What’s In The Word “Weaning? And What Is Not?
What does weaning really mean? Most of us know weaning as giving baby our baby their first taste of food and gradually stopping milk. We spoke to Helene, founder of Ratatouie and nutritional chef, all about what weaning really means and how to ensure your little one has a varied and healthy diet.
From the outset, I cannot stand the term. Weaning. There is a negative connotation to it that cannot be shaken off. Think about it: get accustomed to food other than just milk. Like it’s no big deal to give up (however gradually) on some of the most precious moments you have had so far: the closeness, the comfort, the softness, the very magical intensity of suckling to feed. The sweet smell. The silky touch. The soothing taste. The humming noise. The loving stare. And it is as hard for the mother as it is for baby. I remember the first few times my A. started sleeping through the night. I would still wake up and impatiently await her call (read: angry hungry cry!). Bending over her crib, I would eagerly spy on the slightest of her movements, secretly longing for her to want to curl up in my arms, selfishly wanting us to become one again in the middle of the night. And then my brain would take over and go: “Are you insane!? Go back to bed! You have not slept through the night in months and here you are, fidgeting by her bedside in the hope she will need you. Let her be! Let her sleep! And console yourself with ladles of pride that your baby is, yes, growing up!”
Going back to the term “weaning”, none can deny the sense of loss or detachment it carries. One might prefer to envisage it as a passage from one relationship to another, keeping it very emotional. Others may simply see it as introducing an infant to what will be its adult diet, making it rather methodical. Crazy foodies like me see it as a miracle. From now on, you will have the upmost joy and privilege to introduce your curious little one to the almost infinite range of tastes, colours, smells, textures, scents that our beautiful planet gives us to eat and drink. What an adventure! What a duty!
A duty because, in this fast-paced world full of rotating diet fads and ever-changing superfood trends, it is easy to forget that food, first and foremost, is the most essential element for growing up harmoniously, for optimising energy and activity levels, for building resistance to infection and diseases, for repairing and maintaining both body and mind. To get this, we need variety and balance. Eat the rainbow, every day, every meal. Keep it natural. Keep it wholesome. Full stop.
A duty because the nutrition that your baby receives during their First 1000 Days of life (from pregnancy to two years) will have a positive influence on how they develop, grow and learn – not just now, but for his or her whole life. The eating habits you set will become theirs. If those focus on variety and balance, then they are all set. Eating the rainbow, every day, every meal. Keeping it natural. Keeping it wholesome. Full stop.
An adventure because from now on, through what you give him or her to eat, your little one will experience a festival of colours and flavours, a firework of textures and sensations, a feast of tastes and scents, a journey of likes and dislikes, a roller-coaster of highs and lows, a roundabout of successes and failures. And yes, you are the driver in this most exciting voyage. For their health and at the very least for their pleasure, don’t make it dull. Don’t make it bland. Don’t make it beige.
Eat the rainbow, every day, every meal. Keep it natural. Keep it wholesome. Full stop.