Cave women: A perfect model of motherhood?

og og

As far as I can tell, ‘attachment parenting’ seems like a good thing to do. Though I’m not really into ‘parenting philosophies’ (the very term makes my skin crawl, tbh) I think keeping your baby close etc sounds pretty lovely and I know a lot of people that it really works for. I mean, some of it’s defo not for me. Your kids sleep in you bed? For as long as they like? Like, every night?? Er, thanking you kindly, but no. However, the whole emotional-bonding-closeness-communication stuff is fab. Obvs.

Like any ‘parenting philosophy’ though, about 5% of people who follow attachment parenting get a bit smug about it all. #understatement2015. Their way is no longer just ‘what works for me’, it becomes ‘the best way to do things’. Bleurgh. Not the stuff on the Attachment Parenting International website, that all seems very kind, thoughtful and inclusive to me.  No no, it’s all  the blogosphere-forum-comment-section chitter chatter that goes on about doing what comes ‘naturally’ and being in-tune with your baby’s needs. I mean, yeah, obvs, no one is purposefully being out of tube with their baby’s needs, are they? But does it not occur the writers of these comments that the very fact of describing what you’re doing for your baby as ‘natural’ is a pretty sure fire way of making another parent feel like they are doing something unnatural? And wrong.

One of the biggest and most vexing culprits of all this is references to what ‘cave women’ did.

Comments such as “I mean, cave women wouldn’t have (insert modern parenting practice here)” appear on blogs and forums regularly, usually in reference to attachment parenting. They are likely to have been inspired by articles such as the gem “Why Cavemen were Better Parents than we are Today.” (I know, Daily Mail, why do I even do it to myself?).

Somehow, we have come to associate the practices of our distant ancestors with the way of parenting that ‘nature intended’. More than this, that nature’s intentions are the ones we want to follow. You know: high mortality rate, fight-or-flight, survival of the fittest. Now, am I alone in not wanting to apply these principles to the care of my children? Didn’t think so.

So I’ve decided to outline a few reasons why you should not feel obliged to emulate cave people parenting. Commence ranting mode!

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A little note on choking…

Hmm, what a cheery headline this post has! Well, despite my wry and cantankerous ways I didn’t feel right doing so many posts on weaning without putting in a little something on choking. If you haven’t seen this fab PSA from St John’s Ambulance yet then take a look:

Weaning is part stressful, part fun and (hopefully the smallest) part terrifying. Whether it is mashed banana or a raw carrot, when food gets to the back of your baby’s mouth they will gag. While this a natural reflex they need to develop, it looks a hell of a lot like they’re choking, so that’s fun! I recommend you learn the difference between gagging and choking, for your own sanity. (Briefly, choking is usually silent, gagging is not).

If you feel you want to be more equipped, Millie’s Trust is a fab charity that runs basic first aid courses. The story of its founders is heart-breaking and inspiring in equal measure. And of course good old St John’s won’t steer you wrong!

And last but not least, did you know that, by law, nurseries only have to have one first aider per building? No matter how big that building is or how many children there are in it???????? I know riiiight? W the actual F? If you fancy writing to your MP about this you can do so here. Go on, bash out a strongly worded email. You know you wanna!

Well, that’s my good deed for this weekend. Back to being an eyebrow-raising cynic.

“Oh just get some bloody jars!” The weaning stuff you probably do need (and shouldn’t feel guilty about!)

tins and jars

I was at some sort of baby class while ago chatting to your mother he’s seven month old son was waking every 20 minutes in the night. That’s right, 20 minutes. That shit is full-on torture. Obviously we tried to offer empathy and a little bit of advice, but mostly we just looked at her with wide sympathetic eyes. Then she started talking about weaning and how when her son went to bed in the evening she had to start making all of his food for the next day, cooking batches etc. At this point any attempt on my part at subtle sympathy went array as I blurted out “oh just get some bloody jars!” Luckily, I’m not sure the poor harassed woman heard me, but I feel this statement nicely sums up my attitude to weaning.

