THE HOME PLATE

11:39 Hayley Brockie-Dunlop 0 Comments

HOW WEANING CHANGES EVERYTHING

Breakfast. Help.
Oh how I dreaded sleepovers. Too much talking and giggling and not enough sleep for my liking. And how I missed my own bed at home! In fact, it was home that I missed more than anything. I literally used to get homesick on school trips and would count down the days until I'd be back in the place where I was most relaxed and comfortable. I loved being at home, loved going home, and - as I got older - always preferred a night in to a night out. I don't take for granted how lucky I was - and still am - that 'home' is a place where I enjoy spending time and feel at ease; a luxury that many people aren't fortunate enough to experience.

So when I was pregnant I imagined I'd be quite happy to spend most of my days at home with our new baby and, indeed, for the first few weeks or so I barely left the house as I recovered after an extended hospital stay, established breastfeeding, bulk-watched Homes Under The Hammer (I eventually came to terms with the sudden appearance of Dion Dublin as a third presenter) and generally got into the swing of things.

However, after a couple of months a pattern emerged. On the days we did go out, Elliott was chirpy, slept regularly and was generally easier to look after. And on the days we spent at home he was more irritable, difficult to settle after feeds and - quite evidently - bored. Going out became the new staying in. Once I worked out a system for getting everything ready in the buggy the night before, it was actually easier to go out; the day passed more quickly, Elliott would be getting lots of fresh air and seeing lots of new people and new surroundings, I'd be getting exercise and some much-needed adult company. It was win-win.

On the average weekday we'd be out of the house between around 10am and 3pm every day, hanging out with the lovely group of mums and babies we'd met through NCT antenatal classes. We'd go swimming or to a baby class (always followed by coffee and something to eat), attend the baby cinema screenings en masse, have a cheeky prosecco or two down the local pub at 3pm in the afternoon while the babies slept in their prams. Elliott and I would make the occasional trip into central London to meet non-baby friends during their lunchbreaks and he would happily sit in his buggy or on our laps while we nattered away. The days and weeks passed by in a happy blur of coffee, croissants, laughter and discussions about politics, poo and sleep (or lack thereof). Always a winning combination. There was always someone to see and somewhere to go and it was everything I'd hoped maternity leave would be, and more.

And then weaning happened. From the outset (at about five and a half months), Elliott loved solid food, which was - of-course - fantastic. Everything we gave him, albeit in puree form, he demolished, and it wasn't long until he was happily chomping his way through three mushy meals a day, and getting to grips with finger foods as well. And thus my little system for getting out of the house by a certain time pretty much went out the window.

You see, weaning's a messy and involved business. Firstly, the mess. No matter how careful you are, the food gets everywhere. On their clothes, your clothes, the floor, the walls, all over their face. Bibs, you say? Ha. Slimy purees laugh in the face of bibs. They set their sights on your baby's hidden neck creases (and freshly washed vest), and they always reach their destination. Of-course the mess is all part of it, and you just have to let it happen as your baby learns about food and how to (sort-of) feed themselves, but it also means you have a mountain of food-stained laundry to do, a never-ending pile of washing up and a very sticky and increasingly wriggly baby who hates having their face wiped.

Secondly, the cooking. Suddenly you're responsible for producing a nourishing supply of food that doesn't magically appear from your boobs. In the beginning I just couldn't get into any kind of routine for preparing it and would end up cobbling something together for each meal based on what we had in the cupboards. Which wasn't much. "Feed your baby food from your own plate!" is the advice frequently given by people with the best of intentions, but when you're having ready meals or takeaways every night it quickly brings into focus how terrible your diet is. We're in the process of getting more organised on this front in terms of batch cooking beyond steaming a pile of vegetables each weekend for Elliott, but we're still not quite there.

None of this is massively compatible with getting out and about. Not that it's stopped me - that's what Ella's Kitchen pouches are for - but trying to find somewhere for lunch that will accommodate anything up to eight adults, eight babies, eight buggies, and multiple high chairs is no mean feat. You try your best to mop up the floor, the table and the high chairs as you go along, but baby wipes will only do so much. And you somehow have to find an opportunity to feed yourself in amongst it all. Some places are great, but in others in can be a bit of an ordeal. Truth be told it's easier to feed your baby solid food in your own surroundings. Well, it is for me, anyway.

So we're gradually spending more time at home again. Elliott gets to have lots of time on the floor roaming around, just on the cusp of crawling at eight months. He's getting better at napping in his cot rather than in the pram or sling (face down, bum up), and I'm re-establishing my relationship with Homes Under the Hammer and learning how to prepare my own lunch again. None of which are negative things. I like home. I just wish all the surfaces were a bit less sticky. And that there was a nice bearded chap in the corner handing me flat whites all morning.

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