In September 2017 I had a baby.
Long before our little boy, A, was born. I knew that I would be taking a holistic approach to his upbringing.
Having done the usual school, university, career conveyor belt I was quite clear that when the time came to become a mum I wanted to ignite a pretty under-used part of my brain.
Having spent so many years being logical and process driven (I am a project manager) I was really keen to parent in a way that let my instincts take over and not be bound to textbooks and the huge industry which seems to have made having a baby into a black and white science. I believe this is all quite a scary phenomenon that generations before us were not subjected to, so I shall refer to this commercial juggernaut-designed-to-make-mums-feel-bad as The Industry.
I wanted to do it my own way, make my own decisions and base my baby’s upbringing on instinct and common sense.
So far, so good! I am absolutely not an earth mum- my boy has been mixed fed since he was born and ate his first Wotsit aged 3 months. I use disposable nappies and he almost always has a mucky face no matter how much I try to make him look like a Boden model! But one thing I am absolutely resolute about is that I want him to love good, healthy food and have a balanced and unfussy attitude towards eating.
Food has been a massive part of my life since I was little. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about it, talking about it, and of course cooking it. I once wrote a letter to Nigella asking to do work experience with her ( I never actually sent it…) and I love nothing better than to read recipe books in bed. So it was one of my biggest fears that having a baby would mean that I wouldn’t be able to ever cook again, or worse still, that my baby would be a fussy eater.
This fear was made all the more scary when I started talking to my NCT friends (basically the fountain of all my knowledge and a group of the strongest, most fabulous women I know) about different approaches to weaning, and it quickly became apparent that The Industry has introduced some quite clear ‘categories’ you can fall into when choosing how to introduce solids. There is the traditional spoon fed approach, there is baby led weaning, there are mixtures of the two….frankly it was quite scary and I could not decide what was best. Worse still, there was suddenly book upon book of new recipes, new techniques associated with each type of weaning which made me question; is my own meatball recipe not enough for my baby? Do I need to buy a new cookbook so I can make a meatball which fits in line with BLW principles? I was starting to get quite overwhelmed and felt like I would have to learn cooking all over again!
But then, my common sense kicked in. Hang on a minute….I know how to cook, my child will be eating my food for years to come, why do I need to pigeon-hole my weaning approach and learn new recipes? The whole idea of attributing The Industry to something I already know so much about suddenly seemed ridiculous.
Of course I started A with basic purees and plain veggies. Even I recognise that you cannot begin a baby’s weaning with a jalfrezi when they have only had milk before. But we quickly moved on to more complex foods of all textures and types, and while staying within NHS advice about salt/sugar/allergens etc (this is one of the few official areas I DO listen to!) I was able to enjoy cooking again and start getting A really excited about food.
Of course it can be hit and miss and along with the usual concerns about choking I also appreciate that A is still only 8 months old and we have many years to instill lifelong habits for healthy, good eating. However, I am really excited to be on this journey and hope to be able to share some of our experiences on this blog so other parents and carers can also feel more confident to use their instincts too when weaning their own babies.