Archive for the ‘Real food’ Category

It has been more than two years since I wrote my less-than-glowing critique of Tizzie Hall’s baby programming method.  Obviously it struck a nerve as it’s still the most widely viewed post on the blog.  I’ve long been uncomfortable letting it dangle there with its unalloyed intensity.  Parenting at night stinks.  If it didn’t, baby programming literature like Tizzie’s wouldn’t be so popular, and movies about sleepless newborn nights wouldn’t make us giggle-cringe so fiercely.  We’re allowed to protect ourselves from loss of sanity by trying to make changes to the way our nights go, but our babies deserve respect and compassion in every scenario.  Here are a few thoughts on what respectful night-time treatment should include and what it might look like.

1. Use what your baby is already giving you.

When I’m talking to expectant parents something I really stress is that their when new parents are fatigued it’s rarely because their baby isn’t sleeping enough.  It’s because the baby and parent aren’t sleeping at the same time. The clinical definition of sleeping through the night for a baby is SIX hours.  So if your baby goes to sleep at 7pm and sleeps until 1 am, then your baby has done exactly what he or she ‘should’ do.  Your baby does not have a sleep problem and does not need to be ‘trained’ to sleep longer.  But if YOU chose to stay awake until, say, 11 pm and are therefore tired for the 1 am wakeup, then that’s YOUR problem. Every parent, myself included, struggles with this.  Isn’t it important to have some grown up time to yourself while baby is sleeping?  Yes, it is, but it’s not a baby’s responsibility to meet the parent’s needs.  Your baby should not be expected to modify her behaviour if you haven’t modified your own first.

2. Make your job as easy as possible.

If you’re getting as much sleep as possible but you’re still feeling like a zombie during the wakeup the next thing you could do is see if your job can be made any easier during the wakeups.  This is the primary reason why I love co-sleeping.  By the time my kids were a couple of months old, night feedings basically consisted of baby wiggling silently, mom pointing chest at baby’s face, baby self-latching, zzzzzzz. But not everyone is as comfortable co-sleeping as we are and that’s fine.  So how about keeping baby next to your bed and feeding in bed even if baby doesn’t stay there?  If you go downstairs to the couch for each feeding, of course you’ll be tired in the morning.  Not to mention, if you’re so tired that you doze off during the feeding, then you’re unwittingly practising incredibly unsafe cosleeping anyway and it would be safer to feed on your flat mattress.

3. Understand the difference between needs and wants – for yourself.

Baby training manuals are all about delineating the baby’s needs from his wants.  He needs sleep and he only wants to be rocked or held.  Well, what if we applied the same thinking to our needs and wants as parents?  Yes we need sleep, but we don’t need it to be 7pm-7am every day of the week, we only want that. As adults we can be a lot more flexible about how and when our needs are met than a baby can.  Maybe we need a couple of solid naps every week.  Maybe we need to be able to hit the sack a bit earlier than baby or get up a bit later.  When we consider what our true needs are, we realize we probably don’t need to make such a drastic change in our baby’s behaviour in order to meet those needs.

4. “Help train” an adult.  

Following from number 3, meeting our own needs might mean help training another adult.  I’m specifically looking at you, partners!  One thing Mr. Fair did when Little Man was little was let me have Saturday mornings in bed.  As soon as the baby started fidgeting, Mr. Fair would whisk him away downstairs and entertain him while I slept (or at least just relaxed.)  Little Man would be brought up when he needed a feed and then whisked away again.  I got caught up enough on those mornings to get me a good half way through the week before feeling super tired again. I recently read a blog post about a woman who was discussing her serious fatigue with another new-mom friend who, needless to say was in the same boat.  So they both decided to pay a sleep Doula to teach them to let their babies cry.  I left a comment asking why they didn’t choose instead to team up and trade off naps?  It seems much more fair to me to seek assistance from another grown up before forcing assistance from a baby.

5. Make changes with respect.

Sometimes, once you’ve fulfilled all of your obligations as an adult, you might still need to exercise your right as the parent to guide how things go in your family.  That’s fine!!! And guess what, even I’ve done it – gasp!!

