Sunday, 22 August 2010

Baby-led weaning

As many of you will know, we have been using baby-led weaning with Eleanor, and we used it with Rosemary, too, a few years ago. Back then, it was really quite a new idea (though, in actuality, quite an old one, of course) and many, many people thought we were mad, strange, or endangering our child. Some people still think this, but it has certainly become more widespread and understood and lots more parents are using this method.

If you don’t know what baby-led weaning is, very basically, it’s starting with finger food rather than purees, it’s letting the baby decide (to an extent, obviously) what they want to eat, it’s taking a step back and chilling out about the whole eating process, and it’s about eating together, rather than spoon-feeding your baby, then eating later. Oh yes, and it’s about mess. Lots of it.


That photo doesn’t really show the mess to its full extent. Hmm. Here’s a top after a dinner of pasta and tomato sauce:


I’d take a photo of the floor after a meal, but fortunately we have a very useful cleaning machine:


I would advise anyone embarking on baby-led weaning to get one. (And you might also want to check out this morning’s post about a new laundry product – unless you’ve got some secret stain-removal formula up your sleeve.)

There are supposed to be a bunch of benefits to baby-led weaning, from reducing the likelihood of allergies, producing children who are more adventurous with food and providing excellent practice in fine-motor skills (picking up peas is quite a challenge, you know). I can’t really answer to all these in any scientific way, but I can say that Rosemary doesn’t have any allergies (so far, of course), we think she’s incredibly fussy with food, but when we compare her with many of her peers it turns out she has a very wide-ranging palate, and Eleanor certainly developed the pincer grip very early. The biggest benefits to us, though, have been the ability to eat as a family, not having to spend huge amounts of time pureeing, making going out very easy (the baby just eats what you’re eating – pretty much) and saving a bit on dog food – oh, and the pure joy of watching our two girls discover and explore food, enjoying (almost) every single moment of it as they do so.

If you’re thinking about going down the baby-led weaning route, we would highly recommend it (and will tell anyone who asks this – and many people who don’t ask, too). There are a few websites (, out there you can read and a search will bring up a bunch of people blogging about their adventures in baby-led weaning. There’s also a book, Baby-led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. I haven’t read it, but it’s written by the woman (an ex-health visitor and Deputy Programme Director of Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative) who came up with the idea, and I know lots of people who have read it and highly recommend it.

A few tips for starting off and moving on

We started with fruit (e.g. mango and pear), steamed vegetables (e.g. carrot, brocolli and potato), roasted vegetables (e.g. courgette, pepper, carrot, roasted for about 15 minutes in extra virgin olive oil) – all of them cut into roughly adult-finger-sized pieces. For most things, keep the skin on, as they can get a grip on the skin, and they suck the flesh of the non-skin sides. For bananas, use the splitting into three trick (push your finger into the top centre of a banana and it will split into three lengthwise), because cutting them up makes them too slippery. Most of these were things that we were eating anyway, or we adjusted the menu to include them – we almost never cook something just for the baby.

Toast is great at this age. Get some unsalted butter in (we use Lurpak Spreadable Unsalted, but there are plenty of others) and provide soldiers of toast with butter, cream cheese, goats cheese, hummus, guacamole, pear and apple spread (we get this from the healthfood shop, and it’s just concentrated pear and apple, with nothing added, though Eleanor has now had ordinary jam), etc. Crumpets are very good, too – cut into three lengthwise for ease of gripping.

You can gradually add more things in, such as pasta (fusilli works well, and spaghetti is brilliant, though one of the messiest meals) with a sauce (cheese sauce went down well with both of ours, as did a tomato-based sauce), meat (Eleanor is very fond of steak, sausages are easy for them to hold, though avoid the highly-processed stuff that will be full of salt), chunks of cheese.

As they get older, as well, you can give them food on a spoon, such as yoghurt and porridge (though both of these they can feed themselves using their hands) – they’ll usually want to take control of the spoon themselves, which does lead to lots of mess. You’ll want to gradually offer a spoon now and again, to introduce them to cutlery, anyway, though I must admit Rosemary does still enjoy using her fingers. We’ve recently started putting Eleanor’s food on a plate or bowl, as well. She’ll usually take the food off it for a bit, but after a while she’ll turn it upside down or try to throw it on the floor (melamine or wood is definitely advised, rather than bone china) – before that the food just got plonked on the tray of her high chair (which luckily is removable).

