I don't know about you but as my baby approached six months old, I was feeling pretty confused about how to approach teaching her to eat.
There's. So. Much. Conflicting. Advice.
Start with purees, bringing in chunkier textures once the baby’s learned to swallow. No, start with finger food so they learn to chew before swallowing. Encourage the baby to become familiar with a few foods to begin with, establishing favourites they get excited about. No, offer plenty of variety and don’t let the diet become repetitive…that’ll make it much harder to introduce new foods. Offer the baby their own bowl of food so they learn to be independent, eating what they feel like and stopping when they’re full. No, hold the bowl yourself and feed them slowly with a spoon. Let them refuse a food, it’s part of the journey. Don’t let them refuse a food, keep offering it – ten times. No, eight. No, sixteen times should do it. A full tummy will help them sleep through the night. A full tummy won’t help them sleep through the night.
(...and if we're meant to start offering solid food no sooner than at/very near six months old, as the World Health Organisation and British NHS have been stating for more than fifteen years, how come there are so many '4m+' baby food products on the supermarket shelves? An infant dietician told me she'd seen stats showing there are more baby food jars and pouches marketed as 4m+ than any other baby/toddler age-stage. Huh?).
Maybe healthy baby weaning is confusing because healthy eating itself has become confusing.
The past couple of decades – formative years for us Millennial parents – have brought wave after wave of confusion about what a good diet looks like.
When I was a kid, it seemed like fat was the big dietary enemy.
My mum’s magazines were full of ‘ways with cottage cheese’ and everyone used margarine and skimmed milk for fear of contracting coronary heart disease. The supermarkets were full of low-calorie products that'd had the fat – and a lot of the taste – stripped out, to meet the new consumer demand.
By the time I was a teenager, carbs were the enemy.
High-protein, high-fat diets were all the rage – burgers without the bun, extra fried egg instead. Every week a new celeb was wanging on about their 'Atkins success'.
Then came Superfoods.
Acai, then wheatgrass, then green tea, then blueberries, then coconut, then chia seeds...then doctors started saying actually broccoli's a superfood, so is salmon, and oats, and peas...so let's stop saying superfood because it denigrates everyday, cheap fresh ingredients when they're actually pretty nutritionally-incredible, and much cheaper. Ok then.
Every year since, a new hero theory on the right way to eat for good health. Paleo, Dukan, South Beach, Zone, Volumetrics, Keto, Dairy-free. Good stuff and less-good-stuff to all of them.
Nowadays protein's back front-and-centre, but in a more balanced way. Fats are to be encouraged. Well, some of them are. And carbohydrates are back on the menu, as long as they’re complex wholegrains...porridge is in every self-respecting hipster’s breakfast bowl, and an urban resurgence of bread-baking with ancient flours like spelt and rye.
Because of course now sugar's the enemy.
And refined, processed carbohydrates. Chemically-processed, artificially-flavoured, 'empty-carb' foods are on nutritional naughty step as a more conscious, natural approach to eating continues to rise. Weekend newspapers hero new wave of chefs and cooks being creative with simple, real food. The big supermarkets are working hard to respond to a rising national interest in where our food comes from and who grew it for us. The British government's sugar tax has moved from concept to reality in an attempt to curb the national obesity crisis and rise of type two diabetes (not just in the adult population...one in three 2-16 year-olds is clinically obese, type two diabetes is now being routinely diagnosed in children as young as four and five, and every week the NHS performs at least 500 extractions of sugar-decayed milk teeth).
Regardless of where you stand on all this – and any conversation about our food culture is naturally incredibly polarising because we all experience food so differently – it’s not 100% surprising that a lot of millennial parents feel a bit baffled about how to feed themselves well. And now it’s time to feed someone else.
Check out my Instagram feedfeed or sign up for my newsletter (on the homepage) for loads of non-confusing baby food recipe ideas using simple, real food. Plenty of them are so nice you'll want to eat them yourself, and you can...#onefamilyonemeal.