Saturday, March 18, 2017

Life with a 7-month-old, baby led weaning, and four adult and baby friendly recipes

I have noted before that I have no intention of moving Bite-Sized Thoughts to a baby or family-focused site. However, it has been 4 months since my last baby-related post and much has changed since then. I thought I would share some updated reflections, as well as experiences to date with baby led weaning. For those of you who aren't interested in either topic, I also share four recipes that would suit adults and babies equally well - porridge fingers, carrot-chickpea mini pancakes, chickpea scramble with turmeric and paprika, and a simple avocado salsa. Simply scroll to the end if you want to skip ahead to those!

Chickpea scramble

In November, I spoke of the enormous adjustment that pregnancy and parenthood had required. My expectations of both were completely off and I will readily admit that the first three months of motherhood were, for me, hard going at times.

Fast forward to March and things look very different. It is probably obvious that life with a 3-month-old (as Mini Bite was in November) is different to life with a 7-month-old, but I didn't understand what those differences would look like until I navigated through them. These days, Mini Bite is a mini person as much as a baby. She is interactive, knows what she does and doesn't like, will smile and giggle, and shows great interest in her surroundings. I find the days infinitely more enjoyable now that this is the case - we are no longer in a loop of feeding, changing and settling with little feedback from her except basic cries. I take genuine delight in her laughs and smiles. We have a structure to our week, with most mornings featuring an activity (baby swimming lessons, parent/baby groups, parent/baby fitness classes...) and this makes a difference too.

Courgette noodles with avocado salsa 


Other big changes involve sleep. Mini Bite spent her first three to four months resisting daytime naps unless they were on me, ideally on the move in a baby carrier. Cracking an afternoon nap in a cot was a huge achievement and a life changing milestone for me. These days, Mini Bite actually naps best in her cot and can be too distracted to fall asleep when out and about. Most of the time she will play with some soft toys and/or sing to herself before going to sleep without much fuss. Part of me misses the days when she slept peacefully on my front, but a much bigger part rejoices in the freedom I now get each afternoon - 1 to 2 hours of time to myself to cook, blog, catch up on work (the few research things I'm still involved in), clean and read. The time out from parenting also means I am ready for her when she wakes again and more able to enjoy her after a break.

Cucumber slices with tahini, and homemade pizza sticks

Another big change, of course, is the move away from frequent milk feeds and the introduction of solid foods. I still exclusively breastfeed when it comes to milk, but the time between feeds is longer. Moreover, if we are out, Mini Bite is often too distracted to feed well unless I find a very quiet spot. We have had one night with no nighttime feeds and I often now wake more than her, conditioned to expect feeds when there are now none required.

When it comes to solid food, we have adopted a baby-led weaning approach, which really just means that Mini Bite takes the lead with what and how much she eats. I have not spoon fed her anything and have not used any jars of baby food. She does have some soft / mushy foods, but I load up a spoon for her and she gets it to her mouth. Complimenting the pre-loaded spoons are finger foods that she can gnaw at, suck on and bite, although the amount she eats is still pretty minimal. The ethos of baby-led weaning is that the baby can join in and eat what you eat, so long as you watch salt and sugar and avoid honey and whole nuts. It evolved out of the shift in guidelines around when solid foods are introduced; when it was three to four months, babies weren't able to feed themselves and their digestive systems couldn't handle more than purees. Now the recommended start of solids is six months, there is no need (so the reasoning goes) to start with plain pureed vegetables fed on a spoon.

Avocado pieces and avocado on crumpet - after Mini Bite has got to it!

Many advocates of baby-led weaning give their babies exactly what they are having at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mr Bite rarely eats breakfast or lunch at the same time as me, but Mini Bite has joined in my breakfasts and it has been easy to make my lunches baby friendly. We eat dinner after she is in bed, and so her tea (between 5pm and 6pm) isn't always the same as what we would have. However, I do make an effort to give her real foods that I can eat with her, so these days I have a 5pm-6pm snack too.

A berry porridge finger and overnight oats on a pre-loaded spoon

We did start with fairly plain foods, in the form of plain vegetables (like steamed broccoli florets and carrot sticks) and lots of pre-loaded spoons with soft items (mashed sweet potato, potato, avocado). However, in the 6 weeks since introducing solids we have rapidly moved to a range of foods. I was especially delighted by being able to give Mini Bite some of my lunches when we ate out on our recent holiday - so much easier than planning separately for baby food. I list some examples of what she has tried below, but the list grows by the day and so it is not comprehensive;
  • Steamed or sauteed finger-sized pieces of cauliflower, broccoli, baby corn, carrot and pepper.
  • Roasted or boiled finger-sized pieces of potato and sweet potato, as well as mashed potato and sweet potato on pre-loaded spoons.
  • Porridge on pre-loaded spoons.
  • Overnight oats on pre-loaded spoons (oats and yoghurt, with either grated apple, mashed banana or mashed sweet potato) - this works better than porridge because it sticks to the spoon more easily.
  • Porridge fingers, in banana and berry varieties (recipe at end).
  • Mashed avocado, sweet potato, tahini and hazelnut butter on crumpets, pitta bread sticks, toast fingers and corn thins (crumpets work best as she gets most of the holey topping).
  • Homemade hummus on pre-loaded spoons.
  • Finger-sized pieces of banana, ripe pear, mango, microwaved apple slices and strawberries.
  • Small chickpea flour pancakes with grated carrot (recipe at end), plain and topped with mashed sweet potato / tahini.
  • Chickpea scramble with turmeric, paprika, peas and chopped red pepper (recipe at end).
  • Bread dipped into vegetable soup (part of my lunch when out, and made at home)
  • Sticky rice with butternut squash and cashew nut dip (part of an M&S meal I had when out).
  • The sauce from my vegan aubergine cannelloni lunch in Somerset.
  • Courgette noodles with avocado salsa (recipe for the salsa at end).
  • Homemade pizza sticks (just dough topped with tomato salsa, dried herbs, and chopped pepper).