As they get older, they’ll be able to pick up small bits of food, such as peas, beans, diced vegetables, rice, and so on. Eleanor now eats what we’re having and we tailor the meals much less often to her. Examples of meals/foods she’s had recently include risotto, minestrone soup (just the bits, not the liquid), creamy leeky tagliatelle, tortilla (both the Spanish omelette kind and the Mexican kind, in the form of a quesedilla), eggs chips and beans, chocolate cake, Cheerios, noodles, porridge, yoghurt, sushi, lamb, steak, cauliflower cheese with mashed potato, and so on and so on.


If you’re thinking about baby-led weaning, but aren’t sure, feel free to ask questions in the comments. If you’re on Twitter, there’s a #blw hashtag, where people will answer your questions.

Did you use or are you using baby-led weaning? Was it successful? Do you like the puree route? Have you done it both ways?

Review: Boost Your Wash


So, as some of you may know we’re doing baby-led weaning with Eleanor, as we did with Rosemary (incidentally, it seems I haven’t done a post about that, so I will rectify that very soon). Anyway who’s done baby-led weaning, will know that, while it is absolutely fantastic, it’s also really, really, really messy. So, when Aaron from Publicasity contacted me to ask if I wanted to try it out, I really did jump at the chance (in fact, I did actually do a little jump and squee at the possibility of something that could get the food stains out of Eleanor’s clothes – sad, very sad).

I’ve tried Ariel Activelift, I’ve tried Vanish, I’ve tried the two combined, along with various other detergents (sadly, my environmental consciousness does not go far enough to try the ecological ones, having grown up using them and wearing very stained clothes – though maybe they work better these days?). Nothing seems to work very well. The only thing that does much good is soaking the clothes in (diluted, obviously) bleach (which isn’t much use for the coloured clothes) and, well, if you know me at all, you will know that I really can’t be  bothered with that much hassle (or, perhaps more importantly, I do not have the time).

So, I tried this new one out – it’s supposed to remove odours and has antibacterial agents in it too (not overly keen on antibacterial agents, I have to say, but I’ll live it with it) – and, blimey, it’s really good. It didn’t get rid of everything. The very dried in pasta sauce stain was still there, though considerably faded. But it did get rid of much more than anything else. Raspberry stains, dried-in food stains of varying origins that have been there for a few months now (actually, even some that have been there for a few years, on Rosemary’s old clothes). Some of Eleanor’s white clothes look white again. And, as an added bonus, it got rid of some sweat stains on some shirts and ingrained grey dirt on some shirt collars. It didn’t get rid of the purple paint on one of Rosemary’s dresses.

All in all, I would definitely recommend it for stain removal. Having only been using it for about a week, I can’t say whether it has any adverse effects. I’ll probably dig out the stained clothes in each colour and do a separate wash of them, as I don’t want to be using an antibacterial agent too much, but will definitely be using it and buying another bottle when this one runs out.

Do you have any tips/products for getting food (and other) stains out of clothes? If you use baby-led weaning, do you find it as messy? 

Disclosure: I was given a free sample of the product, but nothing else.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Gallery: A memory

Well, I thought it’s about time I joined in with The Gallery and this week’s prompt is a particularly nice one, I think, because that’s what photographs usually are for me – memories. Of course, they can’t replace actual memories, but they can usually jog them and remind us of a place, a person, a feeling, or just who we were once upon a time.

This is me, many many moons ago:


Rosemary is just about to start school, which will hopefully be a wonderfully exciting and fascinating adventure for her. And I really believe she is going to love school, as long as they can challenge her enough. They weren’t able to challenge me enough, which is why, at the age of seven, I swapped the schoolroom for the kitchen. This is me in my home school. This is where I spent my mornings soaking up knowledge. Delving into the wonders of algebra and symmetry, finding out about the Egyptians and the Greeks, drawing pictures of plants and birds, doing science with candles and jars of water, learning French from a secondary school textbook, learning Esperanto from a correspondence course. This is also where I would eat my lunch of diced up lettuce, cucumber, tomato (from the garden/allotment), cottage cheese and crushed up prawn cocktail crisps, while listening to The Archers. This is where I learnt to sew, to macrame, to knit (none of which really stuck, sadly) and wrote limericks and stories and illustrated books, while listening to the Afternoon Play. For me, this was a place of wonder, far more satisfying than the one I had left. I hope that Rosemary finds her wonder at her new school, but if she doesn’t we’ll make sure she gets it somehow, somewhere, whether at another school, at home or somewhere as yet unthought of.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Party Bags

It’s Rosemary’s fourth birthday on Thursday. That is, of course, a post in itself and maybe I’ll write it on Thursday, at some point. But this post is all about party bags.

