Within the first eight weeks of Oak starting on solids we spent six weeks away from home, including three weeks living in the camper van and five days in a tipi, and attended three music festivals. I was excited when at 8 months old the consultant gave us the go ahead to start Oak on solids. I felt like we had reached an important milestone and couldn’t wait to get started. I went out and bought a book on baby-led weaning which I read cover to cover, I researched endless websites and asked friends for advice. Baby-led was definitely the way forward, everything about it made perfect sense to me and I was sure it was the easiest, most beneficial and efficient way to start Oak on solids. I banned purees, shunned spoons and offered Oak his first floret of steamed broccoli whole. He loved it. On day two he enthusiastically piled huge bits of cauliflower into his mouth and sticks of cucumber. By day three I was casually letting him suck on slices of mango with the skin still on. By day four I developed a huge, completely irrational fear of him choking, went out and bought a spoon and starting mashing everything to within an inch of its life. I had no idea how stressful and all-consuming feeding my child would be!
As August draws to an end and the chill of Autumn is already in the air, I look back over our summer and see a blur of endless food shops and recipe searching. Of boiling, steaming, blending and mashing. Of scooping, feeding, wiping, cleaning and washing. Of green, purple, orange and yellow mush. Of new and ever-increasing dirty nappies. This is the fourth year I have been lucky enough to travel with Tom to the festivals and help with the tipi crew. I love it; we love it. Beautiful places, friendly folk, good music, happy times. The first two years I helped with putting up the tipis, last year I was pregnant so mainly cooked and helped with the furnishings. This year I was pretty much redundant other than providing an Oak shaped bundle of smiles and morale boosting to the crew during wet, soggy tea breaks.
Glastonbury was just a week into our solid food journey and I stumbled through the five days never really knowing how much and when and what I should be feeding him, usually resulting in another fail safe mashed banana. By the time we left for Scotland my confidence had grown (along with Oak’s appetite!) and we set off armed with recipe books, bibs, portable high chair, hand blender and a cupboard full of herbs and spices. I was determined to cook everything for Oak from scratch, to not buy any ready-made baby food and to introduce him to a wide range of exciting, colourful, healthy and nutritious foods. I have so far managed to stick with this and am finally experiencing more joy and satisfaction at his appetite, than fear and anxiety over him choking! It is a wonderful feeling. Never before have I wanted to win a man’s heart through his stomach.
I love food. I believe strongly in the importance of eating a healthy balanced diet. It has nothing to do with gaining or losing weight; it is do with feeling good and staying well. Throughout my Mum’s cancer journey she (we) learned so much about food. Foods that heal, foods that could potentially harm, food as medicine. There is so much information out there you could drive yourself crazy trying to eat the perfect diet. I don’t diet, I don’t obsess, but what I eat is important to me. Therefore what my son eats is important to me. I don’t want him to have any salt or refined sugar and I want to avoid processed food until he is past a year old. I’m not a natural in the kitchen and there have been some disastrous recipes over the years (like the time my entire family thought that my chestnut and cinnamon pudding tasted so awful that it would be put to better use as a face pack. At least five of them actually smeared it on their faces). Remarkably I haven’t yet cooked anything that Oak won’t eat. From mushroom, pea and turmeric risotto, home-made baked beans and beetroot couscous to pear and nutmeg porridge and lime ginger bananas. He has happily eaten it all.
He has now reached the stage where everything I eat he wants to try, so I decided the time had come to sort my sugar habit. I love cake. I love chocolate. I love ice cream. I believe in moderation and would never completely give up any of these things. However, I lost all sense of moderation when I became an over tired, over emotional Mum and my need for all things sweet has got way out of control. I could polish off a whole pack of chocolate caramel digestives in an afternoon. With marshmallow spread on top. Or eat the entire packet of coconut macaroons that I had bought to share with Tom, before I had even made it home and had to hide the evidence. Or eat a whole giant bar of Cadbury's chocolate. For breakfast. So I have given these things up, just for a short time, and I can already feel my energy levels rising.
After three very wet weeks living in the van, two wonderful festivals in Scotland and the Lake District, we are home again. The yurt now feels like a mansion with so much space compared to the van. The sun was shining as we returned back down South and the woods are looking beautiful. It’s good to be home. Oak is sleeping in his new cot, although still in our room (the bedroom is starting to resemble a giant game of tetris!). We are establishing a routine and (dare I say it!) finally getting a bit more sleep. I have been cooking meals and we have been eating together round the table. I have baked my first sugar free cake. We have been on our first family bike ride. Tom has finally made me a bathroom shelf. I have been catching up with friends, old and new. We have taken Oak swimming. We have been to the beach. We have just celebrated two years since we first moved into the yurt. Despite the lack of sugar in it, life is sweet.