It has been a busy six months at Tickle Buds HQ having just launched earlier this year! But on a more personal note for our co-founder Emma, it has been a very special year as she has also welcomed her new little baby boy into the world. In February this year, Louis, Emma’s second son was born…………..which means 6 months later it’s weaning time!
Emma and Louis will be sharing their weaning adventure as part of our Tickle Buds Blog series. Follow Louis’ weaning story for the ups and downs of their journey, some of Emma’s great new recipe ideas and all the little hiccups of first foods.
And we’re off…..
Louis has officially started on solids and just getting to this point feels like quite an achievement. It means we’ve all survived his first six months which is remarkable in itself but also Louis’ weaning journey, despite our best efforts, suffered from a couple of false starts.
Our first attempt to introduce Louis to the world of food was very short lived. He was ready, (he’d been starring at us munching down meals with such jealously for the fast few weeks it was starting to feel like we were torturing him), he was eager and he was bibbed and grasping a spoon. In an attempt to be very organised I’d earlier prepared a simple carrot puree only to realise just how unorganised I actually am as at the crucial moment I discovered I had nothing to sit him in. Our highchair was inconveniently 120 miles north in my sisters kitchen where I had left it for my niece’s own weaning journey. Mission aborted!
High chair retrieved and the following week I again felt ready to take the leap but a little niggly cough that Louis had been suffering with suddenly got worse. A trip to the doctors confirmed a throat infection. The little fella was struggling to swallow milk so introducing him to the delights of a pear would have to wait another week.
And so here we are. Third time lucky? After quite a build up Louis’ weaning has begun….at least I think it has! Louis doesn’t seem to have actually swallowed much (anything!) yet. We’re four days in and I’ve sat him down once a day. I’ve made the decision to go for simple fruit and veg purees (avoiding baby rice) and I’ve made carrot, butternut squash and today apple. Each time I’m met with a slightly aghast (actually, disgusted) reaction as soon as the puree touches his lips. Now I remember this with my eldest son, Ralph, that a mouthful of food is more likely to be spat out rather than swallowed, it’s all part of the learning process. But I’d forgotten how long this stage actually lasts and also that it’s slightly demoralising! A sweet potato simply boiled and blitzed can’t taste that bad, can it??
So I’ll continue to puree and I’ll continue to pull enthusiastic faces as every spoonful dribbles down his chin rather than eagerly swallowed. And I’ll repeat to myself not to worry as I do know it’s very early days and that Louis will learn at his own pace.
Just one little mouthful would reassure me though….one small sign of enjoyment would tell me things will be okay…. Nope, nothing! Louis weaning adventure may well have started but I think it may take a while!!
Salt and weaning for babies and toddlers
Salt is a tricky one, we know we don’t need too much of it but it was one thing I struggled to get clarity on throughout the time I was weaning my twins. Too much is a bad thing of course, but how much is too much and why is it so bad for little ones? And what’s the difference between sodium content and salt content?
I had lots of questions, but as so often seems to happen, I had no time to find proper answers to them. I hope this blog post helps!
What’s so bad about salt?
Salt is not great for any of us, whether we are one or ninety one. Too much salt puts our kidneys under pressure and leads to high blood pressure and eventual kidney damage
So here’s the science bit (I always like to understand the why!) – our kidneys are essential for removing waste and fluids from our body and anything that stops them doing their job, poses a risk to our bodies. As blood passes through the kidneys, the kidneys filter out the fluids we don’t need and send them to our bladders to get rid of as urine. If there is too much salt in our blood, the delicate filtering process is upset, the kidneys can’t remove excess water from the blood and our blood pressure rises. This puts strain on the little blood vessels entering the kidneys and over time can lead to kidney damage.
Why is too much salt a problem for babies and toddlers?
Babies have very fragile little systems and their kidneys are particularly sensitive. They are unable to process excess salt which leads to kidney damage in the same way that it can for adults. Their tiny bodies are just a lot more sensitive to any imbalances than ours.
What safe levels of salt for your baby or toddler?
According to the NHS the recommended daily amounts of salt for babies and toddlers are:
- Up to 12 months – less than 1g of salt a day (less than 0.4g sodium)
- 1 to 3 years – 2g of salt a day (0.8g sodium)
What’s the difference between salt and sodium content?
Salt is made up of two minerals, sodium and chloride, and food manufacturers often quote only the sodium content on food labels. This can sometimes be confusing if you are thinking in terms of salt content and how much salt your little one can have. Salt is made up of about 40% sodium and it’s the sodium content of salt that causes the health issues.
To work out salt content from quoted sodium values, simply use the sodium figure on the packing and multiply it by 2.5. This is your salt content! If you see 1g of sodium per 100g on the label, this is the equivalent of 2.5g of salt per 100g. To find out the amount of salt per serving, just divide by 100 and multiply the answer by the serving size.