Picture me pregnant, hit by the Mack truck that is postpartum/prenatal depression, working from home all day and nursing Little Man every 1-2 hours all night.  I needed to night-wean.  It was hard, and there was crying.  Yes, you read that right.  Crying.

But here are some things to take into account when deciding how to proceed:

Calories – if baby is waking less at night, then baby is eating less at night.  There are all kinds of thoughts as to how long babies can safely go without eating at any age.  A decent guide is to use your baby’s self-directed longest interval.  If once in a while your babe will sleep for a long stretch of his own accord, then the length of that stretch is probably a safe and reasonable length to aim for.

It’s important to remember to allow for those calories to be made up.  If you’re breastfeeding, make sure that you feed on cue during the day.  If you’re bottle-feeding, then the bottles that would have been consumed at night need to be offered during the day.

Object Permanence – is a developmental milestone that babies achieve somewhere between 8 and 9 months that allows them to understand that an object (which includes a person) still exists – i.e. is permanent – when it is out of sight.  Until baby reaches this milestone they are cognitively unable to understand that you exist when they can’t see you.  In other words, if a baby is being left alone to cry before this age, he or she is completely unable to deduce that Mom and Dad are just in the next room.  In fact, as far as they are able to know, they are literally the only person left in the universe.  Actual horror movies have been made about being the only person left in the universe.  After this age they’ll at least know you’re out in the hall, even if they still don’t really understand why.  That distinction gets totally glossed over in baby programming literature but it is the difference between a baby who cries to sleep peeved at Mom and a baby who cries to sleep terrified.  If you can hold out for upset over terrified, it’s worth it.

Language – then once you know your baby can understand a good chunk of what you’re saying (for my kids that was about 15 months) then they can understand when you explain to them (simply) why it’s not time to eat or play.  They’ve also known you long enough to trust you.  By this point, a baby has virtually every skill necessary to understand what is happening, to specify his or her needs and to participate in meeting those needs.  That gives parents a lot of leeway to interject our needs back into the relationship.  A year, or maybe eighteen months is really not an outrageous amount of time when you think about it.


What approaches have you used to get a bit more rest while still treating your baby’s needs with respect?


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You’ve heard about why.  And you’ve heard about how.  Now do you wanna see what it looks like??  Well feast your eyes.


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Dropping the F-bomb

BLW Part I: The Whys

BLW Part II: The Hows


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This is part two of a 3-part series on baby-led solids/weaning (BLW) in honour of Lady Fair’s half-year birthday and consequent move away from exclusive breastfeeding.  In part 1 we talked about some of the great reasons to do it, and now we’ll go over some practical tips.  The thing about BLW is that it really doesn’t require instructions beyond “give food to the baby”, but people who are used to pureeing usually want some more details, so here they are.

Size & Shape

The main thing about BLW is that the kids are putting the food in their mouths themselves, and they’re starting well before they work out that little pincer grip.  In other words, dicing is no-dice.  It’s all about the long-skinny so that they can wrap their whole adorable little fist around it and still have an end poking out to get in their mouths.

My favourites for novice eaters are bananas halved lengthwise, avocados cut into longitudinal wedges and broccoli trees.  Once they get older and more coordinated, brussels sprouts and scrambled egg yolks are pretty grabable.

Meat always seems to present a difficulty.  Some people cut it into really narrow long strips, but my kiddo couldn’t figure out how to flop it into his mouth.  He also had front teeth very early, so he’d bite a chunk off and then not be able to chew it and problems would ensue.  So I went Alicia Silverstone on it and pre-chewed, then propped it up in a little pile on his plate.  Gross, but effective.


As scary and weird as it seems, try to leave peels and rinds on when possible.  Bananas are a perfect example.  If you take the peel off, that nanner will fly out of baby’s hand like the escargot out of Julia Roberts’ in Pretty Woman.  Apples with a skinless landing strip around the equator and peel at each pole are easy to hold onto and run your gums over.  If you’re into grains you can also try dusting food with some sort of cereal crumb.

