According to the books, Maggie – who is 9 months old today – should be eating her three square meals a day and these should be fulfilling most of her nutritional needs. Around this age she doesn’t need as much milk as she’s been used to and will probably reduce to two or three bottles of milk max. In fact, she really should be sitting up at the dining table and eating with the rest of the family like a good girl.
Indeed. It’s not quite working out like that. Missy’s diet hasn’t been great, although it is improving. She’s not a great fan of vegetables and she openly rejects meat and eggs. She’s on the typical toddler’s diet of bread, cheese and fruit. Her favourite food is still porridge (hence the blog name!) and she’ll eat almost any fruit. I was freaking out about it for a while until other mummies-in-the-know pointed out a few truths to me:
1. No babies are the same or take the same amount of food or wean at the same time or do what the books tell them they should do.
2. As long as she was taking her bottles Maggie was getting enough nutrition. The main thing that formula or breast milk doesn’t provide at this age is fibre, but she was taking bananas and cereals so she was fine.
3. Just when you think your baba (and you) have got the hang of it, she’ll get a cold or will start teething and…all that delicious, lovingly home-cooked food will go down the drain. Or in the bin.
Some babies eat everything they’re given, and even throw in a smile as if to say ‘Awh thanks mother, I really appreciate you slaving over that hot stove all afternoon so I’ll make sure I eat every bit’. That kind of response warms your heart. Maggie’s little friend Otis came to play recently and happily slurped all my homemade vegetable and lentil soup that I had been defrosting, heating and chucking out every day for a week. I was absolutely expecting to throw it in the bin as always and when he ate it up and asked for more I nearly cried with gratitude. At the other end of the scale some babies eat nothing at all. I’ve heard stories of mummies distracting their babies with rattles or empty bowls and spoons or their favourite TV show or even really loud dance music, all while they try to sneak in one precious spoonful of food.
I read an interesting article recently from Plum Baby which suggests that fussy eaters like Maggie might just be ‘supertasters‘. Scientists have worked out that about 25% of us are “supertasters” – meaning their tastebuds are much more sensitive to flavours, especially bitter ones. I read this eagerly. Excellent, I think, ‘supertaster” sounds much better than ‘fussy little madam who turns up her nose at her mummy’s yummy home-made food’.
However a few weeks ago we had a breakthrough. Inspired by her love of (powdered) porridge, Johnny suggested that we should try powdered food. Sounds mingin’, I know, especially considering how delicious the organic baby food on the market tastes. But I guess it is probably what we were all fed all those years ago before Ella’s Kitchen and Annabel Karmel (the Jamie Olivers of baby cooking) came to save us. So I bought Heinz Mediterranean Vegetables & Rice and served it to her with trepidation and….by Gawd she ate it! Hooray!
The second breakthrough came a few weeks later in the form of Ella’s Kitchen pouches. Dismayed by the rejection of my home cooking, I invested in a range of ready-made baby food to try out different flavours and textures, most of which were spat back out or slapped away. I carried on undeterred, however, buying a rainbow of puréed vegetable and fruit goodies and taking it much less to heart when, one by one, each of these were rejected. One day, without any expectation, I tried a Carrot, Parsnip & Apple pouch and almost shed a tear as she slurped up every single morsel. Her first vegetable, goddamnit. She had the same reaction to their Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Blueberry & Apple variety. We both squealed around the kitchen that day. It was only later that I realised that both foods had a very high percentage of apple which cunningly disguised the taste of the other veggy stuff. But, hey ho, it was all 100% goodness.
Last week Maggie finally got her first tooth and, like the proverbial bus, two more have arrived since. It has proved somewhat of a turning point as yesterday she ate a floret of broccolli. I’m not counting my chickens just yet but it’s definitely a good sign. Now we are getting to a good place, my sister has advised me to invest in a Beaba Baby Cook, a dual device which steams on one side and purées on the other. It sounds wonderful but I can’t quite imagine going through all the baby food malarkey without using 2 saucepans, a sieve, a food processor and a measuring jug for good measure. But then I can hardly imagine having a baba who’ll actually eat the stuff I’ve prepared, so it’s all new territory. Wish us luck!