How to do baby led weaning when you are busy
I’m welcoming Jo Weston from Baby Led Kitchen to my blog to share baby led weaning tips
The thing I crave most, after more sleep, is more time. Did anyone else watch that program Bernard's Watch as a child? The one where the boy pressed a button and time stood still for everyone except him?
I'm not sure that when I was watching it as a child I was dreaming of getting my washing done (and putting it away), blasting through my emails and getting a 'proper' dinner cooked but hey…
When I recently asked Instagram which recipes would be the most helpful for them, the overwhelming request was for time-saving recipes.
A lot of people seem to worry about finding opportunities to cook fresh food frequently and also just fitting in their new role of ‘food provider’.
I'm going to share a few things you can try to give yourself a bit more time and to ease some of your possible stress. I hope I can help to keep introducing solids a fun and exciting time rather than just another job on the list.
I remember feeling a little overwhelmed before beginning to introduce solids to my eldest daughter. She was quite a sensitive and clingy baby and I remember thinking “I have barely sussed out parenting this far and now I have to give her food?! When am I going to do THAT!
So many parents I talk to feel similarly about starting solids. It's a big responsibility and it can take up a fair bit of brain space. You may find yourself suddenly having to find the time to plan and cook food for your baby as well as giving milk feeds, changing nappies and juggling naps. Or maybe you are back to work and wondering how to fill healthy lunch boxes that your baby might actually eat a bit of.
Concerns about time and logistics are common. Combine them with worries about choking, methods of weaning, and the suitability of different foods and it is no surprise why many parents feel daunted by the prospect of introducing solids.
Preparing meals with little ones
People often look at my Instagram and ask me how I manage to cook from scratch so frequently. There are two answers to that.
Firstly, I probably cook less than people realise. I cook dinner pretty much every day and then either breakfast, lunch or a snack will be a 'proper' recipe from the app (never, ever all three!). Other meals are very much a case of opening the fridge and throwing the contents on the table.
Scrolling through Instagram can make you feel like everyone is cooking all the time, but it just isn't the case. My second secret is that I'm actually a very lazy cook. I rarely peel, I roughly chop and I don't cook anything that needs constant stirring or checking. Your baby will not care if you peeled your carrots or whether your onions are diced finely enough!
Don’t worry about cooking anything just for your baby - it only leads to heartbreak if the food gets lobbed over the side of the highchair! Just prepare food that is safe for your baby to eat too (long, soft pieces to begin). Baby Led Weaning is ideal for busy families as there is no extra prep or blending required and everyone gets to eat at the same time - no waiting around.
The recipes on the Baby Led Kitchen App are quick to cook, easy to follow and use common ingredients. I try to keep my snack recipes in particular really simple, many only featuring three or four ingredients. You almost definitely do not have time to be slaving over the stove for a long time - I know I don't!
For my dinner recipes, I often do my prep during my daughter's nap time, leaving it to one side for later. Usually that means I just have to throw it together at the end or bung it in the oven. If you are working and your little one is looked after by a grandparent, see if you can rope them in to help out with this prep too.
If your baby is in nursery and you are finding it hard to get dinner out quickly when they come home, there are several quick cook options on the app (the veggie chilli is my speedy favourite at the moment) or you can freeze and defrost something you have made previously. Nothing wrong with quick snacky dinners either - Baby Led Weaning doesn't need to be fancy.
For stay at home parents, I highly recommend slow cooking. There is no smugger feeling than lifting the lid at dinner time to a fully cooked meal and having wiped down the work surfaces to boot. Slow cooking also keeps meat super soft for babies. Just chuck in the ingredients when your baby is asleep or happy and busy (rare here at the moment!) and forget about it til later.
I recommend preparing lunch for both of you during your baby’s morning nap if you can - you never know what mood your baby will wake up in and how many hands you will have available!
Top tips for lunch
Working parents often ask me for lunch tips. I had to brief my mum thoroughly about Baby Led Weaning so that she 'got it' before I returned to work. It is definitely worth talking through your weaning preferences with whoever is looking after your baby so that you know everyone is fully on the same page.
In terms of what I used to leave my daughter for lunch, I used to pack a sectioned lunchbox with a few different things so there was variety but also so that my daughter could see what was available to her. I would pack a mix of home made and non-homemade bits and bobs such as:
Sticks of cucumber or cold roast veg (sticks of raw carrot are too hard for babies)
Berries or chopped grapes for pincer grip practice
Rice cakes with peanut butter or one of my pate recipes
Energy balls or oatie bars
Leftovers like pasta, cold chicken or salmon and any of the snacks from the app.
How to keep kiddies busy whilst you prepare
Another thing I get asked a lot is how do you entertain your girls while you are cooking. I really understand where this question is coming from. Babies and toddlers can get a bit fractious late afternoon as they start to get hungry and a bit tired. Sometimes the exact time you need to cook is the exact time your baby needs you!
Techniques I have tried successfully include baby wearing while cooking (just don't do this while getting food out of the oven), dumping a basket of novel toys on the floor next to you (I find instruments are a good one at this point), offering a few veg sticks to nibble on if they are hungry and giving them bowls and spoons to 'cook' with while you cook.
Inevitably, there will be some times where it all just goes tits up and you just need to abandon cooking and make toast or cereal... that's just life with an under one year old I think!
Take a breath
Finally, use meal times as a chance to take a breath. Sit down. Phone down. The beauty of Baby Led Weaning is that you get your own hands back just for a little while. Baby eats their food, you eat yours. Refuel properly at the same time as your baby. This will make you an excellent role model for positive relationships with food.
I hope I have given you some ideas of how you might fit cooking and feeding into your already chock-a-block life. Keep it simple and don't put pressure on yourself to do more than you can. Wishing you peaceful mealtimes!
If you are looking for further Baby Led Weaning Recipes, why not Download the Baby Led Kitchen app