Of course we all want to feed our children what fresh organic produce that we have cooked with our own hands lovingly. But we are also real human beings who have other things to do, like give said children some attention, clean their floors occasionally and SLEEP. So it’s okay to cheat sometimes. In fact, I don’t think it’s even okay to consider sometimes giving your child  precooked food as cheating. Its just life. So here’s my guide to the weaning paraphernalia that is fine to use:
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“Can I interest you in some more plastic crap, madam?” The weaning paraphernalia you DO NOT NEED.

Buying stuff for a baby is a bit like buying stuff for a wedding. Ooh, that’s a nice white dress, £90, you say? Oh, it’s for your wedding day? Then it’s £900. Oooh, what a lovely small blanket. For a baby? Well, sorry the cost just doubled.

Weaning is the same. They will try to sell you stuff. So much bloody stuff. They will manufacture products in brightly coloured plastics and then  charge a premium for what are essentially smaller versions of things you already have. And you will go, oooh, that looks useful.

But, no! You’re wise to it all now, right? You’ve been in this game for at least four months and your box room/cupboard/garage is already stuffed all that superfluous new-born junk you bought and never used. They won’t get you this time.

Well, just in case, here’s a little tour through all the superfluous weaning junk you don’t need.

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Weaning in Pictures. #WickedWednesdays

In case you hadn’t noticed, this week (and a bit) I shall posting all about weaning. So as it’s #WickedWednedsdays I thought I’d share some pics to give you a bit more insight into what you can expect from the day-to-day of administering solid food to a small human. Enjoy!

'First foods', Easter style.

‘First foods’, Easter style.

weaning mess

Be warned, to a baby, EVERYTHING is finger food.

weaning protest

There may be the occasional (daily) protest.

weaning spoon

Then there was this phase. I have no words.

The classic 'saving it for later move'. Oh yes, they'll throw delicious fresh food at you to, ahem, politely signal they're done eating. But don't think for a second that they won't consume that half-chewed cornflake.

The classic ‘saving it for later move’. Oh yes, they’ll throw delicious fresh food at you to, ahem, politely signal they’re done eating. But don’t think for a second that they won’t consume that half-chewed cornflake.

Don’t worry though, it’s mostly a bit of a laugh…

Well, at least I amuse myself.

Well, at least I amuse myself.

Like this post? Then why not like me of facebook and keep up with future hilarity.*

*hilarity not guaranteed.

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This post is linked to…

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Weaning: To purée or not to purée, that is the (tedious) question.

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puree

How old was your baby when someone of a previous generation said something along the lines of ‘he could probably do with some food now’. 3 months? 4? And what was your response? Did you look at them, aghast at their out-of-date information, and make it quite clear that the guidelines say no food before 6 months, thank you very much? Perhaps you smiled and made that non-committal ‘hmm’ sound we all have in reserve for when we don’t agree with older relatives but wish to avoid a pointless confrontation. But maybe you did agree. Your baby had been staring at up as you munched on your cornflakes that morning, with a look of strained longing on their face that very morning. Oh God, maybe there are right, maybe I’m starving her!!

When I was little, the recommendations were to wean babies on soft, mashed food at 3 months. Soon after that the guidance changed to 4 months. But now the NHS has assessed the research and decided baby-led weaning is the thing to do. And for that you have to wait until your baby is six months old.

But what is this baby-led weaning you speak of? Well, it basically means no purees, no mush, just straight onto normal grown-up solids. Not oven chips or a tikka masala, obvs, but normal fruit and veg and pasta and bread and all that good shit. In fact, in a video I was shown at a ‘weaning workshop’ a six-month old chows down a chicken leg. An actual chicken legs. Obvs the little thing has hardly any teeth, so it’s more a chicken lolly-pop (*gag*) than anything else, but you get the picture.

