Food Blog Friday: baby-led weaning edition 

I missed last month. I’ve been cooking dinner almost every night of the week, but it has been boring stuff and I haven’t bothered to get the camera out during dinners. But this month, Food Blog Friday is back with a Baby-Led Weaning special edition! 

I’m including two recipes here that I made for Avery recently. They’re a little more “recipe” than our usual basic steamed brocolli or mini meatballs, but they’re still ridiculously simple. 

Recipe 1: Brown Rice Balls

Served here with liver pâté balls (from previous post)

Ingredients

  • Rice (I used brown basmati, but use whatever you’re comfortable cooking with) 
  • Drizzle of rice vinegar
  • Drizzle of maple syrup*
  • Tumeric (optional) 
  • Sesame seeds (optional) 

Directions

  • Cook your rice, covered, until it is slightly overdone. I find my rice is at its stickiest when the bottom layer starts to crust to the pan. 
  • Stir in just a dab of maple syrup (maybe a tsp per 2 cups cooked rice) 
  • Stir in a drizzle of rice vinegar (roughly 2 tsp per 2 cups cooked rice) 
  • Roll into balls just big enough for baby to eat it in 2 bites 
  • Optional: toast sesame seeds and mix up with a dash of Tumeric. Roll balls in this mixture. 
  • Refrigerate or serve warm. If refrigerating, wrap up tightly in cling film and put in an air tight container so they don’t dry out. You can also drizzle a sauce of your liking on them to rehydrate. We had some homemade beef gravy leftovers that we used for one meal of rice balls and that went over well. 
  • *Note: the maple syrup is something I saw on another recipe online and I assume it is needed to help hold your rice together. I didn’t try without, but true sticky rice shouldn’t need that, I wouldn’t think. If you try this without a sugar added let me know if it turns out. 

Recipe 2: 4 ingredient banana oat pancakes

I got this recipe here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup rolled oats 
  • 2/3 cup milk (or milk substitute – I used goat milk) 
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chia seeds (these act as a great egg-like binder and have more oméga fatty acids than you’ll ever need in a day) 
  • Coconut oil (or your oil of choice) for frying them up in the pan

Directions:

  • Throw the first 4 ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. 
  • Pour batter into preheated and oiled pan in a size your baby or toddler can handle. 
  • Cook like regular pancakes. Flip when  browned on one side, remove when   browned on other side. 

So. Easy. These actually taste good to me, too. Avery only likes them cold, and she only likes them as a snack when she is playing. She’s not a fan in general of grains that are formed into a sheet (like bread or pancakes). It’s a texture thing I think. But she is willing to eat these, I think because they taste like banana. 

Oh and a bonus recipe – the jam in the picture with the pancakes. 

Recipe 3: “Jam” 

Directions:

  • Lightly steam frozen mango and frozen cherries (or whatever yummy frozen fruit mixes you have). About half a cup. 
  • Put in a container with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds. 
  • Pour in some of the steaming water from the bottom of your steamer. About 1/4 cup of liquid. 
  • Give the container a shake and let sit for an hour or so. Shake it again and let sit again. In a couple of hours the chai seeds will become like gelatin and the fruit/berries are like jam. This stuff is tasty on its own, or spread on these pancakes! 
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Avery’s 8th Month

Guys, Avery is 2/3rds of the way through her first year. I know how often new parents are warned, “it goes by so fast,” but holy hell, I think time is speeding up with every passing month. 
New This Month

         Mobility/Gross Motor

  • Crawling is on the horizon. She scoots forward and backward on her tummy. She gets up on all fours and sways. She spends more time voluntarily in Cobra position than on her bum now. 
  • She likes to hand her toys to us, she reaches into her toy basket and pulls out what she wants, and she shakes her shaker to the beat.
  • She gives HUGS. Heart melting, arms around you hugs. She’ll reach over and wrap her arms around us, lay her head on an arm or shoulder and gaze up at us with a smile. 

