There is an overwhelming amount of (often conflicting) information out there.
I ignored it all.
My advice to anyone who is soon to becoma a parent: find what works for you and your baby.
I couldn’t eat much during the pregnancy due to Hyperemesis Gradivarium and if you think that is the same as morning sickness, try hurling until you suffocate yourself and begin to feel panic rising alongside the bile as your airways close and you think you are going to die SEVEN OR EIGHT TIMES A DAY FOR 39 WEEKS!
Anyhoo. As a rule, I cook from scratch. Even when I’ve been cash rich and time poor, I tended to devote a day to cooking and make huge batches of chillis, soups, stews and even bread that could be put in the freezer as “convenience” meals. I’m lucky because my Mum and Step-Grandma loved to cook so I learned to cook. Convenience food and even a lot of restaurant food just isn’t up to the high standards that were set by the magnificent women in my life. In fact, in recent months, our menu for the week was set by what Mr PinQ brought home form the food bank – it’s amazing how much more inventive you become! I suppose that I was hoping to be able to breast feed as a natural progression from that, feeding my baby formula that is full of palm oil really didn’t appeal to me.
“Oh here we go. Another of those self-righteous, blow-up-your-own-backside posts about how marvellous a mother you are because your baby was breast fed.” I hear you think. Well read on…
As it happens, I’m a realist. I was hoping to be able to breast feed but I know plenty of lovely mums and some of them chose to breast feed, some chose to bottle feed and others had to bottle feed whether they liked it or not. I was under no illusions on that score. To be honest, I found the posters in the local maternity unit intimidating because the message was that the best mums breastfeed their babies and I actually felt inadequate before my baby was even born!
One of the things that went into my “grab bag” was a tub of Cow & Gate formula, just in case. In the hospital, everyone was talking about Aptimil like it was the food of the Gods so again, I felt inadequate.
I had HELLP Syndrome, my kidneys were failing a week before the birth, my liver was failing during and after but I managed about half of my Baby-Girl’s feeds myself but I had to combination feed. After 5 months, my milk was completely gone.
On her first day, she showed me that she was hungry by sweeping her finger down her cheek towards her mouth so on our second morning when I was snapped at by a midwife:
“When did this baby last have a feed?”
“That was over 5 hours ago! You must wake her up for a feed every 2 to 3 hours.”
I thought, “F*** off. She tells me when she is hungry and this place is covered in posters about feeding on demand – which is it?”
Anyway, my milk should have come in on the Wednesday (I gave birth on the Sunday) but even by the Friday, it hadn’t. I had been too poorly and we’d been thrown on a ward with a bright light over us all night on our last night in hospital so that messed us both up and my beautiful little girl lost far too much weight. I decided to combination feed for as long as I could and persevered with expressing and lots of skin-to-skin but I was never going to be able to feed her wholly myself, regardless of how much I wanted to. In 5 months, I had only two days when I was able to feed her entirely myself.
I decided to do a little research into baby formula, partly because of the people raving about Aptimil and partly because we have very little money and guess what I discovered… there is NO DISCERNIBLE DIFFERNCE between the brands of baby formula because it is so highly regulated. That decided me. Cow & Gate – that said, Lidl are now selling baby formula in their Bebivita range and it’s only £4.49 a box so I shall be trialling that in the next few weeks.
I had also planned to take the Baby Led Weaning route. I read about how stressful spoon-feeding could be and saw the sense of letting baby have control over what they ate etc. Then I had a little lightbulb moment.
If all baby has ever had is milk, he/she is bound to pull their face when you shove a spoonful of dinner in their mouth. It must taste really strange.
So, the plan changed and a little shy of 15 weeks, everything that I (or Nanny or Nan-Bear) cooked got my little finger dipped in it and I let my Baby-Girl have a tiny taste.
