Weaning post #4: When things don’t go to plan

Yesterday was not a good day. My 9 month old rejected her porridge…

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I had made it for her breakfast with blueberries*, she did not want know. It’s hard when you’ve lovingly made something for your child only for them to refuse it, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

Refusing food can happen for all sorts of reasons:

  • Teething – imagine trying to eat with teeth coming through – ouch. Or if you need to gnaw on something and the only food you are given to eat is soft. Good gnawing foods include corn on the cob, bread crusts and cold raw whole carrots – washed and peeled and rice cakes. Cooling foods include yogurt, melon, the middle seed centre of the cucumber sliced into a stick (see photo below), cold cooked vegetables from the fridge and cool water. Don’t give them food from the freezer as this can burn their gums. I know it’s common sense but it has to be said: never leave your baby alone with food.
  • Overtiredness – if you’ve missed that window of opportunity. Try to not to have mealtimes in the hour before nap time/bedtime.
  • Being unwell – having a cold can affect sense of taste and smell and appetite can also be reduced when ill. At times like this go with baby’s needs and accept they don’t want to eat and may want to have more milk feeds than usual.
  • Distractions – if there are things on the table, baby may well want to play with them, loud music, television or the radio can take attention away from food. So clear the decks and if you want music on go for chilled or classical type that’s not too loud.
  • If it’s a food that has to be spoon fed then baby might want to feed themselves – and get frustrated if they can’t. Giving them a spoon to hold as well as finger foods along with pureed/chopped foods means they feel more in control, independent and engaged.

The middle bit of the cucumber

Or it may just be because, they don’t actually like the food. I know my daughter isn’t keen on porridge as I tried again at lunchtime, this time with mashed up banana. But no, she avoided the spoon with great dexterity and pointed pointedly at my soup (I should have had porridge too).

I knew that it wasn’t because she didn’t have independence or control as she had pieces of banana as a finger food (so that rules out teething too) and a spoon.

Giving her a spoon to hold can often result in food being flicked around, in hair and on clothes and elsewhere. But she is developing her control of the spoon – sometimes managing to get food into her own mouth or feeding me which she tried to do with the porridge. Actually, the porridge ended up just about everywhere, except her mouth.

The recommendation is that you have to try a food with your baby or older child about 14 times before they accept it. I think, with porridge I am on number 6 and I will keep trying as it’s healthy, filling, cheap and versatile. Next time I am making it for the rest of the family, the baby will get a little portion too.

So what did I do about the lunchtime porridge which got rejected for the second time in a day?

I boiled an egg (the yoke has to be cooked through for babies) and warmed some low sugar/low salt baked beans. Both of which she happily ate.

Once children are about 18 months, offering an alternative to a refused meal is not recommended. They are coming into the age where they reject food to get attention or exert  independence.

But in the first year, when you and they are learning  likes and dislikes then it’s fine to offer an alternative sometimes. As long as it’s  a comparable swap – i.e. swapping savoury for savoury (rather than sweet). Or if you don’t have a savoury alternative that’s quick and easy to make  give them fruit and/or yogurt for pudding.

For older children, if they are generally good eaters, and you make them something new which they try, eat some of and really don’t like, it’s ok to swap with a comparable food, or just let them leave the food they don’t like and eat the rest. But if they regularly refuse food then swapping is not recommended as they will learn if they refuse what they don’t want they will get what they do want.

If your child is regularly refusing food, give them a small amount of a new food or refused food alongside foods they are happy to eat. Don’t give them too much attention – as even negative attention is attention they thrive on. Keep neutral, tell them to try it, and if they don’t like it just to leave it on their plate. This is why it’s good to have puddings that are nutritious e.g. fruit-based and or dairy based. So that if they refuse the main meal, they still get a relatively healthy pudding.

There have been a couple of new dishes I’ve made in the last year which my 7 year old really hasn’t liked, so in those instances I have made a sandwich for her instead as I could tell she genuinely didn’t like it. I know this goes against what our parents did but I don’t want to stand over a child making them eat something they really don’t like.

Just try not to make a big fuss about it, don’t take it to heart that they don’t always like your cooking, and don’t let it stop you trying out new recipes with them.

*I buy frozen blueberries and boil in a little water for a few minutes – these are softer than fresh blueberries so are easier for babies to eat. I would puree them for younger babies though.

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Weaning recipe #3 and family meal: Last of the Summer bean stew

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We had this this for supper a few nights ago. The photo above is of the leftovers we had for lunch the next day. I didn’t have time to chop the stew up into smaller pieces for my baby (this stew works best with chunky vegetables) – I am always in a last minute rush when I make meals – so I gave her chickpeas and haricot beans and some veg to eat with her fingers along with the stew which had been briefly whizzed.

Now that she’s 9 months old she’s really honed her pincer grasp and sits absorbed at the dinner table picking up small pieces of food. Some of those pieces of food she casually drops on the floor but most do end up being eaten.

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Peppers and courgettes are only just in season in the UK but not for long. I  buy organic (as much as possible), local when I can, and definitely British. Buying by season does make it harder in those Winter months when you’re missing out on salads and summer fruits and it does make you really appreciate produce when it comes into season again.