        Health

  • She has been teething on and off for the last 2 months, but no new teeth yet. Gums swell and white tooth tips poke through and then recede. 
  • Still battling eczema. Her body has been pretty much free and clear since 6 months, but her face and forearms were really bad (and constituted yet another trip to the doctor) through her entire 7th month. Now, with the help of a higher dose of corticosteroid (that we weren’t 100% comfortable with), her skin is usually a lot less inflamed. If we discontinue use of the higher dose of steroid, though, it flares right back up again. Not ideal, since it’s for temporary use only. 
  • First cold. It lasted 4 days and although there were some tough times to get through, she was super brave through the experience. 

         Nutrition/Baby-Led Weaning 

  • She drinks water from one of those 360° anti spill baby cups, just to wash down food when she eats lunch and dinner. She skipped the sippy cup with the spout – never did get the hang of it. 
  • Takes the bottle!!! We went 7 months dealing with her outright refusal to take the bottle, but we kept offering it (and kept having to dump pumped, expired milk down the drain  😢), and then one day she just guzzled a bottle down. Of course now we’re kind of outgrowing the bottle stage anyway… But it will be helpful for the two upcoming bedtimes Mo will have to do without me (because of evening work meetings…) 
  • She can eat most meals without getting food on the floor. Baby led weaning has done wonders on her pincher grasp. She’ll grab things like a single black bean and get it right in her mouth. And if we try to help her out with a spoonful she ignores it and prefers to feed herself. She eats everything we give her. 
  • We think she is starting to sign “milk.” we’ve been doing baby sign language from the start (about 4 months) and we’re eager to see when she’ll have the motor control to start doing signs herself. She doesn’t do the whole motion for milk, but she holds her fist out to us and seems very excited when I respond by letting her nurse. 

        Social

  • She and the cats are working their shit out. She grabbed a tail too tightly and the cat screeched at her, and Avery started to cry. Avery also cries if the one cat beats up the other cat, so I think she recognizes when a cat is being hurt or bothered and she doesn’t want that to happen. Since that interaction, she has been much more gentle. Still tries to grab them tightly if she gets too excited, but for the most part is happy to just watch them walk by. One cat even slept on her lap and she just smiled and sat quietly and enjoyed the moment.  
  • She has gotten over a lot of her stranger anxiety and separation anxiety (although I’m cautious about this one because I think it’s supposed to peak a lot later) and now lets almost anyone hold her if we give her fair warning. The only person she still seems to have a problem with is her 1 year old cousin… 

         Sleep

  • She sleeps in her crib at night now after spending most of this month sleeping with me on the floor mattress in her room. She sleeps for 1 to 3 hours at a time on her own now before waking and crying for me. 
  • Naps are good – predictable and easy (nurses to sleep and I do the ninja roll away, or bounces to sleep in the carrier). She has 3 naps a day: 8:30-9:30, 11:30-1:30, and 4-5. This was her naturally set schedule that we supported and nurtured, rather than enforced. We’re now getting her used to napping alone in her room using the old floor mattress trick. 
  • Yesterday she napped in her room for 2 hours while I got a  bunch of gardening done in the backyard with the baby monitor in my pocket. Definitely a first for that kind of independent nap in her room. 

        Likes

        • She still loves music class. She loves music and dancing outside of the class, too. When we dance around the house to oldies she kicks her legs to the beat, and when we clap for her, she slaps her knees to the beat. I really don’t care if she pursues music lessons as a kid or not, but she comes from a musical family and I know her grandparents in particular would love it if she continued to get enjoyment from it. 
        • Some of her favourite new foods this month have been: asparagus, trout, broccoli and meatloaf (omg she loved that meatloaf…). She’s a savoury girl. She makes a sour face at even the sweetest homemade apple sauce (which isn’t what I expected given that my pregnancy craving was lemons!). 
        • Thank god she loves sitting outside with us, just chilling in the back yard, playing with grass. She loves grass, and has already eaten some when I looked away. And some dirt. We’re going to be spending a lot of time in the back yard this summer what with building our chicken coop (and caring for chickens) and putting in a full garden this year that I didn’t have the energy for last year in my third trimester of pregnancy. 