Out & About

First off, BLW makes travelling way easier, and being lazy, that makes me very happy.  But what you need to plan/bring changes more rapidly than with pureed food.

If baby is only a few days/weeks onto solids then the biggest question is really whether or not baby actually needs to eat (other than nursing, obviously) while you’re out.  Remember the rule of thumb “before 1 it’s just for fun.”  Kids really don’t need to be having three squares a day.  In fact, in the first couple of weeks they’re unlikely to swallow enough to make the endeavor calorically worthwhile anyway.  So there’s the nothing option.

But if your wee one is firmly into the eating world, avocados, bananas and brussels sprouts all travel well and make relatively little mess.  For more adventurous babies, order the soup and bread and share dipped bread with them.  Alternatively, bits from a garden salad or side baked potato do wonders.  And my all-time food court favourite? Sushi rolls.  They’re mouthful sized, nutritious and TIDY.

IKEA Antilop Highchair

Bibs = useless. Think ‘full coverage’.


And speaking of tidiness… you know all of those little wee bibbies you were given?  Forget them.  Truly.  So useless.  If you must use a cover, then the IKEA full-body smock is the only rational option, but I prefer to strip baby bare.  Much easier to swab a baby than wash and fold a stack of smocks.  And while we’re at it, the more elaborate your high-chair, the more crevices there are to stick food in.  IKEA comes in handy here again with their smooth plastic, single piece, TWENTY DOLLAR high chair.  Can’t be beat.


These really should go for all early experiments with food, no matter how you introduce it.  The first item on the safety list, is to know the difference between gagging and choking.  Both look horrible and can make you panic.  One – gagging – tends to be noisy, while the other – choking – is silent.  So don’t ever turn your back on baby and assume you’ll hear her choking because you won’t.  Ultimately, the qualifier is air.  If baby is gagging, he can still breathe in between gags, which makes noise.  If baby is making noise (and thus breathing) you should NOT go smacking her on the back because that could make the offending bit of food block the currently unobstructed airway and cause choking.

Item number two is to leave baby UNBUCKLED while feeding.  This probably seems a bit counter-intuitive, especially since highchairs these days come with enough snaps and harnesses to rival a carseat, but the reality is that if baby does happen to start choking, you can’t help without removing her from the chair.  The harder it is to get her out of the chair, the longer it will take to help her.  Here is where we loop back to the previous paragraph and remind you not to turn your back while baby is eating, lest she somersault over the tray.

The final item on the list is to master ye old finger swipe and it is a bit more BLW specific.  If a bad gagging fit does hit, or even if you foresee trouble clearing an item from the mouth, the easiest way to help is to reach into the mouth and clear it with your finger.  Don’t be alarmed if this actually triggers gagging – you would too if someone reached into your mouth.  Also don’t freak out if all of this gagging triggers puking.  That’s the body’s way of making sure stuck objects get pushed up and out.

So there you have it.  Baby-led weaning in a nutshell.  What tricks did you use to make it even easier?


Dropping the F-bomb

BLW Part I: The Whys

BLW Part III: The Cuteness


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There are so many reasons I do Baby-led weaning.  If I had to boil it down I’d say it just feels right.  Remember my cave-woman test for babies?  This one scores an A+.  But in the interest of fleshing out a blog post, here are (in no particular order) my top 5 reasons for choosing BLW.

Fun for baby

Babies so dislike the airplane-spoon game that it’s become cliché.  What they do like and, unless you’ve had blinders on for the last 2 months of baby’s life you’ll be well aware of this, is to grab stuff and put it in their mouths.  I can’t even count how many hours have I spent lately trying to stop Lady Fair from eating my hair, jewelery, coffee mug and car keys.  Not to mention leaves whenever I reach into the garden while babywearing.  She keeps trying though – it really is her favourite thing to do – so why not let her do it with her food?