Rosemary is having a ‘Go Bananas Birthday’, which is what she has been asking for since the day after her third birthday. Go Bananas is the local soft-play place. A friend of hers had her party there recently and I was pretty impressed, having been dreading it for almost a year. The children run around and expend lots of energy for just over an hour, then they come upstairs and sit in one of the three party rooms (Rosemary chose the Woodlands room), where they get fed sandwiches and cake (I have to make the cake, by the way, which I have been told today has to be a Cinderella cake. Oh bugger.). No mess to clear up. No party games to organise. No entertainers to pay or bouncy castles to hire. Just hand over some dosh, bring a cake and let them do the rest. Fantastic.

They’ll even do the party bags for you, for a little extra. But I decided I wanted something a bit more special for the party bags. The vast majority of parties Rosemary’s been to (and there have been a fair few), the party bag has been emptied within five minutes of leaving the party and usually some of the things have been broken or lost already. What does make it home, inevitably ends up in the bin within a day or two. And the (usually plastic) bag also ends up in the bin.

Now, I’m a far cry from Karen at The Rubbish Diet (for whom I have a bucketload of admiration, by the way), but I do think about landfill and other environment issues and I didn’t want to spend money on a bunch of plastic tat that would just end up not rotting away in landfill somewhere (no offence to anyone who does go down this route – I have to say it was very tempting to just pay them to do this, as well as the rest of it).

So, I went on a search and also asked Twitter (as we do, these days, when we have a problem – hmm, must ask Twitter about the Cinderella cake) for something a bit different. And I found a few great companies, offering something more than the usual:

  • Frog in the Field has a really good selection of party bag fillers, but what really caught my eye was the print your own party bags. I would have gone for this if Rosemary hadn’t seen a different option that she preferred. And I’ll almost certainly use it in the future. You can choose from a selection of images, or you can provide your own. I was going to create a flower motif, to tie in with Rosemary’s invitations that I made myself. But… this was not to be.
  • My Funky Party also tempted me, in particular with the vintage style filled bags. I was put off, in my rather stuck-up, liberal fancy-pants way, by the separation into girls and boys, though this seems to be the case at pretty much all the outlets. I wanted gender neutral gifts, even though Rosemary would be very happy with everything pink and princess, there are boys coming to the party and, well, I hate pink and princess and gender stereotyping and so on and so on. But, the vintage bags are lovely.
  • Ethical Kidz is what we went for in the end. The fillers were all wooden and good quality – and ethically sourced. And the bags Rosemary chose were the colour your own bags. We bought 19 plain fabric bags and two boxes of fabric crayons and Rosemary is decorating them herself. You can also buy bag and crayon sets that you can then use as both an activity and the party bag – i.e. the children colour their bags and then you put their gifts into it when it’s time to go home. I was very pleased with the service and they sent the package to my mum’s address at my request, as we would be away, and sent a personal email to tell us they had done so. The fillers are very good quality. We chose a stamp, with an ink pad, a (decorated) wooden peg, a spinning top and a yoyo. All in all it worked out to about £3.50 per child, which I was very happy with. It’s definitely more than the Go Bananas option, but I think it’s worth it and that these gifts won’t be clogging up the landfills (and, even if they do, they’ll degrade).

Both Frog in the Field and My Funky Party were suggested by Twitter pals and contacted me directly with suggestions, offers of help and answers to my many queries. I would definitely recommend them, as well as Ethical Kidz, which I found during my own searches.

Here’s a picture of one of the bags and its contents, though I’m afraid the quality isn’t brilliant, what with being taken with my phone in a dark kitchen:


Hopefully they’ll go down well and the children will get some use and fun out of the items.

What sort of party bags have you done, or do you manage to avoid them? What about parties themselves? Do you do them at home or hire somewhere? Do you have any tips on how to make a Cinderella cake, or shall I just buy the one she saw in Tesco? I’m good at baking cakes, but don’t have much experience in decorating them – especially when it comes to something fancy and more challenging than a few swirls of whipped cream, some strawberries and a packet of chocolate buttons!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Little Bundle of Laughs competition

Are you in London or able to get there next Tuesday night? Do you fancy a laugh? Huggies and Tommy’s have organised a night of stand-up comedy about becoming a parent, and sadly I can’t attend, due to my own little bundle not sleeping anywhere near through the night yet. Which is a big shame, as I really enjoy a bit of stand-up comedy, and miss my monthly comedy nights. So, Huggies have kindly said I can offer my two tickets up to one of my readers. If you fancy it, drop a comment down below and I’ll draw a winner at random next Sunday. The tickets will be left on the door for you, since it’s so close to the event already.


Good luck!