To be honest my first thought was ‘6 months?’ Six. Whole. Months? 26 weeks?? That is approximately 180 days of constant boob or bottle. So either your baby is attached to your body all day long (exaggeration alert) or you’re stuck in the tedious cycle of bottle washing, sterilising, formula buying and all that expensive nonsense. And that wasn’t my only objection. From pretty much the moment he exited my womb Bubs was hungry. Like, HUNGRY. And he let us know. Oh boy, he let us know. That scream. *shudder* Even when he was guzzling formula he still very often wanted copious amounts every two hours. Any hoo, as you may have guessed I didn’t make it to 6 months, alert social services immediately

But whatever my uninformed objections are, at least the guidance on weaning is pretty straight forward, you know, no mixed messages or anything…

Um, hold on a minute, I may be incorrect on that point.

When Bubs was about 4 months old I went to a weaning workshop put on at my local sure start centre (free at the point of delivery guys; you gotta love the NHS). The lovely and well informed nurse began by saying “NO FOOD BEFORE SIX MONTHS and, basically, then you can give them anything.” She gave us info about the ‘signs’ that your baby is ready for food and we watched that video. She answered our questions and it was all quite helpful. But as the session went on she started to say things like “ABSOLUTELY NO food before 17 weeks.” Wait, what? That’s a lot less than 26, right? I mean I only have a B in maths GCSE but even I know that’s, like, well different. Then she started to add “and if you do it should be SAFE WEANING, which is just pureed fruit and veg”. Purees? What? Confusion strikes!

I understand really. The nurse was aware that not all of us (me) would wait that long and she wanted to give a bit of information about what was safe for our babies. Fair dos. But then the books get involved too. Those darned books.

Enter, Annabel Karmel.

Karmel is the Gina Ford of weaning. By that I don’t mean that she recommends that you impose an anally retentive, unrealistic regime on yourself and your baby (sozzers Gina, truth hurts), but that hers is the go-to book for weaning. And good for her, I say! (Except not good for you for putting your name to a food range that includes E numbers; not cool Annabel, not cool) This was the book half of my friends bought and found very helpful. Though I think they pretty much just read the middle bit that gave them a little plan of which solids gradually. ‘At 6 months they can have everything’ is a bit vague, to be fair, so it’s not surprising that they wanted some guidance.

But here’s where it get’s tricky. After all the baby-led stuff we’ve been told about, Karmel’s book tells you to introduce totally smooth food first. That’s right folks: purees are a-go-go. Yes, with this method it’s all mushy pears and baby rice. But you’ve still got to wait until the baby is six months old.  Worst of both worlds, anyone?

May I interject at this point and just ask WHAT THE EFF IS BABY RICE? ISN’T IT JUST GROUND RICE? WHY IS IT A THING???

Needed to get that off my chest. I’ll continue.

It’s not just Annabel Karmel who still insists on basically making smoothies for your baby in the first month. Lots of books do. Including the one pictured below, which I was given whilst pregnant. Under the heading How to Wean Your Baby we are told that ‘first foods should be more like thick milk’ (#babyrice) and weaning is a “process” from liquid to solid. One could forgive a new parent for feeling like they’re getting mixed messages at this point!

pure ebba

I think you’ll agree that both the level of glamour and expression of joy seen in this picture accurately represent the average mother-of-four at tea time on a Tuesday evening.

 
To complete the muddled mixture of over-bearing instructions, throw in the advice of umpteen friends and family members (wewere told to feed them as soon as they hit 16 lbs; oh baby-led is the perfect way to do it; can’t you just give her a bit of banana??; oh, don’t give them ANYTHING sweet, it leads to obesity).

I was (sort of) lucky with weaning in that a) I had a pragmatic and supportive Health Visitor and b) I didn’t really give a shit. Early in my parenting ‘journey’ I had gone right into the middle of crazy town, oft to be found on Worry-about-every-tiny-decision Street and I-can’t-do-this Avenue, but by the time Bubs was five months I was out onto the open road heading towards How-Wrong-Can-it-Really-Go’sville.