Healthy food

Do these ‘puffed snacks’ have too much salt?  Does the lid of the apple sauce jar have BPA in it?  Who knows?  And with BLW, who cares?  I’m so tired of worrying whether something is healthy or not, especially since the stuff that appears to be healthy is often not all it’s cracked up to be.  But with broccoli, there isn’t really that much to wonder about.

Healthy food relationships

I am a woman who was born and raised in North America.  In other words, my relationship with food is seriously messed up.  I’m also slightly overweight, due, in large part, to those messed up food attitudes.  If I’m unable to listen to my own body speaking to me, why on earth would I think I could hear someone else’s from across the table?  Bottom line, the less I control how (and how much) my kids eat, the better for them.

True story: when Little Man was about seven months old he went on a very uncharacteristic food jag.  All of a sudden he was a meataholic.  His veggies, even his beloved brussels sprouts (not kidding, that was his FAVOURITE food as a baby) went straight to the ground for a solid week.  Just when I was starting to thoroughly panic about it, I got my first post-partum period and man, was it a doozie.  Clearly I had been serving up some very low-iron boob juice and his little body knew that.  Had I been spooning food into his mouth as per my own judgement, I would have been putting in things his body didn’t need.


Einstein famously bought 7 copies of the same suit so he wouldn’t need to waste mental energy choosing his clothes every day.  BLW allows for the same mental efficiency: “should we eat this vegetable today, or that vegetable?”  Pretty easy decision.

Menu planning aside, the prep is also incredibly easy.  No strainers, food mills or special little ice cube trays needed.  Step one, make yourself a meal.  Step two, put some of it on baby’s plate.  Ta-da!!  Going to be away from home? No problem.  Pack an avocado and a knife.  Alternatively, you can probably find something in your restaurant meal that’s baby-appropriate.

I’ve watched in awe as parents I know order a coffee they don’t want just so they can ask the Tim Horton’s cashier to microwave their pureed turkey-sicle, for which they needed to lug around a cooler.  Ya, I’m so not that energetic.

Safety – the Biggie

The thing with pureeing food is that it’s like putting a life-jacket on during your swimming lesson.  No one drowns during a structured, supervised swimming lesson.  They drown when no one is looking, especially if they weren’t allowed to properly learn to swim.  Kids are at risk for choking, there’s no doubt about that.  Part of the risk comes from having small throats that food can get stuck in easily, but the other part is from not having the skill to coordinate jaw, lip and tongue movements to control where food goes.  Just like you can’t learn a proper breast stroke with a lifejacket, you also can’t learn to move food around your mouth if your food is always inserted to the back of your moth where you have no choice but to swallow.  Letting kids eat pieces of (appropriately soft) food helps them master the skills of not choking so when they get hold of a pebble or piece of lego when it isn’t meal time, they’ll be safer.

Stay tuned for Part II where I get into some of the practical how-to’s of BLW!


Dropping the F-bomb

BLW Part II: The Hows

BLW Part III: The Cuteness

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It happened the other day.  My beautiful, squishy, delicious baby girl had her first experience with the four-letter word that starts with F:


Yes, that’s right.  At just 3 days shy of 6 months old, with a stack of ripe organic bananas on the counter, I dropped the F-bomb on my baby.  And she promptly dropped it on the floor 🙂

It was a spur of the moment decision to start.  The beauty of baby-led solids is that the prep is virtually non-existant.  But I’ll get into that in my next post on why we do babyled.  Up after that, some of the practicals for how to do it.  Stay tuned.

Half a banana, anyone?


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UPDATE: The Own Nestle Project has officially been launched.  Check it out here : www.ownnestle.org

I would definitely NOT buy a K car.  I would probably build that tree fort though and as it happens, in the 20-odd years since the Barenaked Ladies wrote that song they have in fact developed pre-wrapped bacon.  But I wouldn’t buy that either…

I digress.

A very nice-looking couple in Britain has just won the British pound equivalent of $200 million Canadian dollars in a lottery.  Holy moly is all I can say to that.  One of my absolute favourite pastimes is to play the what-would-I-do-if-I-won-the-lottery game.  Renting out Richard Branson’s Necker Island has always factored quite highly on my post-jackpot to-do list.  But there’s something else I would do that may surprise the heck out of you.

