I thought I'd write a post about vegan weaning, at the request of my beautiful and most esteemed friend Mrs Fiona Peacock.
Alot of people have asked whether I'll be raising Eric vegan - my answer is of course! It's better for the environment, animals and his health. The leading health organisations all say that a well-planned vegan diet is suitable for all stages of life, including during pregnancy, infancy, breastfeeding, old age and for athletes. There's lots of foods he can eat, and I also have the Vegan Society's Feeding Your Vegan Infant With Confidence book so I can plan healthy meals for him. The book is a bit old fashioned but it has a few ideas! Eating vegan is so easy and it's just as easy feeding your child vegan, the recommended first foods (baby rice and vegetable and fruit puree) are vegan anyway! We have talked to our health visitor who was happy we knew what we were doing!
We started weaning Eric at about 23 weeks, which is 5 and a half months old. I wanted to wait until he was 6 months old, but he had started taking food off our plates and eating it so he started weaning himself really! His very first taste was a spear of steamed brocolli: he took it, chewed it, pulled a hilarious face of disgust and then spat it out saying 'eurgh!'.
We had thought about doing 'baby-led' weaning, where you offer the baby only finger foods and loaded spoons so that they can feed themselves, but after alot of thought we decided to offer a variety of finger foods combined with purees as advised by the health visitor.
We started off just giving Eric one meal a day at tea time. From the start we have offered a cup of water (with a free-flow spout) so he is used to it, even though he didn't really drink from it to start with. His first foods were pieces of banana or nectarine served with baby rice made with expressed breast milk, and we also used some of the Ella's Organic Stage 1 sachets. The first one we gave him was 'sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apples and blueberries' which he loved, and we went on to others such as 'butternut squash, carrots, apples and prunes', 'brocolli, pears and peas', 'peaches and bananas', 'spinach, apples and swede' and 'sweet potatoes, brocolli and carrots'. He liked them all except for the ones with lots of brocolli, and preferred the sweet ones. He obviously has a sweet tooth like me! The sachets were very smooth, and he'd usually eat about a third of a sachet per meal, with finger foods that he would suck.
After about 2 weeks I decided to make my own purees as I would be able to offer him more protein and iron then, and could be sure exactly what was in them as well as saving money (the sachets cost £6 for 5!). We also increased to 2 meals a day, breakfast and dinner. I made 'spinach and sweet potato', 'apple, pear and cinnamon' and 'carrot, lentil and parsnip'. I steamed the vegetables until soft then blitzed them right down in the blender. I then froze the puree in ice cube trays and when frozen (I found out the hard way that this takes at least 12 hours!) I knocked the cubes out and put them in labelled freezer bags. When frozen purees last 6 weeks, and the batch of 3 different purees I made lasted about 2 weeks. They went down really well, which gave me such an amazing feeling that I was nurturing my child and making his food, I felt silly for buying sachets!
The following weekend I made some more so we could offer more variety! I made 'apple, pear and raspberry', 'sweet potato, chickpea and coconut milk curry' (very mildly spiced!), and 'brocolli, potato and soya cheese'. He HATED that one, but loved the rest! It is a bit disappointing when you have spent an hour lovingly cooking food for your little one and then they pull faces, gag and cry! But according to the health visitor it can take up to 12 times for them to get used to a taste, so you should keep offering it. Another one he hated was 'pea and mint', but I tasted it and let me tell you it is so nice, so he's obviously an idiot! (Only joking!). I also blended some silken tofu with some just cooked sieved berries and he absolutely loved that for breakfasts, but it doesn't freeze well and needs to be eaten cold or the tofu cooks. We also started offering more different types of finger foods: toast, chapati, bread, steamed brocolli, carrot or asparagus, twiglets, pieces of mango, cubes of soya cheese and pieces of vegan ham.
Now he's 7 months we give him 3 meals a day and have started making the purees more 'textured', which he HATED to start with, and was very upset! He would push the food straight out of his mouth, blow raspberries, grab the spoon, throw the bowl on the floor, cry, gag and retch, but over the last 2 weeks he has got used to it and now happily tucks into his food usually (unless he's in a mood when you start). We tried 2 more Ella's Organic sachets: 'Very, Very Tasty Vegetable Bake with Lentils' and 'Hugely Hearty Four Bean Feast' to start with to get us used to what the texture should be like, but these are the only vegan ones and I enjoy making his food so he hasn't had them since. He has enjoyed breakfasts of 'plum and apple' and 'apple, pear and berry' which I sometimes mix with baby rice and soya milk, and lunches and dinners of vegan sausage casserole with dumplings, shepherd's pie, spaghetti bolognese and quinoa, parsnip and carrot. Instead of blending them to a fine puree I either blend them for only a few seconds or mash them. He also drinks about 50ml of water with each meal now. He eats rice cakes with hoummous or marmite as a snack or a finger food with dinner, and enjoyed some of our vegan Redwood's roast dinner.
I felt sad starting weaning as I didn't want Eric to stop breastfeeding and was worried he would be full up and would stop, but he is only just now starting to cut down breastfeeds and still feeds every 4 or 5 hours. I also found the mess stressful and weaning is a very messy business, that only seems to be getting messier! I have found that accpepting it is going to be very messy, having a damp flannel, cloth and a floor wipe to hand and being relaxed and taking time about it works well for us. We try to leave about 30-40 minutes for a feed rather than 20, and if I'm more relaxed and not trying to 'make' him eat, he eats more. It's lovely to feed him and see him discovering new textures and things, and it's great when he enjoys something I've cooked and keeps opening his mouth for more!
Next step: bigger lumps!