At 17 weeks, she had her first baby porridge (Aptimil stank and she wasn’t keen so we replaced it with a plain Cow and Gate porridge and some Heinz Peach and Apricot porridge) and for dinner, vegetable and rice medleys that I’d boiled, blended and frozen and she absolutely loved them.
We tried a couple of flavours of “proper” baby food time and again but she didn’t like them.
At 33 weeks now, she has a list of “Big Girl Dinners” 50-something long which includes: hot smoked salmon; home-made celery, onion, rice and green lentil soup; crumpets; bacon sammiches; blueberries, mashed banana, smoked mackerel; tiny pots of fromage frais; scrambled egg; salami and cream cheese sammiches; home-made butternut squash and red pepper soup, black pudding; mashed potato with broccoli and cauliflower; tiny pancakes with lemon and many more.
I started a list in case there was anything that she wouldn’t eat but so far, she’s liked everything!
As a tiny baby, she set her feeding and sleeping routine and by week three, she slept through until 05:30. That gradually got later and later and now, she normally wakes up at about 07:00. I suspectthat is because of the combination feeding, the people that I know that were breastfeeding seemed to have to get up a lot in the night.
We start the day with a 150ml bottle and then play and cuddles for an hour and a half to two hours; then she has her baby porridge with some juice or water (I’ll come to that) and a nap until about 11:00; then it’s time for her second 150ml bottle and play for a couple of hours until lunch.
Lunch consists of one of her big-girl dinners, followed by a fruit pot, mashed banana, chopped strawberry or about 7 blueberries with a drink and then it’s time for another nap of about an hour and a half. When she gets up, she has a little bottle (120ml) and we play for another couple of hours and at 17:30 ish, she has her next big-girl dinner, followed by a fromage frais and then it’s more play for a couple of hours and a 150 ml bottle before bed at about 20:00.
With all of her big-girl dinners and during play time, she has juice or filtered water. Initially, my Mum had bought some baby juice and I carried on but then I realised: I was paying £1 for 500ml of watered down fruit juice. I checked the sugar content and it’s 4.7g per 100ml and she can easily drink half a bottle in a day so… I went into Lidl (Tesco’s or Asda’s own would work just as well) and bought cranberry and raspberry – less than 60p a litre – and watered it down with filtered tap 1:1. The sugar content is 6.2g per 100ml so watered down, it is only 3.1g; so in making her baby juice myself, I am saving over £1.40 and she is having less sugar!
I also researched whether or not she could have fromage frais when she got to 6 months old and discovered that she can! You can buy 18 Petit Filous for £3, although it was half price in Tesco the other week so that was a major bonus. The sugar content is 9.9g per 100g and the pot size is 47g, so she’s having 4.65g of sugar in that pot. With a 200g jar of baby yoghurt at 10g sugar per 100g, even if you separated it into 4 portions, that’s still 5g of sugar per portion- although I suspect that you’d be tempted to feed a third or a half a jar as one dessert. If you averaged one jar for 3 desserts, you would have to buy 6 jars and at 80p per jar, that’s £4.80. Yet again, I am saving money and feeding her less sugar.
She eats beautifully and daintily from a spoon with only a tiny bit of mess around her mouth when I’ve overloaded the spoon or she’s been excited about what she’s eating and so far, with the exception of actual baby food, she has loved everything – she even tried Kiełbasa this evening (Polish sausage)! I swear that it’s down to the finger dip tastes that she had just prior to trying her on puréed solids.
Now, just because that worked for me, doesn’t mean it is what other people should do. So regardless of what route you take, it has to be what’s right for you and if you want to (and can afford to) buy organic fruit purée, then do it. My only advice would be to read enough to make sure that you can make an informed decision but try not to be overwhelmed and let the volume of inormation out there confuse you. In truth, you will know what is right for you so even if you read something that tells you that you MUST feed your baby on a diet that includes meat and oily fish but you want to raise them on a gluten-free and vegan diet, just read how to do that in the right way to make sure that your baby gets all of the nutrients he or she needs and you’ll be fine.