I bought a lot of plums. Way too many plums. But they were all so beautiful—dusty purples, greens, and gold. The littlest ones, the yellow mirabelles, are the sweetest. Eula likes to grab them in her fist and eat them straight out of the bowl, as do I. I also throw them in quick breads, poach them for topping pancakes, or, my favorite, put them in this plum clafoutis. Clafoutis is like a mix between custard and cake, a little bit like a Dutch baby in that it puffs up dramatically in the oven but settles down immediately upon pulling it out. My clafoutis has a bit of almond meal because I like the texture and orange blossom water because it’s my favorite flavor, and it’s made with whole milk & eggs. It’s custardy, fruity, not too sweet, and perfect for a weekend breakfast served with a creamy glass of milk, one of the original farm-to-table foods (and the namesake of this blog!) Eula rarely gets anything sweet other than fruit, so this was a revelation. Her eyes were saucers, and she bopped her head with joy between each bite. Read on for more about our experience with “baby led weaning”.
First, for those who may not know what “baby led weaning” is, it’s just the practice of letting the baby wean herself at her own pace and start eating solid foods at her own pace. Usually purees and baby food aren’t used, and the baby just eats whatever the parents eat or soft chunks of finger food. Weaning is used in UK sense of introducing solids, not in the US sense of taking the baby off of breastmilk. Eula is still, at almost 13 months, breastfed whenever she wants. Usually about 5-10 times a day or so. I don’t really know exactly—can’t say I count. Once she’s fully weaned she’ll be eating a wide range of foods like whole milk and other nutritious dairy products like yogurt (and, of course, French cheese!) as well as the obvious healthy choices like local, organic produce and whole grains and breads.
I didn’t set out to do it this way because of anything other than it’s fuss free (big selling point for me), intuitive, and seemed to be a great way to introduce her to food textures and diverse flavors & nutrients at a young age. But this is what we’ve been doing, so I just wanted to share that experience for anyone who is curious about the experience of another mom. We decided not to do purees or “baby food” and instead at around 6 months we just started to offer her bites and tastes of whatever we were eating (providing it wasn’t total trash and she could swallow it…haha). She nibbled here and there, but it wasn’t really until 10-13 months (with the advent of more teeth!) that she started eating a good amount. So, this has been the summer of Eula exploring food.
What she does get is all the beautiful farm-to-table produce I buy at the market and minimally processed things like farm-fresh milk—which typically arrives on shelves in just 48 hours, on average, from many family owned and operated farms about 300 miles from your store. I personally love and drink milk and seek it out whenever I can find it. Which might be obvious by the title of the blog. She loves it too along with yogurt and cheese, and it’s a simple way to get her nutrients and protein along with local produce, nuts & seeds, and whole grains.
She eats what we eat, and so far she has proven to be none too picky slurping down everything from chia seed pudding to fistfuls of green olives to gnawing on a ring of grilled calamari. That said she does have a talent for finding any raw green leaf and pulling it out of her mouth and she did spit out a pickled boquerone the other day. She still has mom milk many times a day and whenever she wants, but slowly she’s going a bit longer in between feedings and incorporating more and more food into her diet voluntarily. Since she’s still breastfed, we don’t worry too much about how much she’s eating. She’s growing well, fat and happy, and that’s all we really look at. Once she weans completely I’m confident this method will have introduced plenty of whole foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, fruit, legumes, vegetables, and whole grains to sustain her growth and get her all the nutrients she needs. Dairy, produce, pulses, and grains are the main categories of food we focus on feeding her.
If she’s disinterested in something, she shakes her head no. We never try to force it if she doesn’t want something or isn’t hungry. What we do is just offer it again at a different time and continue to expose her to things she didn’t take to right out of the gate and get her to try them—best done with a baby that’s hungry but not starving! And she loves to feed herself. With some foods that’s so messy it isn’t practical (like yogurt), so we help her or feed her, especially if we’re out at a restaurant. But in so far as it’s possible, I let her feed herself. Easy things like bananas, whole grain bread, pieces of cheese, sippy cups, chunks of fruit and cooked veg—all of those give her the opportunity to feed herself. If it’s something a little more, ah, challenging, we spoon feed. She doesn’t seem to mind either way. The key for us is making sure she has opportunities to try food and to feed herself. It happens pretty naturally, that said. I don’t find we’ve ever had to go out of our way to feed her using this method, and that’s what I like best.
A little more about feeding her what I eat. I regularly give her yogurt, the milk foam off my cappuccino, and cheese. I let her try the things I bake (including her one year birthday cake!), and she tried gelato in Venice because Venice. I’m most mindful about limiting her sugar intake and highly processed foods, the latter of which we don’t feed her at all. I let her try special things at special times and follow my intuition. I let her try my meals at restaurants and she’s tried everything from oysters to black truffles. We let her try the foods around the world to broaden her palette, and we aren’t neurotic about what we let her eat. I don’t ever want to be a hypocrite and not let her have things I eat myself, but at the same time, we always care more about our children’s health than our own, so I basically make decisions for her that I would make for “my best self”. So no chips or candy or Coke Zero for the baby (haha….obviously!) Basically anything that I consider a personal fail, she doesn’t get. Eventually she’ll start asking for it, and I’ll have to either stop failing to start explaining!
But for now it’s an easy mix of breast feeding, sharing our meals & nutritious food, and even sharing our homemade treats like a slice of this Mirabelle Plum Clafoutis on a Sunday morning! Expect another post updating you on our experience once we walk down this road a little further!
This post was created in partnership with Milk Life. All opinions and recipe are my own!