I would buy as many shares of Nestle stock as legally possible.

You’re probably as confused as heck right now since I’m all up in the breastfeeding (or, if you didn’t know that, check here, here and here), so let me explain: I would buy as many shares of Nestle as I could and use my voting power to run those suckers into the ground!

At today’s share price, $200 Million could technically get me 3,278,000 shares which, according to Nestle investor relations would amount to a whopping 0.1% of the company.  It wouldn’t get me control, but it certainly would get me a voice.  I could advocate for a corporate policy of following the WHO Code.  I could sabotage their sabotaging of infant health.

And guess what else I could do with my shares?  I could give the $6.2 million in dividends I’d get every year to IBFAN or some other breastfeeding protection organization.  That’s 6 million bucks worth of mama-milk marketing, 6 million bucks of lobbying, 6 million bucks of hardballs to throw back at Nestle each and every year.  And every penny of it they would cough up themselves.  And that’s just this year.  Over the last decade, Nestle has increased it’s dividend 600%*.  So today’s $6 million could be $36 million in another decade.  Of course, as a shareholder I’d get to vote for dividend changes, so I’d vote for the highest dividend possible.

But, I’m not the one who won the $200 million lottery, so I can’t do that, exactly.  But what if I bought a couple of shares?  And what if you bought a couple of shares?  In fact, what if we set up a non-profit specifically designed to Own Nestle shares and put those dividends to work?

Lots of us in the breastfeeding community are already familiar with or even participate in the NoNestle boycott, but frankly, that’s been going on for decades and Nestle’s artificial baby milk sales are still growing.  I think it’s time for a different kind of direct action.  It’s time to not just cut off their profits, but to actually take their profits.  It’s time to OWN NESTLE.

What do you think, who wants to OWN NESTLE with me??

*My numbers are in US dollars, so some of that increase is actually due to currency conversion


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The good thing about having your second baby is that the quantity of unsolicited advice you get goes down substantially.  It doesn’t disappear completely though.  It can be hard to parse it all out and know which bits are good and which are… less so.  And of course, if you lean to the attachment end of the parenting spectrum, a lot of it is just plain angering.

In the last 2 years (and more, since the tips started flooding in before Little Man’s birth) I’ve found it really helpful to think things through with a few simple mental hacks.  I’ve also found these really helpful as a way of explaining to other people why I do or don’t do certain things.  It makes the subject tangible to people who often simply haven’t thought it through, and it adds a bit of levity to discussions that can very easily become tense.

1. What would a cavemother do?

Here’s something to keep in mind: babies don’t know it’s the 21st century, they think it’s still the stone age.  The primal instincts babies follow are certainly not always convenient in a modern world, but they serve a very important purpose and for the most part you’ll save yourself a lot of stress if you use modern tools to meet those instinctual needs, rather than to try to suppress them.  So, when given a piece of baby advice, simply ask yourself ‘what would a cavemother do’.  The answer to that question is going to paint a really clear picture for you of what your baby needs, biologically speaking.  The only thing you ‘need‘ to do, then, is find the best way for you to approximate the cavemother’s response and still get your laundry done.

2. As to big people, so to little people.

Another astonishing fact: babies are actually people!  What does that mean?  It means that aside form certain biological norms (eg every person – big or small – eats, sleeps and poops) each little person is as different from the rest as each big person is.  And little peoples’ needs are not, as a group, so vastly different from big peoples’ needs.  If you remember this, then babies don’t seem like such a mystery.  Simply ask if a generalization or rule about babies would hold true for full sized people.  If not, then it’s probably not such a great rule for the little ones either.

3. The Granny Test.

I’ve talked about this before, in relation to nighttime needs, but it’s a good overall test.  If you replace the word ‘baby’ in any baby advice with ‘sick Granny’, how would you feel about following that advice?  What would be the outcome of following the advice?  A healthier Granny?  A closer relationship between you and your Granny?  If yes, then it’s good advice.  If no, then… you get the picture.