Salt and weaning your baby
At the beginning of your weaning journey, your baby will still be reliant on milk. Breast milk has exactly what your little one needs in terms of sodium, and equally formula milk has also been designed to provide exactly the right amount for babies and toddlers, so no worries there! But as you introduce solid food, it is really crucial to keep an eye on the salt content of the food you give your baby. The most important things are to avoid processed foods not designed for babies, and to avoid adding salt to any home cooked baby food.
How to reduce the amount of salt you give your baby
- Offer healthy snacks such as fruit or vegetable sticks and try to avoid salty snacks like crisps or biscuits.
- Make snacks yourself so you know exactly what is in them.
- Don’t add salt to your baby’s meals. Try to add flavour through herbs and spices.
- Swap your sandwich fillers, try tuna and chicken instead of ham and cheese.
- Check food labels- many things like cereals and bread have surprisingly high levels of salt.
- Try making your own pasta sauces. Shop bought sauces can be high in processed salts.
- Avoid giving your baby processed foods not designed for babies as these are very likely to be high in salt. Weaning products for babies will not contain high levels of salt, so specific baby products are a much better option for your little one.
How to add flavour without adding salt to homemade baby food
Spicing up fruit purees– Cinnamon can be a great addition to apple purees. Mint often works well with fruit as do small amounts of nutmeg, vanilla and ginger.
New flavour combos for vegetables– Basil is a great herb for adding to sweet potatoes. Add garlic to green beans, nutmeg to butternut squash, cinnamon to carrots, turmeric to root veggies. Creamed spinach works well with nutmeg too.There are loads of yummy combinations to try!
Less salt = healthier weaning
By looking at labels, home cooking with fresh ingredients and by avoiding adding salt to your baby’s food you can ensure that your little one doesn’t consume high levels of salt. And you can have lots of fun coming up with healthier and more adventurous combinations of flavours and tastes. There is so much out there you can use instead of salt, it’s just a case of experimenting!
Emma, our co-founder, kicks off our new “Weaning Diaries” and shares her experiences of weaning as a first time mum. We hope this mini-blog will be a place where everyone who is or has been on the weaning journey can help each other with top tips and funny experiences but also share the hard times and help each other with things they learnt. This is the first of many “we’ve been there” weaning experiences so sit back and enjoy the ride!
Please feel free to comment or ask any questions, we want this to be a place where we all swap ideas and support each other!
I’m Emma and I’m a co-founder of Tickle Buds- trying to make the weaning journey easier! I have always really enjoyed cooking healthy food, I love trying new tastes and experimenting with new dishes. In the whirl wind of the first two years, it was really important for me to remember my passion and for it not to get lost in the business of being a first time mum. I wanted my passion for food to be something I could share with my little boy.
Ralph is now just over 2 years old and currently preparing to become a big brother in January. Eeeekkk!!
What is the one piece of knowledge you wish you’d known before you started weaning your baby?
Don’t stress over the individual meals – the bigger picture is more important. Just because one meal doesn’t go well it doesn’t mean he’s a bad eater.
What helped you the most during your weaning journey?
Talking to everyone and anyone! Hearing that other parents felt exactly the same way and finding out that all little ones go through fussy phases, definitely reassured me through the tougher days.
What did you find hardest during weaning?
Ideas!!! I’d definitely have ‘blank’ days where I’d have no idea what to feed Ralph or what to make. I’d stare into the fridge hoping an amazing meal idea would jump out at me.
What was the best piece of equipment you found which helped make life easier for you or your little one when you were weaning them?
My microwave steamer was my weaning life saver. I’d never used one before, but now I wouldn’t be without it. Being able to cook fresh veggies really quickly definitely saved me a lot of stress.
Can you recommend or share a favourite recipe?
Overnight oats are amazing!! Place equal measures of yoghurt, milk and porridge oats in a bowl and add whatever fruit you have (frozen berries are ideal). Cover and leave in the fridge overnight. By morning you’ll have a healthy, super-quick and delicious breakfast.
As I sit down for my first (hot) cup of tea of the day, it makes me think about breakfast and how important it really is to make time for the first meal of the day. This morning we were all running behind, I skipped breakfast and I am catching up by myself in a cafe, sneaking a bit of me time before my work day really begins, my husband had a gulp of coffee as he ran for the tube and my little ones munched on a banana until they got a proper breakfast at nursery. It wasn’t the ideal start to our day, and it’s not that uncommon.
We are regularly told how breakfast is THE most important meal of the day, the one you shouldn’t skip. But it feels even more important now we have two little people in the house. My twins have just turned two and breakfast is a meal that is gobbled down. They seem to wake up starving and the change in energy levels after they have had their breakfast is hugely visible. From cuddly and sleepy little people (and often a little on the grumpy side), after an injection of food, they turn into bundles of energy. And even though adults are better at hiding how they feel, I know how much better I feel when I leave the house with some food inside me, I don’t charge down the street at top speed, but I do feel better in myself.