Ingredients

For the stew
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 red onions cut into wedges
Red and yellow pepper cut into 1 cm wedges
2 courgettes cut into batons
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
Half a tin of 400g haricot beans (optional)*
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons tomato purée
Handful of fresh basil chopped
zest from one lemon
200ml very low salt stock (not for babies) or water (for babies)

For the cous cous
200g whole grain (if you can find it) cous cous
300 ml water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice

How to…

In a pan on a medium heat cook the onion, courgette, peppers and garlic for about 5 minutes, until softened.
Add the smoked paprika and tomato purée stir and cook for a few minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and stock or water and cook for 20 minutes.
Zest the lemon and put to one side.

To make the cous cous, mix together 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, stir into the cous cous, then add and mix in the 300ml of water.
Leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Then fluff up with a fork.

Now add the beans and chickpeas, lemon and basil to the stew and and cook for 10 more minutes then serve.

Make sure you allow it to cool enough. For babies, either chop into smaller pieces or whizz a few times with the blender.  For younger babies (+6 months)  thin with a little of baby’s usual milk to consistency required.

Portion sizes

The recommended portion sizes (from Caroline Walker Trust):

Babies from 7-9 months:  80g of stew / 50g of couscous with 20g vegetable finger food

Babies 10-12 months: 90g of stew /60g couscous with 30g vegetable finger food

1-4 year olds : 115g stew / 80g couscous with 40g vegetable finger food

5-11 year olds: 140g stew / 120g couscous with 80g vegetable finger food

*I didn’t want to add the whole tin as thought would be too much – but might be fine – I used the rest in a beef stew a couple of days later.

Weaning recipe #2: Salmon and creme frâiche pasta pesto

Salmon creme fraiche pasta pesto

I came up with this recipe when my 7 year old was having salmon with new potatoes and vegetables.

I am weaning using a mixture of finger foods and purees/mashed/chopped dishes (more details in another blog post to follow).

This recipe works just as well with chicken instead of salmon (e.g. leftovers from Sunday lunch).

As shop-bought pesto has salt added it’s not ideal for babies. So I whizzed up my own – it doesn’t take long if you have a hand held blender or food processor. You can freeze what you don’t use in ice cube trays or it keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days.

I used pine nuts, but if you or your partner have food allergies, eczema or asthma, your baby is at a higher risk of having a food allergy, so make pesto without the pinenuts. (see the NHS website for more information on foods that can cause food allergies). And of course, if you know your baby already has an allergy or has eczema or asthma then just exclude the pine nuts from the recipe.

When you’re preparing the basil do it alongside your baby if you can, so they can be involved in the food preparation. If you grow you own, they could “help” you to pick the leaves and help to wash them. Or just being able to explore the leaves through touch, smell and best of all, taste. The leaves are quite big so it’s a good idea to tear them into small, manageable pieces and at around this age, babies are developing their pincer hold – as shown in the photo below.

Exploring basil

Ingredients for pesto (Makes about 20 x teaspoon portion)


50g basil (washed)
6 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
15g (1 tbsp) pine nuts
30g (2 tbsps) parmesan
Quarter of a garlic clove

How to…

Put in food processor and whizz until quite but not completely smooth – see photo below.

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Ingredients for the pasta dish (makes 3 portions)

100g (approx) Organic or wild Alaskan salmon fillet* (you need 30g cooked salmon per portion**)
Lemon wedge
150g cooked pasta*** (usually equal to 50g uncooked weight)
45g (3 level tablespoons) half fat organic creme frâiche
15g (3 teaspoons) pesto

How to…

Bake the salmon fillet in foil for 20 minutes at about 200˚C / gas mark 6 / 400˚F for 15-20 minutes (until it flakes easily).
Meanwhile cook the pasta as per instructions.
Run a little cold water through the pasta so it doesn’t stick together and put in a bowl.
If you are using larger pasta shapes or spaghetti then chop it up into mangeable pieces.
Once you have taken the salmon out of the oven, allow it to cool and remove the skin (if you haven’t already)
Break the salmon into small pieces with your fingers that are easy to eat.
Take your time as this way you can make sure you’ve removed all the bones.
Put all the ingredients into a bowl together with a squeeze lemon juice and stir.
If you are making this for a younger baby (7 or 8 months) then thin a little with baby’s usual milk and whizz briefly with blender to make to the consistency required.
Divide into three portions (each about 100g).****
Serve with two types of seasonal vegetables as finger food.

*Make sure that you are buying salmon from sustainable sources by using the Marine Stewardship Council’s product finder on their website.

**30g portion of cooked fish for 7-9 month olds, about 40g portion for 10-12 month olds, for children between 1-4 years about 45g per portion and 5-11 year olds about 90g (all from the Caroline Walker Trust CHEW! Guidance which you can download online)

***I’ve used orzo pasta as this is easy for babies to eat at around 8-9 months and does not need chopping. Any other pasta is fine too, it just needs chopping up.

****It will keep in the fridge for two days. You can freeze portions too and it will keep in the freezer for about 2 months.