Moving on to recipes, the mixes below really are adult and baby friendly. They are easy to make, as befits life with a baby, and will keep for several days in the refrigerator if needed.

Banana porridge fingers

Porridge fingers - banana and berry varieties
These are a favourite choice among advocates of baby-led weaning, although at the moment, Mini Bite probably does better with pre-loaded spoons of porridge or overnight oats. Nonetheless, these are so enjoyable that I will happily eat a whole batch myself if needed! They are effectiely a healthier version of flapjacks and are easily customisable to different fruits and add-ins.

Makes 4 large or 8 small fingers
Vegan

Author: Bite-sized thoughts, but adapted from the many similar recipes available online.

Ingredients
1 cup rolled oats (either leave whole, or if you want a smoother texture, briefly pulse in a food processor - I have tried both approaches and find them equally good)
1 cup oat milk, or milk of choice (avoid rice milk for children under 5, and low fat sweetened milk for babies under 2)
1 banana (for the banana variety), or 1/2 cup mixed frozen berries (for the berry variety)

Method
Preheat your oven to 160'C and prepare a loaf tin.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir thoroughly to combine. Allow to stand for 15 or so minutes.

Transfer the oat mix to your prepared tin and distribute evenly. Bake for 15 minutes, or until just golden on top and the mix has set. Allow to cool fully in the tin (it will continue to firm up on standing) before cutting into slices.

Carrot-chickpea mini pancakes

Carrot-chickpea mini pancakes
Besan flour (chickpea flour) is the star here, with grated carrot adding texture and nutrition. Use for snacking or to accompany stews, soups or bowl-based meals.

Makes approximately 12 small pancakes
Vegan

Author: Bite-sized thoughts

Ingredients
1 cup besan flour (chickpea flour)
1 cup water
1 large carrot, grated

Oil, if needed, for cooking

Method
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk well to combine.

Heat a non-stick pan over high heat and spray / drizzle with oil if required. Transfer scoops of the pancake mix to your pan, approximately a soup ladle per pancake - you should be able to cook 3 or 4 at a time. Cook for 2 or so minutes until bubbles start to appear on the surface, then flip and repeat until both sides are golden. Repeat for the remaining batter.

Chickpea scramble
Chickpea scramble with turmeric and paprika
Another easy use for besan flour, this time scrambled into bite-sized chunks that are perfect for small hands. Other vegetables would work in the batter too.

Serves 2 adults and 1 baby as a meal, if the adults have salad too
Vegan

Author: Bite-sized thoughts

Ingredients
1 cup besan flour (chickpea flour)
1 cup water
1 tbsp dried ground paprika
1/2 tbsp dried ground turmeric
1/2 cup frozen or fresh shelled peas
1 red pepper, diced

Oil, if needed, for cooking

Method
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and spray / drizzle with oil if required. Transfer approximately one-third of the mixture to your pan, initially forming a large pancake shape. Cook for approximately 2 minutes, then break up the mixture with a spatula or spoon and turn the scramble pieces over. Continue cooking, stirring regularly, for another few minutes until all pieces are golden. Repeat for the remaining batter.

Easy avocado salsa
A versatile dish that can be used as a dip, spread on toast, or used to top courgette noodles (or regular noodles). 

Makes approximately 1 cup
Vegan

Author: Bite-sized thoughts

Ingredients
1 medium avocado
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp dried ground coriander
Few cracks black pepper

Method
Combine all ingredients in a small food processor and process until semi-smooth, or your desired consistency. 

If you don't have a food processor, mash the avocado well with a fork and then stir in the seasonings.

If you have children, do you have favourite child or baby-friendly dishes?

8 comments:

  1. Good to hear Mini-Bite is eating well and that you are enjoying motherhood - I think the phase when they are so curious about all foods is wonderful. I would love to make some of your suggested recipes for lunchbox snacks but not sure how well they would go down - sadly there is less curiosity in my house and more suspicion :-( But I continue to try new things with Sylvia when I can.

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    Replies
    1. I've heard that around 3 food adventuring and varied eating often goes out the window, so we may have days of low curiousity ahead of us! I suspect Sylvia still eats better / more broadly than many children though.

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  2. Yum - love the look of the porridge fingers in particular.

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    Replies
    1. They are a new favourite of mine!

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your insightful new Mama post and feeding mini bite and delighting in her laughs and smiles, I am pleased to read that there is more structure to your life. Please don't apologise for your blog sharing of mini bite in your life, us loyal readers of yours genuinely do not mine. I like how you describe the flapjacks with child friendly name porridge fingers, made me smile. I am liking all the recipes you share here child and adult friendly

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    Replies
    1. That's a really sweet comment Shaheen - thank you.

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  4. Oh it sounds like things are going so well, I'm so happy for you. Mini Bite is growing up so fast! 7 months already?
    Honestly, I was surprised to see you feeding solid food, so I really appreciate you explaining about the baby-led weaning approach. It sounds really intuitive actually and would simplify things for people I would think. And it sounds like you are using such a great variety of foods, especially with veggies.
    I love the foods you made for both of you - such cute names =) I enjoy reading these posts and updates.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Kimmy! I appreciate your comment, as always, especially as you've been open about not wanting children yourself. I'm glad these posts can still be of interest!

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