Breakfast provides all of us with the energy to start our day in a better way, it jump starts your metabolism and lets your body know that the calories will be coming regularly throughout the day and there’s no need to start conserving stores. Although it is not always possible, the best breakfasts are the ones we all share together as a family. Due to work schedules, it never seems to work for us to sit down for dinner at five pm, so breakfast is the meal we can all share or at least all be in the kitchen together. When we make the effort to do this, it always seems like a much better start to the day, we all leave the house with our tummies full and smiles on our faces.
By making time for the first meal of the day, I want my children to grow up with breakfast as a regular part of their day, a moment that we all have together, before all our different days start. It might be messy, hectic and rushed but at least sometimes we are aiming to start the day together! I hope that these early habits will stick for them and help them build healthy habits for the future.
Running out of breakfast ideas? See our next blog on some ways to make breakfast more nutritionally varied and more interesting for your little ones.
At the beginning of your baby’s big food adventure, weaning is all about tastes. Big, new incredible flavours! Your baby has 30 000 taste buds, three times as many taste buds as you, spread throughout their mouth. Imagine the strawberry you have just eaten tasting three times as sweet, the lasagne you had for lunch three times as intense and the ice cream three times as delicious. As we get older the number of taste buds we have reduces and they tend to concentrate solely on the tongue. This is thought to be the reason why babies reject very strong tastes and as adults we are more able to tolerate them, since quite simply we have less taste buds.
But back to our babies, imagine every banana or every apple tasting three times as flavoursome! With this in mind what are the best tastes to give you baby?
Fruit and vegetables are ideal first foods. Many parents opt for baby rice but it’s perfectly acceptable to go for fruits and vegetables, they are much more nutritious and also taste better too. Virtually all fruit and veg are packed with vitamins and minerals which help support your baby’s immune system, as well as fibre which helps to keep little digestive tracks moving.
Some of our favourite first foods include:
- Carrot– a lovely sweet flavour, carrots are a great source of vitamin A (beta carotene) which is vital for a healthy immune system but will also provide your baby with essential nutrients for healthy eyes.
- Sweet Potato– comes in two varieties: orange-fleshed and creamy-fleshed. Both have red skins and both are good sources of potassium, vitamin C, and fibre.
- Banana- an ideal first fruit, it’s lovely and sweet and once mashed is very easy to swallow- great for the start of the weaning journey. Bananas are a great energy food, full of slow release sugars which provide sustained energy.
- Pear– babies love the sweet taste of pears and being one of the least allergenic foods, they are a great one to start with. Pears are also good for babies with reflux as they are one of the least acidic fruits.
- Broccoli- this green vegetable of goodness contains beta-carotene, folic acid, iron and potassium. It can be simply steamed and then pureed or alternative chopped into little “trees” making an ideal first finger food.
And don’t worry it’s natural for babies to reject new flavours the first time they try them, the key is to just keep trying!
Welcome to The Great Weaning Journey. This is the start of your baby’s big eating adventure and it’s a hugely exciting time. This is the first time your baby will have tasted anything other than milk as a food. Your baby is dipping their toes in the big new world of tastes and flavours and you will be there every step of the way.
But a lot of parents, myself included, approach the transition from milk to solids with trepidation, I was definitely a worrier. It’s so easy to do and after all you have probably finally got your head around the latest ever-changing milk schedule for it to be suddenly whipped from under your feet and you are starting all over again in unknown territories.
This is a huge journey you take with your baby, you will experience the highs and the lows as your little ones finds the good tastes, and the ones they are not so keen on. And yes it’s hard and frustrating and messy, and sometimes you will feel like giving up, but it’s a once in a lifetime event, the only time they will discover such variety of new tastes, flavours and textures in such a short time period. It’s an intense bombardment of the senses for your baby.
But you will be there with your little one as they take their first ever taste. You will be there as they discover what they like, as their tiny but super sensitive taste buds begin to discover there are things in the world that taste of something other than milk. You will be there as they take their first spoonful themselves, as they manage to figure out how to use their forks and spoons and you’ll be there when they reject food, when the times are hard, when you both seem to be in a battle. But the most important thing is that you will be travelling this journey together.
It’s one of our greatest journeys in life, but one that’s often taken for granted. What you share with your little one now, will stay with them forever.
This blog is for anyone on a weaning journey, whether you are at the start, part way through or nearly there, we hope there will lots of useful tips to make weaning easier for you and your baby easier. “First foods made easy” is written by Helen and Emma, two mum’s from West London. We were always full of questions as we undertook our own weaning journeys with our three children and we wanted to create a space that allowed people to share their weaning advice, knowledge and tips. We hope some of our tips and tricks in the blog will make your day a little bit easier. Please feel free to share your own tips or ask us questions and we will post a reply as a new blog post. “First foods made easy” blog is all about simplifying the weaning journey for you and your baby.