As I've been breastfeeding Ammarah for the last year and a half - I have to say I haven't always stuck by the 3 constant meals schedule. Although she has always had a breakfast of some sort consisting of brioche or toast for some time - we've now moved onto Weetabix yay!. Then a lunch which was usually a Hipp foods spaghetti heart-shaped tub which she enjoyed occasionally. Then dinner was always not really defined by any routine or set meal per say but it was whatever I had cooked - sometimes roti, boiled potatoes with our roast or chicken. Nevertheless, I have never really ever been concerned with Ammarah's eating habits. Like her mama, she has a small stomach so is usually snacking on some kind of fruit or biscuit. Actually the main reason is because I was still breastfeeding her.
However, for the last 2 days, alhamdulillah - by the complete miracle of Allah swt, Ammarah has stopped having breastmilk. I know, it's only been 1 and a half years. Some of you may be thinking why stop now, I could make that 2 year mark which was once the intended goal. But as circumstances change so do goals. Actually with baby 2 on the way I've now realised it's a good time to wean Ammarah off the breast. I don't have any great tips to give that's why this post is not about weaning. BUT, I really believe when the time is right and you genuinely feel right about it, it'll happen - of course it will require a bit of effort too. However, I do have a great article that was sent to me by a dear friend that I'd recommend to read as it really helped me make this decision. Read here.
So back to food. - I felt this post was much needed now as a starting point for myself to get serious about Ammarah's nutrition. Over the last 6 months in particular - I've been taken notes on my phone on the types of food Ammarah has enjoyed eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner and of course as snacks in between. This list will continue growing of course.
Now I've found that some days its easy to prepare meals just for Ammarah especially if the main food I'm cooking is too spicy or salty for her taste buds or it's something she wouldn't enjoy. But I am trying to vary the food. For example, Ammarah doesn't really like egg but yesterday I bought a cheese and onion quiche which she thoroughly enjoyed - that's going on the list! So my tips for my friends and new mums are as follows:
1. Take mental or written notes of your baby's food likes and dislikes. Start as early as 6 months. But don't just stick to their likes. Attempt to give them their dislikes at a later time to see if their palate has changed - you'd be surprised at their new love for that food. Give them plenty of water throughout the day too especially in the summer. We've avoided any kind of fizzy or juice drink - I'm obsessed with no baby of mine is having rotten teeth - [more on that later]
2. As busy as life can get - try not to give them too much sweet food for snacking like cake and biscuits, we can all be guilty of that at times and I'm not even talking about with our little ones! Snacking is very on the go for me, so if I'm out I usually nip into the local supermarket and pick up grapes or blueberries but keeping this stuff ready in the fridge is handy for those days spent in doors!
3. Try to stick to a routine for feeding - the 3 meals and some snacks, I think it really helps - well especially if your life is in a routine too :) (Good luck finding that after having a baby lol) Sometimes though I'd find if I stuck to MY regimented routine of lunch at 1pm - and Ammarah wasn't as hungry so allowed a little more play and tried feeding again - of course this took me a while to realise. Now because the routine has kicked in well, Ammarah sort of approaches me and says 'Mama Mama' when she sees me preparing her food which for me indicates she's hungry and now our routines are in sync alhamadulillah!
4. Make eating fun! I have seen some mothers worry if their child hasn't finished that last little bit on the plate - do try to avoid that, it'll make your life and the baby's less stressful. So let them play a little longer with their food and make a little mess :) Some days they eat well, burp and are happy and some days they may eat little but snack more and are still happy. But honestly let your little one enjoy eating and not see it as a stressful time for mama and baby! :)
5. If it helps, make a food plan - I haven't yet but soon I think I will make a rough guide for the week so that I'm not repeating the same foods each day and ensuring Ammarah gets a healthy nutrition.
6. For real concerns, do talk to your health visitor or when you go to get your baby's weight checked at clinic. Talk to other mamas for that peace of mind too and much needed tips. Read on useful sites like Baby Centre.
My own experience, reading many articles and experimenting has helped me to get to this stage alhamdulillah, where I now feel a lot more confident about Ammarah's diet. If you're still at the early stages of all of this - do not worry - every child is different and a bit of time makes a lot of difference. For those mamas still breastfeeding, know that your baby is picking up a lot of nutrients from your milk and it may seem like they are drinking more milk but eating less, especially before age 1. Do not worry! As a midwife once told me before age 1 babies are only food tasting anyway. The real deal begins after their first birthday and even then it may be later for your little one. Hope this has been useful. I think I've certainly got a few more bits of reading and resarchto do myself to extend Ammarah's food plan - but for now I think we've made a good start alhamdulillah. :)