Friday, 15 June 2012

Weaning the Dairy Free Baby - Let's do Lunch

I have a Baby who knows her own mind and that can make things rather tricky. This morning, at Dinky Dancers, it was  at its most evident - whilst all the other little 'uns did their best to join in with all the different activities, she only joined in if she felt like it.  When she got bored she stopped. She is like this also, with food. She made it easy, today though, when I asked her what she wanted for lunch. 'Sandwich with Tuna,' she replied. 'Huzzah!' I thought, 'that will be nice and easy!'

First Steps
To begin with, lunch was easy peasy (once we'd sorted out a few feeding issues) it was boob juice all the way (breast milk if you're in polite company). When I held out on weaning, until she was six months, it was partly to buy myself time to get my head round the whole dairy free business and partly to put off the evil day.

For me, lunch is somehow mostly a savoury affair, with maybe something sweet to follow - something which probably stems from my upbringing. Which is why, once we had got mastered Baby rice/cereal, lunch for Baby consisted of puréed veg. I soon, I'm sad to say, gave up on puréeing the veg myself, as it was a bit of a disaster. 

I don't think I will ever forget the way that having lovingly puréed organic carrots for her, Baby eagerly lapped up the first few spoonfuls before her face rumpled and she began to cry - big sad tears. Perplexed, and increasingly frustrated, I kept trying to present her with the spoon, but all to no avail. The distress just grew and grew until I was forced to admit defeat. I was left with the uncomfortable feeling that she had been looking forward to a good nosh from her lovely mummy and instead had been incredibly let down by my vile offering. When I tried the purée for myself it did taste vile. No wonder she had objected.

After that I ditched the whole yummy mummy thing (making my own baby food from scratch) Baby was ultra clingy anyway, so The Hub was doing most of the cooking in the evening and at lunch time, I had to wait for her to sleep before I could eat. So I bought what I considered the next best thing - organic ready made Baby food. 

At that stage it was easy enough to find Baby food that didn't contain milk. However, a lot of these early foods are just fruit and vegetable based and pretty soon (as mentioned previously) the Health Visitor made me realise that, particularly because she was breastfed, Baby was also going to need more iron in her diet.

Adding in the iron
Eggs are a good source of iron and vitamin D
We did try a few ready made baby meals, but Baby wasn't always all that keen on them. I've tried a few and they're really not that tasty. To be honest, when you examine the labels on the jars, they have remarkably small percentages of meat (and therefore iron) in them (the early ones) anyway.

Casting around for alternatives, for myself, I had already hit on the idea of lentils, but was not keen to faff around with soaking them overnight and what not. Fortunately, for me, there were ready made fresh soups available in the supermarkets and for Baby, there was a purée in a pouch made with lentils (by Ella's Kitchen), that suited her down to the ground - for a short while. 

Anything with egg
Another good source of iron (as well as the all-important Vitamin D) turned out to be egg - omelette, scrambled or eggy bread to begin with, until she was older and could have a fried egg with a runnier yolk. And this kept her going for a long time. 

In fact, at one stage, all she would eat for lunch was fried egg and toast, unless she was offered fries - no one has to teach a small child to like fries, do they? Then she went through a stage of eating only a frittata-style omelette (made with chunks of par-boiled potato). The only problem was, that going out for lunch became a little more tricky. Not many places make omelette without dairy - for a start, it's often topped with cheese! 

We did find a way round it - we bought a Thermos snack jar, made up an omelette before we went and put it in the jar, to take with us. The only thing is, none of these lunches were exactly instant and small hungry babies are not exactly known for their patience. The Hub found me a solution, though, in Tapas style omelettes (bought from Tesco). As they could keep quite a while in the fridge (as long as they were unopened) we kept a few for emergencies!

There came a day however, when egg lost its charm! That's when fish finger and hash brown suddenly became the order of the day. Not so great nutritionally, Baby being a creature of habit, it soon became her favourite and so pretty much all she would eat. That was until one day when we ran out of hash browns! I solved the problem by reheating some Spaghetti Bolognese that we had left over from the night before and mixing it with freshly cooked pasta. 

Anything with Pasta!
Now, suddenly, all Baby will eat is pasta (and not just any pasta - it currently has to be Bob the Builder gluten free pasta) and there's only so many ways I can do it! Not always having left over Spag. Bol. to hand, I would have tried it with salmon and peas a la Intolerant Gourmet, but Baby has gone off salmon and has never yet liked peas!! 

So far, I've tried mixing her pasta with a tomato based sauce and tuna or sausage (she loves sausage) and I can't help wondering where I will go next. All I really want (apart from her being able to tolerate and enjoy dairy) is for Baby to like sandwiches - they're so much easier to make and there'd be less washing up! 

Sandwiches - exploring the options
Regarding sandwiches, we have tried different fillings: ham, chicken, however, you need to watch out for luncheon meats - you'd be surprised at what they might contain. Duchy Originals Organic (from Waitrose) are OK, but pricey. We've also tried tuna and mayonnaise (Hellman's Original is dairy free). Nut butters might be an option to explore in the future, but we've been advised to avoid those for now. 

We've also tried different bread: hers, mine, tortilla wrap and pitta. I've even cut  her sandwiches into a variety of shapes and sizes! Unfortunately, though, if her mind is set against them, then they'll just go to waste.

Baby loves burgers
One lunch that has never gone to waste yet, is burgers. Mind you, these aren't just any old burgers - they're one of the little treats that The Hub orders from Ocado (also available in Waitrose) from time to time. These particular burgers are made by Laverstock Park Farm, which is owned by Jody Schekter, an ex-Formula One Driver (which probably explains The Hub's interest). They're organic, dairy and gluten free and made of... buffalo. 

Buffalo for lunch
Buffalo is a very meaty meat - quite dense and a hit with Baby (she also likes their meatballs). In fact, I only offer her a little bit of mine (I try to offer her lunch first) but if I'm not careful, she'll scoff the lot! And so they've become an occasional Saturday lunch treat. 

Not your cheapest burger on the shelf (£2.99 for a pack of two burgers) they are, as The Hub has pointed out, still cheaper than eating at MacDonald's and hopefully they're better for us too!

Unfortunately, Baby can't have burgers everyday, so I keep racking my brains for new options to try, that are hopefully fairly quick, easy and involve as little washing up as possible, so we can get outside and do other things instead - although this summer, what with all the rain, that could be easier said than done!

However, I'm liking the look of these little pizzas, as suggested by Nicola Neal. I've steered clear of pizza so far, not being able to cope with the thought of pizza without cheese. However, Baby of course, will  not know otherwise, so knowing her love of tomatoey sauces on pasta, I might just give this one a try!

Found this post useful? You might also like:

Weaning the Dairy Free Baby - First Steps

Weaning the Dairy Free Baby - The Battle of Baby's Brekkie

Simple Sausage Casserole

Helpful Publications:

Neocate Weaning Guide
Neocate Food Allergy Cookbook
Feeding Tips for Toddlers: from One Year (Nutramigen)

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