Weaning can be so confusing.
Even NHS seem confused.
First they recommend weaning at five months, then at six months and now they suggest that four months is the ideal time to introduce your baby to solids to avoid possible food intolerances later in life.
The food intolerance reason does make sense to me, but I had to go with my own motherly instincts here and follow baby led weaning (which I was soon to learn is an actual thing, though I’m yet to read the book)…
I let Lake lick fruits and my green smoothies here and there when she was four months. I added probiotics to her breastmilk when she was just a week old (via my own diet and by coating nipple in it). I added spirulina to her bottle once a week when she was about two months. When I finally decided to try out with her first ‘meal’, it was a banana and she only had 1 or 2 tiny spoonfuls. I was so excited to see how she likes it, that I blended up an entire banana, only to realise that this is not something to rush.
For her next few ‘meals’ instead of trying out different foods in a blender, only to see them wasted, I would chew them up in my own mouth like mama-bird and feed her from a spoon. We started this process at five months with just one solid ‘meal’ per day, which quickly escalated to two ‘meals’, that also became a little bigger each day. Then instead of fitting in food in-between her milk feeds, I took one milk feed away and then another and replaced them with watered-down ‘solid meals’.
Now at 7 months, instead of five milk feeds over the course of 24 hours, she has three milk feeds and two to three solid feeds, which are usually a decent bowl-full. Hungry growing girl.
I try not to offer any snacks, so she understands her routine. Only water, which she happily accepts especially after rolling around all over the grass in the park.
I think it’s always best to introduce little ones to solids with a mono diet and slowly add extra ingredients.
Here are the foods Lake enjoyed immediately when they were blended up till smooth for her to swallow:
1. Avocado, flesh only
2. Peas, slightly softened in hot water
3. Apples or pears, cored and peeled
4. Banana, peeled
5. Sweet potato, boiled
6. Watermelon, so juicy, no need to blend, just let them suck
When it comes to recipes, I’ve tried sooooo many varieties, many not even worth mentioning, because the little lady just turned up her nose to them, no matter how hungry she was. There’s been lots of trial and error, but the below recipes are absolute winners in our household.
There are no quantities, because only you will know how much your baby eats. If you find that there’s way too much waste, store it in the fridge and try giving it the next day warmed only by some boiling water.
Usual milk (try seed milk!)
-I never cook fruit, so you can assume that whenever I use fruit in baby recipes (with the exception of tomatoes- see more below), it is always raw. As fruits are super sweet already, the moment you apply high heat to them, whether boiling, heating, microwaving (may this never be you), baking or whatever, the carbohydrates in fruits transform into sugars. If you were to leave fruit simmering for hours and hours, all the liquids would evaporate away and the remainder crystallise into sugar. Cooking has its place, but in my opinion- not with fruit.
-Peel, core and chop up the apple into the blender, add milk and blend. Experiment with millet, sunflower seed, buckwheat, hemp and pumpkin seed milks or even a mix.
LAKE’S FAVOURITE DINNER
Tomato, organic and canned without anything added
– Cook amaranth as per packet instructions. I usually soak 1 cup overnight, rinse and add 2.5 cups water, bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 mins or until it’s cooked to softness.
-Everything is important purchased organic, especially when any pesticides or herbicides are about to enter the little stomaches of our children (these chemicals erupt the stomaches of insects and bugs, so since size is the only major difference between us and them, the effect pesticide-coated produce will have on us will be in a matter of time. I mention ‘organic’ next to tomato, because it’s one of those fruits all the insects go crazy for, so if they are not ‘organic’, they are 99.99% sure to be coated in chemicals. Tomatoes are also one of those very few foods that are better for us when cooked – tomatoes are rich in lycopene (the phytochemical which makes them red) and this antioxidant can be boosted with heat.
-Blend cooked amaranth and cooked tomatoes till smooth. I use a ratio of 3:1 of amaranth to tomatoes.
Oats, soaked in hot water
Apple/pear, peeled and cored
-This blend is so so tasty, but just a little cinnamon would do. Try wipe it off the baby’s face as soon as eating is finished so it doesn’t aggravate the skin. (We made face masks with cinnamon as one of the ingredients at my Lush Escapes retreats some years ago and while most people had the loveliest subtle skin after the treatment, others swelled up for hours. My skin can tolerate it, but I noticed that Lake’s skin looks slightly red unless I wipe it off immediately after feeding.) Taken internally, cinnamon does wonders to balance out blood sugar levels so it’s key for sweets intake, including fruits.
-Blend all the ingredients till smooth. As your baby grows and starts to chew, you can grate the apples instead of blending.
-I also buy ready sprouted gluten-free oats from Planet Organic and Rude Health. They are a bit tougher than porridge or smoothie oats, so need longer soaking time in water.
LAKE’S FAVOURITE LUNCH
Avocado, flesh only
Ripe Mango, peeled and chopped
-I can’t even tell you how much mine loves this combo. She will open her mouth for more before even swallowing each spoonful! Avocado is such a versatile food and so good for everything. At 6 months, Lake could easily eat 1/2 a large avocado, which worried me at first, but babies are pretty clever and they will soon tell you if their system’s had enough. Now at 7 months, she is only excited if I give it to her every few days, not every day.
-As both fruits are soft, I just mash them together with a fork.
Avocado, flesh only
Ripe Pear, peeled and cored
-Spirulina is more than a superfood, it’s a wonder food! It has the highest amount of protein than any other food. Period. There is over 60g of essential amino acids that make up a perfect protein in every 100g of spirulina powder. It also has lots of chlorophyll for healthy cells and blood and it has masses of iron! You only need a sprinkling of this algae, so don’t let the price tag put you off.