        Dislikes

        • Sharing with her cousin. Although she’s happy to hand her toys over to her Mo and I, heaven forbid her 1 year old cousin tries to play with a toy she’s holding… One of the books we’re going to read in an upcoming parenting book club meeting is It’s ok not to share. I’m really curious about this book. I was always a terrible sharer (and still am… I’ll stab your hand with my fork if you think you’re sharing my food), but it’s important to me that Avery learn to share because I think it’s a part of being kind and compassionate to others. 
        • Bedtime. Her bedtime routine hasn’t changed, but now when she gets to the pyjama part of the routine she starts crying. Then she’s usually happy to brush her teeth, but cries wildly again when it’s time to settle in the dark. Maybe she really understands that it means sleep time now, and she is fighting sleep? 
        • Putting her arms through sleeves. I’m paranoid that she must have had her pinky bent back a few times and has built up this association with putting sleeves on. We can’t get a sweater on without tears. 
        • Sour things. She isn’t a big fan of kiwi or pineapple or off season berries that are sour. She’ll eat them (this girl never refuses food…), but she grimaces through it. Hopefully as we come into fresh spring berries in our back yard and at the market she’ll like them. 

          Phew, this was a big update! She is developing so much every day now that the changes from month to month seem huge. And now we’re seeing more personality developments and big mobility milestones, which is even more exciting than the earlier months (although first smile and laugh were pretty epic).  I can’t even fathom what I’ll be writing about her this time next month. The changes are so individual to her unique personality and developmental trajectory now. It just gets better and better…. 

          We Went to a Baby-Led Weaning Workshop

          I’m trying not to do too much stuff with my baby. I have lots of non-parenting work to do and I like to just spend my quality time with Avery quietly, relaxing at home. But I had finished all my work for the week by Thursday, and when my naturopath (from hypnobirthing classes) invited me to a baby-led weaning workshop on Friday morning I decided it would be a good learning experience – and it couldn’t have been more appropriately timed in terms of Avery’s development. We’ve been dabbling in solids for a few weeks now and I had LOTS of questions.

          The workshop was hosted at a local high-end grocery store (the kind I never shop at because I prefer to pay a reasonable amount of money for my food). It was led by a naturopath who specializes in prenatal care and children’s health. She has been offering this workshop for 15 years, and is an encyclopedia of all the new knowledge on weaning, allergies, nutrition, and even choking.

          *cool fact #1: there is no increased risk of choking with baby-led weaning vs spoon-feeding purées. Babies will gag. This is OK and is not the same thing as choking (it’s important to know the difference). This reflex will go away, but yes, it is very unsettling while it lasts.

          The first half of the 3 hour workshop was lecture style. I made sure to ask about allergies and food sensitivities since Avery has eczema. 

          Allergies and Food Sensitivites

          The instructor is a firm believer that baby eczema is almost always food related, even though many traditional MDs will say otherwise. She said that if your baby reacts to a certain food, you need to cut that food out (seems obvious). I asked if/when that baby would ever be able to try that food again, and here’s the tip I got:

          *Fact #2: Wait 3 months before reintroducing a food that caused a reaction. Babies usually outgrow food sensitivities but the gut needs to heal from the first exposure, and it might need some time to mature a little more before being ready to handle that food iten again. 

          She recommended bone broth for gut healing, BTW. I found a great post about bone broth here. Also important to note on this topic is that a serious allergy doesn’t show up on the first exposure. The first exposure may just look like a mild sensitivity. The real danger of an allergic reaction (like anaphylaxis) will happen on the 2nd or 3rd try. So be ever watchful when it comes to allergy-prone foods like nuts, eggs, soy, shellfish… But DO try them before 1 year old because the latest research shows that early exposure decreases risk of allergies. We actually got a prescription from our family doctor for a child epi pen and we have it on hand JUST IN CASE.

          IRON REQUIREMENTS

          The big concern in babies who are 6 months or older is iron deficiency. There are mutliple factors that lead to an iron deficiency in infants. One is that their ability to absorb iron from breastmilk changes as they start eating solids (maturing gut and all). Another factor is just not getting enough iron-rich foods. Babies need 11mg of iron a day, and even iron-rich foods like spinach provide surprisingly small percentages of the daily requirement (a 2 ice cube size serving of spinach, for example, provides less than 10% of the requirement). Our instructor recommended looking at the Dieticians of Canada Food Sources of Iron guide.

          *fact #3: a good reason to hold off on introducing dairy until 9+ months is that dairy can inhibit absorption of iron.

