I survey the carnage.
I have been cooking. With three cupboards, an oven that doesn’t work properly and one work surface measuring less than half a metre wide, preparing food becomes a complicated dance of pirouetting, rearranging and balancing, with a few swear words thrown in for good measure, and giving everything at least 10 minutes longer to cook than it should.
The dishes are piled high in the sink, with me somehow managing to use every utensil I own just to cook chicken and rice. I have spilled sauce on the hob and on me and may have inadvertently ‘lost’ some onion down the side of the cooker. You know nothing ok? We’ll just pretend that didn’t happen (or that I dropped some pasta down there yesterday).
But, I’m done. And nothing is burnt. Bonus.
I stick my head round the door of the front room where Kai and his dad are zoned out in front of Gigglebiz – ‘Little Britain for toddlers’ my hubby has described it as. Spot on. “Kai, do you want some food?” I ask while doing our ‘food’ sign that Kai’s just beginning to start to copy “It’s time for tea!”. “Yeah Yeah!” shouts Kai jumping up.
Wrestled into his highchair Kai is soon tucking in with gusto to his rice and chicken. He grabs his fork for good measure and gives a few half-hearted stabs but it is soon forgotten in favour for great big fist-fulls alternated with delicate pincer-grip motions, picking up tiny grains one by one and examining them before down they go with a enthusiastic lip smack. Big bits of chicken are chewed and quickly devoured. Water is quaffed and waved about and dripped onto the high chair tray to make patterns with. When interest starts to wane, daddy steps in with the forgotten fork and I watch as they share their special mealtime game of ‘one for me one for you’, amazed that Kai is finally letting us near him with utensils after months of refusing to eat anything off a fork or spoon except Kai ambrosia (yoghurt) and that only because hands just don’t get enough in quick enough.
I love mealtimes.
They are my favourite part of the day. Ant is home from work, bedtime is fast approaching and ensconced in his highchair with a big plate of food before him Kai is (usually!) at his most charming and entertaining. Mouthfuls for him are usually alternated with tidbits offered to daddy and me, and sometimes the cat for good measure. He sings, he chews his way through enough food to feed a small army, he pulls glorious and comical faces as he tries and assesses new tastes and at least half the offered food ends up on his lap, in his hair or on the floor.
It is glorious.
At not-quite fifteen months old I have to say that I think eating is one of Kai’s party pieces. The way he gets through a meal is usually enough to stop most people in their tracks, and make them smile and comment especially when they realise how old he is – an age when a lot of his peers are still only just being weaned of mush and onto ‘grown-up’ food.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am far from proud or sure of many things I have done as a mother. But Kai’s weaning is one thing I think I’ve done rather well. In fact, both Ant and I are in complete agreement – weaning Kai the way we did was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made as parents. I talked a little about it previously, but the long and short of it is this:
We held off weaning until Kai turned six months old, despite everyone’s abject horror and insistence that we were starving the poor child. And then we did something that everyone thought was completely mad (and by everyone I mean my mother – come on mum I know you’ll admit it). We didn’t give him pureed baby food, we just gave him big chunks of proper food to pick up and gnaw on himself. He could choose what to eat or not to eat and how much. And if he didn’t want anything at all that was fine too. It’s known as ‘Baby-Led Weaning’ but personally I think it should just be called ‘common sense weaning’.
“But he’ll choke!!” was the first objection. Well actually, no. He didn’t choke. He did gag a lot to start with which everyone PRESUMED was choking, but look – he’s just coughing and learning to move food around in his mouth and not bite off quite such a big bit next time. And he’s already tucking into the next piece. It upset everyone else far more than it upset Kai… Gagging is a natural and pretty essential reflex if you’re going to learn how to eat safely.
“But he’s not really eating anything!!” was the next concern. OK – granted, not an awful lot got ‘consumed’ as it were in the first few weeks of weaning (although the first time it did the resulting nappy was a shocker I can tell you!) In fact, not really till Kai hit about 10 months old did he start eating consistently. But look again. This boy is hovering above the 75% percentile on his growth charts and I’d done my research – milk, breast milk especially will meet up to something stupid like 98% of his nutritional needs for the first year, and still provide the vast majority well into his second year. So there was no rush. Exploring tastes and textures were always the priority to start with – if in doubt I just kept repeating the mantra “Food under 1 is just for fun”. It worked – just look at him now.
“But he’ll be a picky eater if you let him choose what to eat – he won’t eat the right things!!” I never really got this argument. He has tastes, of course he does, and preferences same as anyone else. He still thinks broccoli is the devil’s fare no matter how many times I offer it him. He loves sweet things, but will choose fruit over a biscuit any day. Strawberries don’t even touch the sides. Some things (like potato) he took a long time to warm too but now are his favourites. Other things, like carrot, he seems to go through phases of liking. One thing I have noticed that if offered a good variety of foods, over the course of a week Kai will usually eat a good balance of protein, carbs, diary and fruit and veg. But not all in one meal – sometimes all he’ll want to eat is pasta, or cucumber. But the next day you can guarantee will be a ‘chicken day’. I’m working on the assumption that somehow, intrinsically, he knows what he’s doing.
“But you’re encouraging him to play with his food – what about table manners?!”. That’s for next year. At the moment we’re all about the fun. Babies wash. Floors wash. We wash. It’s not a big deal. Flinging didn’t last long and once Kai learnt what ‘no’ meant it got short shrift from us. But if you want to draw patterns in your spaghetti and smear Shepherd’s Pie in your hair? We’re ok with that.
Now, 8 months after starting on our weaning adventures, not one person questions our decision. The results speak for themselves. My dad is evangelising baby-led weaning to the girls in his office, my mum is humbly proclaiming that she has ‘learnt a lot’, and the mother-in-law is glowing with pride.
So there we go. One big success story. Nice to share one of them for a change!
And If you want to learn more about Baby-Led Weaning as an option when weaning your babies I would really recommend this blog and forum for tips, recipes, and much needed reassurance when you’re getting started. Or talk to me!