excited about preparing his food and nourishing him with healthy wholesome ingredients. I'm excited to see him grow. I'm even excited for the dirty nappies. But my God do I feel like the last 20 weeks have just flashed by. In the blink of an eye I went from seeing two lines on a pregnancy test, to pureeing apple and pear for my handsome baby boy. 


First, the disclaimer part. I'm not a health professional. Just a first time mammy who just like everyone, wants to do the very best for her little person. The HSE recommendation is that weaning should happen no earlier than 17 weeks, and before 26 weeks. We fall somewhere in to the middle of all that. Billy is 20 weeks. I wanted to wait until as close to 26 as possible but Billy Byrne had different plans. All of a sudden this week he started to show all the signs that he was ready to be weaned on to solid food. Some of those signs include good head control, showing an interest in your food, sucking their fingers, and they are able to sit up with some help. He has been showing all of these signs and has also been feeding a lot more regularly lately. I don't mind it at all, but I've definitely noticed a difference. He generally feeds every three hours at night but he's now waking up even more regularly.

The poor petal is teething too, so he's not in the best of form with that either. It just sort of came to me last week. I hadn't even considered it but suddenly it became very clear that our little babog was ready for solid food. This is going to sound RIDICULOUS, but I'll say it anyway. We've been giving Billy neurophen or Calpol when the teething pain gets bad right? Well in the beginning he would pretty much spit most of it out, even with the use of the syringe thing. I suppose he couldn't yet deal with the thick consistency as he would be used to thin breast milk. Well lately he's been swallowing it like a champ, as though it were food almost. Not wasting a single drop and visibly doing something different with his mouth. I did tell you this was going to sound weird, but these are the things you notice when your full time job is looking at this little face.

                                       

So myself and Peter chatted about it and decided that today was the day that we would introduce Billy to solids. There has been such a massive change in him lately, we both agreed. He has become a real little boy. Full of smiles and chat. He's even playing for Leeds United don't ya know...

                                      

              And he wears a COAT. A real life NECESSARY coat. Not just for cute photos.

                                     
OK, enough of the cute photos, for now. The process of weaning is quite involved now to be fair, but to simplify it all - it's basically the slow introduction of different foods in to your babies milk-only diet. Slowly building up a taste and appetite so that the baby will eventually be eating everything that the rest of the family eats. There are lots of recommendations about what to avoid and what is encouraged such as no honey before the age of 12 months, don't add salt (that includes stock cubes) or sugar to any of the foods, avoid processed foods where possible, no eggs till 6 months, and so on and so forth. I'd be writing a book if I went in to all the details here, but there is lots of literature out there to help educate yourself. My knowledge is a little mix of different sources. I got some great reading material off my lovely Public Health Nurse, I read articles online, and this book. But most of the best information I got was from my family and fellow mammy friends. The best advice though, as always, was from my own mammy. She's the mother I want to be.

I had intended to give the whole Baby Led Weaning thing a go, because it really does have many benefits. In short, it's a method of weaning where the baby is not spoon fed at all. They use their hands to discover different foods and they eat as much as they like. It's a new approach to weaning and is fast becoming very popular. I have a friend who's daughter is the most fantastic little grubber, basically eats ANYTHING (think chicken korma while on holidays when she wasn't even 1 yet) and she was weaned the baby-led way. I can't argue that it is great. A big part of me also really wanted to spoon feed though. Don't ask me why. I liked the idea of making the little purees, making little baby-sized portions of foods, and starting with nice soft and easy to digest things. I envied a friend of mine who was great at making little healthy dinners for her daughter (also a great eater, and super healthy) and she gave me a lot of advice too. Eventually I will be introducing all sorts of finger foods and textures and allowing Billy to explore food with his hands. But for now, it's little cute pots of vegetable and fruit purees and a bit of baby rice. As we introduce new types of food I will keep you all informed. Today was his first ever taste of solid food and on the menu was a puree of carrot and butternut squash. He had that at about 2pm because it's recommended that you start at lunch time. I probably could have started earlier than that in hindsight. Then at about 5pm we gave him a couple of spoonfuls of baby rice. We used the Milupa 'sunshine orange' brand  (now available at ALDI) because it came recommended by friends who have used it. Billy absolutely loved both the vegetable puree and the baby rice. He ate every little bit and was really enjoying the whole experience. Something tells me we won't have any issues in the food department.

So here's how I made Billy's first ever food. I chopped up three small carrots and about the same quantity of butternut squash and added it to a saucepan with boiling water allowing it to simmer away. I then peeled and chopped two pears and two small apples and added those to a pan with a tiny splash of boiling water.

                                   

While the vegetables boiled and cooked, I continuously stirred the pear and apple mixture until it stewed and became very soft. Once soft I blended it in this hand blender (which we bought for €20 in Argos and is the absolute business for this kind of thing) and it turned in to a a thin mixture with no lumps. I had a little taste at this point and it was GORGEOUS. Once the vegetables had finished cooking, I drained them of the water and blended those in the same hand blender. I added a splash of boiling water to give it a slightly more runny consistency for these first few days, just to be safe. 

                         
When the purees were ready, I put them in these little containers from Mothercare as well as these containers from NUK. They were now ready to store in the freezer until they were needed. I just reserved enough for today and tomorrow's food.

                         
Ah sure look at them, stacked up and ready to live in the freezer for a little while. So cute! I have to say the whole process was really enjoyable. Therapeutic even. There is something so satisfying about seeing those little cute pots of puree that were once coarse vegetables. I looked at them and felt a great sense of pride in the fact that I had made my baby's first ever foods myself, and I knew exactly what was in it. A lovely sense of accomplishment. 
                                  
Then came the REALLY fun part. The feeding. We won't be using the highchair for another few weeks because it's slightly advanced for him, but it turned out that the Graco Swing was perfect. It can be set to a sitting position and it has a little tray table in front. We sat him in it and he was only delighted with himself, teenage mutant ninja turtle bib securely in place (thanks uncle Keith and auntie Laura).

                         
We had been warned that babies can often reject food (which is completely normal in the beginning when they're just getting used to the idea of something other than breast milk or formula) and that a lot of it can end up being spat out, so we fully expected this to happen. However, little Billy bear is probably going to take after his mammy right here because he didn't waste a single bit. We couldn't believe how easily he was able to take the food off the spoon, sucking the puree off it and smacking his lips and swallowing. It was absolutely amazing to watch.

                        

We had intended to give him a mere spoonful or two, just to begin with, but we decided to go with the flow and allow him have the whole little pot because he really really liked it. By the time the pot was finished he starred at us with a look of  "Is that it?" and we had to politely inform him that he would have to wait until tomorrow for the next chapter of his weaning story. Pear and apple puree at the ready for breakfast!

                                    
                                               But seriously, is that it Mama?

Oh, before I forget. The idea in this stage of weaning is that milk is still very much the most important part of the baby's diet. Food does not replace it. Formula should still be given as normal, and breast milk still offered and given on demand. The food is there to add extra calories and nutrients that the baby now needs in addition to the milk.

It was an amazing experience to hit this very special milestone for our son. It reminded us that he is changing so quickly, and the importance of really enjoying every single stage,because it just goes by in such a flash. Everyone tells you this when you are pregnant, and now I'm the person telling pregnant people. Enjoy every moment.

As amazing as it is, there is definitely something quite poignant about the moment where my baby no longer just needs me for nourishment. He's still being breastfed, but now he needs food too. It's just another moment where you realise that your baby won't always need you for every little thing. But for now, I'll enjoy every single breastfeed, every dirty nappy, and everything that this tiny beautiful human being has to offer.

Tracey x

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