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I recently wrote a blog for Jojo about baby-led and traditional weaning and was surprised by the amount of debate about which was the ‘correct’ method, with parents arguing very strongly for both camps. While most agreed that a mixture of methods was suitable for their babies, a topic that wasn’t mentioned by any of the people who had commented on my blog (or me, for that matter!) was WHAT their babies were eating. Debates on blogs and parent sites on HOW our babies are eating seem to have overshadowed discussions on WHAT they are eating.
I got to thinking about the content in our babies food after reading the recent news stories stating that many shop bought baby foods (both finger foods and purees) have way below the recommended levels of vitamins and nutrients that babies need for growth and protection again illnesses. Somewhat unhelpfully, the researchers from Greenwich University haven’t named any brands (fear of libel perhaps?) but there findings have put WHAT we are feeding our babies back in the spot light.
These doom and gloom stories can be frustrating for parents. If it’s not that babies who are fed on purees turn out to be more overweight than their finger food fed contemporaries (incidentally, I know many children who buck this trend), it’s that babies eating shop bough food aren’t getting everything they need. I think that as with all sensationalist media stories it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt (but not for the babies!) but it does suggest that parents can’t naively assume that checks have been carried out on all shop bought food to ensure adequate levels of vitamins and nutrients.
Having said this, I am certainly not against all shop bought baby food. There is some fabulous nosh out there. Ella’s Kitchen and Plum are two companies that come to mind who have gone out of their way to use organic, fresh produce and no ‘nasty bits’.
And there are those occasions when shop bought food is heaven sent. If you are out and about and time (as well as your toddler) has run away from you, it is reassuring to know you have an emergency food pouch in the bag for your baby.
Also, when my son was teething terribly, and with a high temperature, the only food he wanted was yoghurt with shop bought fruit purees. Anything else, especially homemade meat based dishes (which he usually hoovers down) were met with disgust.
In fact he had a special way of showing his displeasure at his Mum’s homemade dishes. He would accept a small mouthful, look at me with a ‘what is this muck’ expression, as though I had fed him snozzcumbers and then, delicately, spit it out. Then the mouth would clamp shut. Charlie has shut up shop. If he could have squeezed his eyes shut and shaken his head, he would have. The tone was very much ‘you KNOW I don’t want this, and where’s my yoghurt and puree?’
Lots of parents, myself included, have a ‘home and away’ strategy when it comes to food. They opt for homemade food at home, (I use my Beaba Babycook Steamer and Blender from JoJo-fantastic!) with more of an emphasis on finger foods, as the home is geared up for the mess with splash mats and high chairs with trays. However, when out and about, shop bought pouches are a much more practical solution.
So, in response to the latest research, I’m going to keep using a mix of homemade and shop bought baby food, but making sure it’s good quality stuff. Hopefully Charlie will be in on the plan!
Rosie Wright runs weaning workshops for first time parents in Brighton.