Jasmin Martin shares her baby led weaning journey.
In the blink of an eye my tiny little newborn had turned into a six-month-old bundle of fun, and just as I’d got to grips with breastfeeding I was now supposed to start feeding her actual food.
I had already decided I was going to go down the baby led weaning (BLW) route which sees you offering solid foods from day one. No purees, no mashed foods and no ‘open-wide for the aeroplanes’ our mums so fondly remember doing for us at the same age.
No, this was hard-core stuff and something I had spent lots of time researching beforehand. As a first-time mum, Google becomes your best friend for anything concerning your new little human, and usually it was during the lonely 3am feed I would find myself trawling through Netmums way too engrossed into how complete strangers were serving their steamed organic carrots.
Showing all the signs she was ready (able to sit up unassisted, lost the tongue thrust reflex, able to grasp and hold onto foods) did not make me any less nervous, and the fact that this weird creature fresh from the womb didn’t have a single tooth only added to my fear. How on earth is she going to bite let alone chew?
To put my mind at ease, I attended an infant CPR course run by St John Ambulance in Horsham to help me understand what to do in an emergency and to learn the difference between gagging and choking. Babies have a surprisingly good gag reflex and are able to sort out many problems instantly, but watching Poppy eat still filled me with dread.
At the beginning of our BLW journey, I used to sit out and let someone else watch over her. I didn’t want her to pick up on my anxiety or to think anything was wrong. Mealtimes made me feel sick, and I would long for the early days where breast pads and sore nipples were my main concerns.
As it happened, Poppy was an absolute pro. How she manoeuvred pre-loaded spoonfuls of porridge into her mouth was incredible. Watching her gums chow down on some avocado or demolish some raspberries reminded me of how my parents’ equally gummy tortoise attacks his food.
I never realised until I became a parent just how much you second guess yourself and your decisions, or how much you feel and fear other parents might judge you. Making sure Poppy was safe while eating was one thing, but what I was actually feeding her was a whole different story.
I was raised vegetarian and went vegan a year prior to falling pregnant. Being vegan is a lifestyle choice that avoids consuming or using any products made from animals including meat, milk, eggs, dairy, honey, leather and wool.
Whether you are vegan or not, the decisions you make for your child are ‘forced’ upon them until they are old enough to decide for themselves and as a mum I only want the best for my child. This meant there wasn’t even a doubt in my mind as to whether I was going to raise Poppy vegan or not, but it was a decision I would have to answer a lot of questions about.
What does Poppy eat? Surely you can’t be healthy without meat and dairy? What about protein? Where will she get calcium from?
Once I felt confident with meal times, I decided to set up an Instagram account called @whatpoppyeats_ sharing exactly that. I wanted to answer those questions by showing people rather than explaining, to show that there is nothing in meat and dairy that can’t be found in plants, that vegan meals are fun and most importantly healthy for anyone at any age.
Armed with beautiful bamboo plates and bowls from a company called Bamboo Bamboo and a Yumbox lunch box,, I began to make a food diary. I started documenting the highs and lows of BLW, how some meals ended up on the floor or in the dogs, how sometimes Poppy would lick the plate clean and ask for more and how sometimes I just really have no energy to make fancy meals.
By ten months old Poppy was able to properly use a spoon and scoop unassisted. Her pincer grasp was perfected, and as time went on I really got to witness the benefits of BLW - independent self-feeding being the main and most mesmerising.
Chickpea curry, tofu fried rice, pasta bake, vegan cheesy broccoli fritters, chia pudding, spinach and banana pancakes, lasagne with a cashew basil ‘ricotta’ - there was nothing she wouldn’t try. I have never been a fan of cooking, but BLW had giving me a whole new lease of life in the kitchen. I started to know and learn more about nutrition too.
I began writing up my recipes and sharing them alongside the images of my meals. I always try to make the recipes simple and fast to make because I am, like most busy parents, usually cooking with a child hanging off me. Some I make up with the ingredients I have to hand, and others I would get inspiration from my old pal Google or Pinterest and just veganise them. Regardless, my Instagram began to grow and as I write this my following is currently at 18.6k which every day blows my mind.
Through my account I have spoken to some amazing people and become part of a great online community. I get countless messages asking for advice, or simply just thank you messages from both vegan and non-vegan parents alike for helping to make their BLW journey a little less daunting - another reason I had created my account given how nervous I had been at the start.
Poppy turned two in September, and feeding her is still a joy. Sometimes a challenge now I have a fussy toddler on my hands who will eat banana one minute and tell me she doesn’t like it the next.
Some days she will still prefer to breastfeed over meals particularly if she’s teething or ill, but as a whole she loves food and has genuine excitement at mealtimes. She has been above average weight since she was a few months old, and she is showing no signs of slowing down. Hummus is her ultimate favourite food, and I feel being both vegan and doing BLW has opened us both up to an amazing variety of foods and given her a taste of a compassionate and healthy future to come.
To follow Jasmin on Instagram, visit @WhatPoppyEats_
Spinach and banana pancake recipe
1 large handful of spinach
2 ripe bananas
2 flax ‘eggs’ (2tbsp flax seeds with 3tbsp water left to soak for 5 minutes in the fridge)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup plant milk
Dash of cinnamon (optional)
Dash of agave (optional)
Mix all the ingredients in a blender until a batter forms. Add more flour or more plant milk as necessary to adjust consistency. Fry in coconut oil until brown on both sides
Chickpea and potato curry recipe
1 tin of chickpeas
1 tin of coconut milk
1-2 tbsp of curry paste/powder
Bag of frozen diced onions, carrots and celery
Big handful of small potatoes
Handful of fresh or frozen green beans
Garlic powder/cloves to taste
Black pepper to taste
Ginger to taste
1tbsp tomato puree (more to taste)
1bsp lemon juice
Dash of balsamic vinegar
1 low salt veg stock cube
- Fry the carrots, onion and celery on a medium heat for 5 minutes
- Once browned, add the coconut milk and chickpeas for a further 5 minutes
- While that’s simmering, cut the potatoes into small chunks and the green beans into smaller pieces and add to the pan
- Add the spices and the stock cube which has been dissolved in around 100ml of hot water
- Leave to thicken and taste as you go to adjust flavour