Luckily - don't shoot me, he'll probably only eat Mars Bars when he's 12 - my baby gobbles up everything. But even so, all that cooking, spooning, freezing, clearing up, wiping, mopping, etc takes ages.
And screw the perfect parent thing. Sometimes you need a pre-made pouch; sometimes you need a helping hand gadget. Following up my Slacker's Guide to Starting Weaning, here's the same for stage two and three: the must-have equipment that makes feeding your baby easier, less time-consuming and more, uh, fun. Maybe. Here goes:
1. Babymoov Nutribaby. The capacity on this thing means it fits SO MUCH IN. You can steam, then blend, so much veg that if you have lots of freezing pots (see below) you can make a batch recipe that will make about 10 meals: steaming capacity is 1500 ml, or for blending it's 600 ml.
It's also a bottle warmer, defroster and steriliser, so you can use it from birth (which you'd want to, for it costs £90). It's pretty big, but does take the place of a bunch of other gadgets (we don't even use the microwave anymore now we've got this bad boy.) The capacity means it's also become my main cooking vessel for family meals too. Veg are steamed, blended and turned into yummy soup lunch whilst we're having breakfast. The steamer has two baskets, so you can put 'slow' things like fish in at the start, then add speedier things like spinach to the second basket. It has automatic cycles with a timer that beeps when dinner is ready. You get on with the rest of your life as the food quietly cooks itself: amazing.*
2. Make your own pouches. I'm a bit embarrassed at just HOW proud I was when tiny man first sucked a pouch, solo - freedom from the spoon whilst out in restaurants: YAAAAY! But if you don't want to give ready meals whenever you're out (some are packed out with fruit rather than the veg / meat they claim to contain, and none are fresh.) you'll love the Fill'n'Squeeze. It made sense when I heard that a new mum had invented the Fill'n'Squeeze: it's simple and quick to use. You pop your pureed food into the plastic jug, attach a pouch (5 are included in the box, which is £20), push the plunger in at a slight angle, flatten it, then squeeeeeeeeeeze. Once the pouch is full, you pop on a cap. They can go in the freezer and microwave, and are even fairly easy to clean and reuse.
3. Ready snacks. Babas are hungry beasts. You do your three meals a day, but they still want more. I love Organix rice cakes (no seriously, the apple and cinnamon ones often get diverted to my mouth). AVOID the tomato ring / wafer carrot stick things because they make mess EVERYWHERE and your buggy will never be the same again. (Early in weaning I vowed never to feed in-buggy. This vow quickly dissolved...)
4. Ready-made pouches. Because sometimes you're pooped. And these are the best thing to have in stock. I'm an Ella's fan.
5. Ah, the drinking. My baby would seize the water cup with glee, move to guzzle at pace - then look at me like I'd promised him Moet (aka milk) and given him water. Which I had. I tried about 17 different cups, and this is the NUK one (£5.99) that works. I don't know why, and it might not work for yours - you may have to try a few. My tips? Go for a soft teat to start with, and it's worth spending extra on no-spill ones. My handbag, car, and house can testify to that.*
6. and 7. Pots. You'll need loads if you're going to make in bulk and freeze, which is the only route to sanity. I used tiny wheely-bin style pots at first, but they soon became too small. Ditto ice cubes. Now my favourite is Joseph Joseph Dial pots. Like most things made by these genius kitchen designers, they've a clever twist: in this case, you 'dial' the made-by date into the built-in digits on the top of the pot, so you never let lovingly-made meals go off / go to waste. They come in three sizes - tiny pots and bigger ones, so the first are great for starting weaning and then later filling with desserts (apple and mint is our fave), and the bigger ones perfectly fit a lovely portion. You won't spot them in most baby shops, but they're worth buying online - or in John Lewis.
These Annabel Karmel pots also work well as you can 'pop' the food out; and the Vital Baby Twist'n'Lock pots come on a tray so the tubs don't go akimbo in the freezer.*
8. Spoons. You'll need lots because there'll alwaus be a few hiding in your handbag/car/kitchen. These colourful Vital Baby ones have a soft tip, ideal for sore teething mouths.
9. Dustbuster. Yeah, you could get on your hands and knees daily to pick up semi-chewed peas from the surrounding 100 square metres. Or you could invest in this. I have the Flexi Hand Vac - you can get cheaper alternatives but going with Black + Decker's original means I'm enjoying great battery life, and it's fully vroomed up in four hours. Which is vital considering my charging ability: my phone collapses in a dead heap about once an hour. This tiny machine fits in a cupboard crevice and is so useful to suck up the debris of every meal in seconds. We recommend!*
AAAAND, the high chair. For a low-budget option, go for Ikea's. It's wipe clean, comfy (I'm told), £14 (although the £6 insert cushion is worthwhile) and does the job. The only drawback is the legs spread out and you trip over it and swear about three times a day. More to spend? Ignore the rotating, cushioned, impossible to clean options and buy Baby Bjorn's high chair. It's all plastic, so wipes clean, and the table opens up to easily pop your baby inside. Then, when it's closed, it keeps your child 'locked in' and safely sitting down. My favourite thing about it, though, is it folds totally flat - flatter than the ironing board - it's only 25cm wide, which is less than a school ruler and means I can hide it behind the curtains when we have people round and need to fit more chairs under the table.
Last, but not least. Recipes. You can get these from a million different websites; I like My Mini Meals' ideas best. Sometimes, though, you've basically got no food in the house or no time are you're desperate. These are my fallbacks:
a) Avocado + banana. Easy, tasty, done.
b) Couscous with anything. Unlike pasta, potatoes, etc, you can cook this is a mug in 5 minutes. Doesn't need mashing either.
c) Scrambled eggs. Make sure they eggs are well cooked, grate in some cheese and a very chopped-up veg (tomato, pepper, mushroom), add a dash of milk, and you're done.
d) Melted cheese on toast. Peanut butter on toast (if your baba's definitely OK with peanuts). Loads of things on toast.
e) Mini pancakes
What are your fallback meals? What are your favourite gadgets? What have I got wrong? Let me know below! And please share if this is useful. Thank you!
* Items sent to Run Out of Womb for review. But rest assured, we're seriously gobby and only rave about what we love...