So, let’s run a couple of examples of baby advice I’ve heard (yet again) in the short days since Lady Fair was born through the checks and see what we come up with.

“Babies get all they need (from the breast) in the first 10 minutes”

What would a cavemama have to say about that?  I think she’d probably say ‘what’s 10 minutes’?  Cavemothers likely had a pretty good sense of time, but they weren’t sporting a Timex on their wrist.  They likely would have decided the baby was done eating when it was… well, done eating, and minutes shminutes.  So our advice failed the first test.

What if we applied this rule to fully grown people?  If you sat 10 (or 1000) adults down with 10 different meals (remember, each baby is eating from a different breast), how likely is it that they would all take their last mouthful at exactly the same time?  Um, I think that number is approaching zero.  We’ll call this one a fail too.

As for the Granny Test, how likely would you be to pull Granny’s half-finished plate away after an arbitrarily determined amount of time and tell her she got all she needed?  Especially if you started timing from the arrival of the appetizers (the non-breast equivalent of the first let down, for moms who have several) instead of the entree? Fail, fail, fail.

I think we can safely say this bit of wisdom, which was given my mother by her doctor when she had me and eagerly handed down when Little Man came and now again with Lady Fair, is a dud.

“Sleeping with your baby is a bad habit.”

What would a cavemother do?  Well, not only did cavemama not have an AngelCare monitor at her disposal to make sure the baby is still breathing in the nursery cave, she also had large nocturnal carnivores to deal with.  If she had to weigh the theoretical possibility of overly attached offspring against the less theoretical possibility of tiger-mauled offspring, I’m thinking she’d go with door number one.

As to big people, so to little people.  This one is a bit harder to gauge because the parent-infant relationship doesn’t really have an adult-only equivalent, given that infants are sexually immature.  Let’s look at an adult child and his/her parent, and leave sexual propriety out of it as much as possible.  If you are contemplating bedsharing with your mom, you’re probably going to base your decision on things like does she already live in your house (probably not), do either of you have romantic partners you’d rather sleep with (probably yes), do either of you fart or snore incessantly in your sleep keeping the other up (maybe, maybe not)?  ‘Bad habit’ probably isn’t the first reason you would think of for not bedsharing with mom, so it probably shouldn’t be the sole reason you don’t bedshare with baby.

The Granny Test.  This runs along the same lines of our previous test, but with one better similarity to babies – the Granny in our test is physically incapable of meeting her own needs, whether it’s day or night.  This is pretty much the same deal as a baby.  If Granny’s needs at night included temperature regulation, apnea (i.e. SIDS) prevention, reduction of brain-damaging stress hormones and frequent nourishment, would ‘bad habit’ really be the deciding factor in how to care for her?

This one goes down the tubes too.

“At 6 months, babies should be introduced to iron-fortified rice cereal.”

Our cavemema’s idea of rice cereal would be grass seeds pounded between rocks.  And iron-fortification?  Maybe she could prop up a pile of the seeds with some pieces of flint…  Really this test shows us that not only do babies not need wallpaper paste, they don’t need pureed food at all, since it was impossible to even create such food until the release of the electric blender in the 1930’s.  Cavemama would have waited until baby could wrangle a piece of food into its mouth on its own.  She might have chewed it up a bit first, but nothing more complicated than that.

Ah, the big people.  When, in the age of low-carb diets, did you last see an adult sit down with a bowl of processed starch and iron filings and pat themselves on the back for their nutritionally superior meal?  ‘Nuff said.

As for our Granny… When, in the age of low-carb diets, did you last see a nursing home serve bowls of processed starch and iron filings and pat themselves on the back for their nutritionally superior meal?  Thought so.  As an added question – if your Granny’s nursing home was indeed feeding her this stuff, how long would you leave her there?

Obviously, these examples are pretty clear-cut.  They all fail all of the tests.  Parenting is rarely this straightforward, though, and there are a lot of times when you have to make much more difficult decisions, but if nothing else, these will lend hours of amusement to your decision-making tasks.

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