Because here’s my assessment: Pretty much everyone who is now old enough to have a child was weaned at 3 or 4 months on mush. But also LOADS of babies have been in situations and times when pureeing wasn’t an option, ergo baby-led happened. In my current circle of friends some went hard on the baby rice, whilst others committed solely to finger food. And now? Well, all of our babies are healthy and they all eat food. And they are all, at times, fuss pots. Because they are toddlers, and that’s what happens when a human begins to discover it has free will (more on that in a later post).

Knowing that there are plenty of healthy babies who are Strictly-Karmel and another swathe who chomped on chicken legs before they could crawl made me think “Well, they both must be fine then!” Rebel that I am, I gave Bubs solids at 5 months (which he loved, btw) in both finger food and puree form. At the same time. What can I say? I’m just crazy like that.

So, whilst I should add the disclaimer that I have literally no expertise in weaning, or child nutrition, or really anything TBH, I want you to know that if your decisions about what to give your baby when are based on the welfare of that child then they are probably fine. Aren’t they?

 

What do you think? Maybe I’m being too blase and should get my facts straight? Or perhaps making decisions about weaning drove you up the wall. Did you have lots of unwelcome advice? Or would you have liked a bit more? Get involved by commenting below, tweeting me @aafew or heading over to my facebook page

This post is part of my ‘welcome to weaning’ series. Get the rest delivered straight to your inbox by subscribing above. (Yep, up there on the right, you know, where it says ‘subscribe’).

 

 

Welcome to Weaning.

The inclusion of this photo serves no purpose. But I have an intensely cute son and like to show off about it now and then.

The inclusion of this photo serves no purpose. But I have an intensely cute son and like to show him off now and then.

For a while now I’ve been trying to write a post about weaning. Where to start is the hardest part. I mean, it’s a pretty big deal. From the age 4/5/6 months (the controversy begins) you will have to feed your child actual food. No more milky one-stop-shop for you, good folk. Oh no, now you have to think about stuff like balanced diets and how to persuade a 9-month old to eat something that a) doesn’t taste like banana and b) isn’t covered in yoghurt. Some find this process quite fun; a new sensory adventure with their little one. Others see it as the next in a long line of ‘what-the-eff-am-I-doing?’ parenting moments.

Well aren’t we lucky, then, that there is such a clear, reasonable consensus on how to wean a baby. I mean, it would be a nightmare if, say, there was massive disagreement as to when you should start, how you should start etc. Oh wait, there is? Bums.

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Yes, that’s right folks, here’s yet another ‘issue’ to add to the long list of things-there-seem-to-be-a-thousand-experts-in-who-all-have-different-opinions. What have we had so far? Sleeping, breast/bottle feeding, routines (or not), discipline, going back to work, crying… Sigh.

But fear not! For I am here to tell you the secret of successful weaning. Are you ready? Because it may just blow your mind… *drum roll*

Just feed your baby, with food!

It’s crazy but it’s true. It could be baby food, it could be ‘adult’ food. As long as it’s real, actual food and not something developed in a lab using mostly E numbers, transfats and monosodium glutamate, then you’re probably fine.

This theory of mine is based purely on anecdotal evidence and the knowledge that every grown-up alive today was weaned at some stage, many of them in very haphazard ways that followed no guidelines or ‘expert’ advice. All of these people are, as afore mentioned, alive today.

My mum basically did baby-led weaning accidentally in the 80s because, well, she just did. I was chowing down a sausage as finger-food well before my first birthday. Meanwhile, some people’s parents were reluctant to give them anything that had the slightest hint of a lump in it until they had a full set of molars. And guess what? We all lived to tell the tale. Huzzah!

So, that’s the short version. But I realised recently that the reason I can’t seem to compose a bloody post on weaning is because there’s too much to say. So, the next few posts on here will all be weaning-related. A theme to start the new. I know, right, how thought through is that??? Ranting and hilarity will inevitably ensue.

Hold onto your highchairs!

What are your thoughts on weaning? Are you a regimented puree-er? An ardent baby-led believer? Or a bit laisse faire about the whole thing? Let me know by commenting below, tweeting me @aafew or going over to my facebook page.

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