          *fact #4: Meat and legumes actually make a good first food (instead of fruits) because they are high in iron. Liver is the best meat for your baby in terms of mineral and vitamin content. 

          Recommendations around baby cereal as a first food are changing – they might not be as healthy as once thought because babies <9 months don’t yet have all the digestive enzymes to digest refined carbohydrates. However, iron fortified baby cereals do have a place in your baby’s diet as an iron supplement if you can’t get enough iron into them through unrefined foods.

          Making the Food

          The second half of the workshop was hands on. We each got to choose a food from the counter to prepare for all the babies in the class, and then we were left to figure out how to make it in a way that would work well for baby led weaning. I chose liver because a) I love liver, and b) everyone scoffed at the liver and I always choose the underdog.

          I made a liver and apple pâté  with just a little olive oil. Fry everything up in a pan, put in a blender and pulse until the biggest lumps are gone and everything is blended together, but keep it thick enough that a baby could use their hands to pick up bits to feed themselves. 

          Other people made spiraled beets, steamed apple wedges, whole grain cereal, and  meatballs. Here’s  Avery’s plate before and after:

          My favourite tips on preparing food for baby-led weaning:

          • Steam apple or pear wedges rather than puréeing or giving raw (skin on is fine) 
          • Buy a spiralizer to play with food textures. Fruits and veg are great spiralized and then baked. 
          • Make little meatballs, either a size the baby can bite into, or small enough to pop in their mouth whole without being a choking hazzard
          • Make liver into a pâté
          • Cook whole grain cereals like oats and barley that are thick enough for baby to grab handfuls

            I hope someone out there was able to get some useful info from this summary of what I learned today. We had a surprising amount of fun learning and cooking, and not so surprising, Avery LOVED trying all the food. We have a real food lover on our hands. I just hope this enthusiasm extends into the picky toddler years…

            (these pictures are crappy quality because I had to use the selfie lens on my phone and she was being a wiggle worm) 

            Sleep & Solids

            I’m hopping aboard the sleep struggles train that seems to be going through blogville these days. 

            Avery is going through the 4 month sleep regression and for 2 weeks now she has been waking up every 45 min to 2 hours. My wife offers to take a shift, but if she tries to rock her to sleep during her wake-ups she usually gets more upset and more awake with every passing second; versus, if I give her the boob she’s out like a light. 

            I watch her on the monitor to make sure she isn’t going to get herself back to sleep before I get up (this happens a couple of times a night, usually she just needs to get herself rolled over and she’s fine), and if the whining intensifies I trudge down the hall to her cozy room and try to get as much enjoyment out of our middle of the night nurses as I can. She falls asleep within a minute of nursing, but the problem is, I usually do to. Even in the uncomfortable wooden arms of the IKEA chair. And then 45 minutes has passed by the time I get back to bed and it’s not long before the next wake-up. 

            This too shall pass. This morning at 6 I brought Avery in our bed and she slept in until 9. I feel so refreshed thanks to that. But ask me again at 11:45pm tonight when I’ve already woken up twice …

            The other thing that has been on my mind is starting Avery on solid food. I’d like to wait until she’s 6 months because I feel like she’s already so easily distracted during nursing and even though she has plenty of wet diapers she seems so thin to me… So I don’t want to worry about solid foods competing with my milk for her interest. 

            HOWEVER, she is really interested in what I eat right now. She grabs for it and watches it disappear in my mouth with awe. I’ve been teaching her baby sign language and I sign “eat” when I’m eating something, with the hopes that she’ll be able to ask for solid food eventually, and keep it differentiated from the sign for “milk”. 

            So I think at this point we’re just waiting for her to be 100% stable sitting up on her own and for the tongue protrusion reflex to go away and then we’ll start. We’re going to start with purées because she is high risk for food allergies, but we also like the idea of baby-led weaning/feeding so she can work on her fine motor skills. We’ll probably do a blend of both approaches. 

            I had a dream that I was feeding her little bits of cucumber and sweet potato as her first taste of food and my wife wasn’t there. I woke up feeling extremely guilty… Solid foods are going to be my wife’s domain since the breastfeeding was mine. 

            So many exciting new stages around the corner… Sleeping through the night, eating solid food… Looking forward to it.