Baby Led Weaning Diary
Thanks to Guardian food writer Emma Sturgess for this excellent insight into What They Actually Eat.
“Franklin is 10 months and started BLW with toast when he was six months. Breastfed until seven months, he has three meals and two or three 210ml formula bottles a day.
Breakfast: Porridge ‘fingers’, banana, apple
The online shop doesn’t come till tonight so breakfast is from the cupboard. Frank will use a pre-loaded spoon for porridge, but it’s easier to take a tip from the BLW Cookbook and microwave equal quantities of oats and milk for two minutes. Cut into fingers while hot, leave to cool a bit, and you’ve got a soft, easily-handled miracle food. We’re supposed to eat the same thing, but while I’d walk through fire for Frank, I wouldn’t eat porridge fingers.
Lunch: toasted bagel with peanut butter and soft cheese, banana.
The electrician arrives halfway through lunch and I have to discuss circuit boards with him from the dining table. Bagels are great for starting BLW because they’re robust and chewy, allowing the topping to be sucked off; scrambled egg’s a good one.
Dinner: Stew with carrots, peas and potatoes
I’m out tonight but The Boy King and his Dad have beef stew. It is reported that he ate loads (he’ll have the chunks of meat whole, swallow some bits and let the rest fall out) but maintained an imperious frown throughout. I would normally add bacon to the stew, but it’s too salty, so I use extra mushrooms instead.
BLW has helped Frank with his fine motor skillz, and this morning he tears a finger of crumpet (supermarket own brands tend to be less salty) in two and eats the pieces. We have a packet of unsalted butter on the go for Frank.
Lunch: Cheesy lentil wedges with red pepper strips
Another dalliance with the BLW cookbook. If you cook a bit it’s nothing new, but the ideas are helpful. The cheesy lentil wedges involve fried onion, cooked lentils, cheese, breadcrumbs and an egg, baked for half an hour. Delicious, but the wedges crumble in Frank’s vice-like grip. I recycle bits by clumping them together with my fingers, but the recipe needs another egg. Also: windy.
Dinner: Salmon with fragrant broth
A Jill Dupleix recipe of pan-fried salmon served with a broth of mushrooms, spinach and shallots spiked with fish sauce, chilli and lime has been a regular since the heady pre-Frank days. Using low-salt stock and adding the chilli just to ours at the end (Frank doesn’t mind chilli but sometimes rubs food in his eyes) makes it BLW-friendly. I overcooking his rice for stickiness (we’ve run out of noodles) but it remains stubbornly free-flowing. I help him get a couple of spoonfuls into his mouth. The post-rice clean-up operation is heinous. I keep finding bits stuck to my socks.
Frank’s at nursery, where he dines extensively on hotpot despite refusing breakfast. I’ve had trouble with nursery: I explained BLW, then found them spoon-feeding him. I’d been wondering why he occasionally opens his mouth to be fed. Turns out they didn’t think it was important. Health and safety was raised as an objection to him eating with his hands from the chair tray, so they stopped bothering and didn’t tell me. Grrr.
I went through it all again with the manager, and they’re consequently impressed with how well he’s able to feed himself (I took a roll-out table mat in, so cross- contamination is no longer an excuse). I know they think I’m a mentalist and quite possibly use a Mooncup, but I don’t care. BLW’s the best thing we’ve done with Frank and if they couldn’t do it (a mistake since some health visitors here are now recommending BLW) I’d send him elsewhere.
Dinner: Vietnamese meatballs with rice and stir-fried vegetables
Meatballs are, as they say, amazeballs for BLW. Once your baby can grasp one and hold it up to his or her mouth (Frank uses an open hand to stop them falling out) you’re onto a winner, and you can glam them up a bit. We do a vaguely Asian version taken from a Diana Henry recipe, using minced pork with coriander, spring onions, ginger and lime zest and served with chilli sauce, rice or noodles and veg. Tonight Frank has either got wind or toothache and after dropping food on the floor and having a brief go with some rice, he’s had enough.
Nursery again: two whole mealtimes’ respite from washing the highchair. It’s a Silver Cross Doodle which is sturdy, looks great and has a removable tray, but cleaning the bleeding thing drives me up the wall. The floor’s wooden so we just sweep and wipe it after he’s done, and take supermarket paper tablecloths when we visit people with carpet. Even when Frank’s not here, we eat at the table – another positive side-effect of BLW.
Dinner: Meatloaf and salad
Mince, mince, lovely mince. A new recipe, Jill Dupleix’s take on meatloaf, which involves beef mince squished together with sausagemeat, mustard, leeks, red peppers and an egg, and topped with canned tomatoes which form a built-in sauce. Cut into thick slices, it’s very easy for Frank to handle.
Breakfast: Crumpets, banana
Most babies have one food they’ll never refuse, and Frank’s is banana. We keep the fruit bowl on the table, so something placatory is always within reach.
Lunch: Leftover meatloaf and lentil wedges, salad, tomatoes
The lentil wedges are more resilient after a couple of days in the fridge, but Frank – the son of two enthusiastic meat eaters – prefers the meatloaf.
Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic
Grumpiness descends as Frank displays a profound disinterest in his garlicky baked chicken thighs (from Nigella Lawson’s latest, Kitchen). They’re softer and fattier than chicken breast and crumble less easily, so they usually go down a treat, though it’s essential to remove the gristly knobbles at the ends. Either he’s disappointed that I’ve dropped a cultural/culinary clanger by serving his with stir-fried pak choi, or it’s wind.
These used to be just as messy as everything else, but as his proficiency grows, Frank’s dropping less and less food. He makes up for this by dropping his sippy cup, which nursery has been a big help in establishing the use of. Now he can drink water easily, which started at about 9 months, I feel better about slipping him the odd bit of ham.
Lunch in a cafe, and I glow with pride as Frank tackles sandwiches (egg mayo, tuna mayo, turkey and cranberry sauce) with gusto. It’s his first encounter with tuna mayonnaise and he clearly hates it, which leads to some very amusing faces. We tidy up quite a bit before we go – I’m still not used to wandering blithely off, leaving bits of my child’s lunch caked to the highchair.
Fishcakes with spinach
Made with mash, salmon, spring onions, lemon zest and an egg, fried and then finished in the oven, these are a textural puzzle; crisp on the outside and soft inside. Good fun to watch, until Frank sneezes into his.
Weetabix makes a horrendous mess, dries like cement and is as tenacious on the way out as it is on the way in. Nevertheless Frank loves holding a whole milk-soaked biscuit in his hands and stuffing it in as lumps fall damply onto the newspaper spread below. The pear is topped and tailed and Frank reduces the whole fruit to pulp in what seems like seconds. He’s come a long way – the skin used to make him gag, although he’s never come close to a choke. Now he just coolly swallows it.
Cheese, toast, red peppers
Hard cheese is salty, but by the power of the traffic-light wheel used on supermarket packaging, I’ve tracked down some pasteurised Emmental which isn’t quite so bad. Sticks of this with toast and red peppers make a quick, boring but kind-of-balanced lunch.
Frittata, bread and butter, salad
Leftover garlic chicken, spinach, potatoes and onions go into a one-pan Sunday night fry-up. We think Frank’s finished, but he gets a second wind as soon as we take the tray off the high chair, finding lumps of frittata in his bib and nestled by his leg, and using his freshly-wiped hand to convey them to his freshly-wiped face. And then it’s time to wash the high chair. Surprise!”