-Mash up all the ingredients together with a fork.
-Tangy sweet berries go so well with creamy kind of fruits (‘creamy’ because you can easily blend these fruits and they won’t separate).
-All berries (especially strawberries) fall into the Dirty Dozen category. These are the fruits and veggies that must always be purchased ‘organic’ or not purchased at all, because they are so heavily sprayed. (See my note about tomatoes under ‘Lake’s favourite dinner’).
-Mash up the ingredients with a fork and that’s it.
-Quinoa, like millet, buckwheat and amaranth, is a seed not a grain. This immediately earns this wholefood more stars in my books. I don’t know why so much baby food contains rice, when quinoa is what has 3 times more protein, 10 times more minerals and only a fraction of the starches that are in rice. It’s the cost no doubt, although this is quickly changing as the demand and therefore production of quinoa seed continues to grow.
-Cook quinoa according to packet instruction. I usually soak 1/2 cup overnight, rinse, add 1 cup water, bring to boil, then lower heat and cook for approx 10 minutes or until soft and fluffy. Transfer 4:1 quinoa to yogurt ration into a blender, add a little water if needed and blend till smooth. I kept trying to feed Lake quinoa without blending it up but she really didn’t like the texture and refused it till I tried to smooth it out.
Sweet potato, boiled
Usual milk (try millet milk!)
-Sweet potatoes are a wonderful -potato/not actually potato/ yam/ not actually yam- food for everyone. They are an excellent source of Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotin, amongst many other nutrients and minerals, without the starch content of potatoes. Simply peel, chop and boil till soft.
-Blend the cooked sweet potato with expressed breastmilk or a seed milk from millet, buckwheat, hemp or sunflower seeds. (You can make your own by blending and straining seeds and water or you can buy a ready milk in Health Food stores, Planet Organic or Wholefoods Market).
Swede or turnip
-The carrots aren’t as starchy as other root vegetables and are perfectly fine raw. I actually try to avoid ever cooking carrots because they are already sweet enough and adding the heat, turns the carbohydrates into sugars, making them even sweeter and of course less nutritious. Peel the carrots and grate them into the blender.
-Starchy veggies are best cooked, as the starches break down and make it possible for your (or baby’s) body to digest the other goodness in those roots. Peel the sweet potatoes and swede or turnip, chop up and boil till soft. Add to blender with a little of the water and blend.
-When your baby starts to chew, you may like to just mash everything up with a fork instead of blending.
Medicinal mushroom latte (a blend of cordyceps, chaga, reishi, dates and almond milk, just like in The Uncook Book or at Tanya’s)
-I was enjoying a Medicinal Mushroom Latte at work (Tanya’s) when Lake opened her mouth asking for a taste, I gave her a spoonful and she wanted more. It was almost her feeding time and I already had a mashed up avocado ready to go, so I stirred in some of the latte. She gobbled it up like nothing I’ve seen before. Can only be a good thing especially since Cordyceps is amazing for energy, reishi for relaxation and chaga for immunity. Plus all those essential fats for growth and protein for strength, both in the avocado and almonds, only add to the goodness.
-Buckwheat, unlike its name suggests, contains no wheat. This also means that there is no gluten and it isn’t a grain, rather a seed. Check out the tips in CocoQuinoa for more gluten-free porridge options. I grew up on buckwheat porridge in Russia, so for me this baby food has sentimental value. And I’m so glad… it contains protein, calcium, manganese, fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and so much more for healthy development!
– Cook buckwheat to the instructions on the packet. I usually soak 1 cup of groats for 4 hours, rinse them really well (takes me 4-5 go’s to get rid of the gooeyness), sprout for 1 day and then cook in 2 cups of water. After about 10 minutes, they should be nice and soft and you can pour out excess water. Add the buckwheat and chopped apricot to a blender, blend to a smooth paste.
GREEN & GROOVY
Pear, raw organic, peeled and cored
Peas, softened in hot water
Broccoli or spinach, lightly steamed
-This combo is such an easy way to get all those greens into your baby’s diet. The sweetness and creaminess of the pear will make anything palatable, but you can also try without it at all. Just remember my reason from above for keeping fruits raw.
-Blend everything or if your baby is chewing already, then mash the ingredients with a fork.
MY ABSOLUTE ESSENTIALS FOR WEANING
This small personal blender from Tribest! It is small enough to produce perfectly sized baby meals so there is never any waste. It’s also super light and compact, that we travel with it and even make our own smoothies on the road (bonus!).
This bamboo bowl and spoon set
! I've got a few spoon variations and this is the one that's most ergonomic and enjoyable for my little one. It also looks and feels lovely for mama (or dada) to use. And the bowl! The bowl! It has the most clever suction base, so it always remains in place no matter how much Lake wants to smack the bowl full of dangerously staining foods.
These easy-to-clean bibs
! At first, I was using Lake's milky fabric bibs, but they are now entirely stained in berry spills and even banana stains which I never realised could be so intense. Now I know. Hope it's not too late for you. These bibs have sleeves too, so even clothing stays protected.
This fun feeder for teething and weaning
! It was a gift from Lake's Kiwi grandparents, that already have two grandchildren and four kids of their own, so they know aaall the tricks. This one is extra handy, because you can put anything inside, like grapes, cucumber, apples or watermelon and not worry about choking or even preparing anything.