Last night I was planning to write up a post and was waylaid by the idea of putting anchors into my blog index. I found this post helpful for anyone who has also not known how to do it. Life has been busy as usual and so now that I have accomplished the anchors, I would catch up with some photos of good food we have eaten recently and a chat about having a vegetarian baby.
But first I would like to thank Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes for her warm words that she sent to me with an award for brightening her day. I have already handed this award around so I will send you back to my recent award post rather than do another one...
....This post has been coming together so slowly (two conferences in a week has left me with far too little blogging time and energy) that I also must thank Ricki for sending me an award. I was delighted to get an award back from two of my favourite bloggers. Both Jacqueline and Ricki have written up fantastic posts full of gorgeous photos, generous descriptions and lots of links to more interesting blogs that I must check out (if I can ever get on top of my backlog!!!).
I love hearing little updates on Jacqueline's gorgeous baby Cooper and I know she will be interested to hear about Sylvia. Ricki is very sympathetic about food intolerances and also takes a great interest in my little one so here is a little update for both of them and for anyone else with an interest in rearing a vegetarian baby.
Just before Sylvia had her first birthday we went to the maternal and child health nurse for her 12 month check. She asked me if I had any concerns. I said no. Maybe it was a trick question. By the time I had finished talking to her it seemed I should have many concerns about her diet. The nurse seemed quite horrified that she hadn't put on much weight and was no longer at the top of the chart with her weight despite still being above average weight. In retrospect I wish I had told the nurse that she was my main concern.
I was made to feel that Sylvia was underfed and in danger of not developing well. But the nurse's irrational approach made me question how concerned I really should be. When I said that Sylvia didn't like milk and in fact I didn't like milk, she decided Sylvia was dairy intolerant. She told me I could try soy milk but I should be warned that she might be soy intolerant because about 50% of babies are. She obviously hadn't been listening when I had mentioned minutes before that Sylvia loves tofu. I came out feeling that the subtext was that my vegetarianism was just whacky and dangerous.
I decided to discuss it with my doctor who started questioning where Sylvia got her iron. Again the implication was that I had to be very careful about her being a vegetarian baby. It was as though vegetarianism is a phase I have been going through (for almost 20 years!) and now it was time to grow up and eat meat. I bought the iron supplement that the doctor recommended and was unhappy to see that the second ingredient was sugar.
Since then I have been on a mission to try and get Sylvia eating more and in particular more eggs and dairy. I have visited the doctor again who is actually quite nice and seems to think Sylvia is fine. But I resent that these health professionals have honed in on my vegetarianism rather than asking me why I think she might have put on so little weight and discussing with me how I might get her eating more. I am trying to give her more frequent meals as the doctor suggested but there is only so much of my day (and energy) that I can devote to Sylvia's mealtimes.
It makes me angry that these health professionals who are meant to support parents bring up their babies are actually making us more paranoid and unhappy. Among my friends I have known people whose babies weigh too little, weigh too much, aren't walking early enough and aren't saying enough words. If they don't fit into a narrowly defined "normal", parents are made to feel there is a problem.
The whole guilt trip for parents starts early with the foods that may be harmful in pregnancy and the midwives with their contradictions at the hospital straight after birth. Thank goodness for the common sense of mother's club chit chat about babies progressing at their own pace and parents ignoring charts based on bottle fed babies. Bloggers can also help to reassure with useful information, such as Sophie's recent post on the benefits of tofu with regards to calcium intake.
Nevertheless, I have been watching what Sylvia eats carefully. We have tried to get her eating more milk and eggs but it is not easy when it does not come naturally to me. E is loving my attempts to make her scrambled eggs - something I would not normally make. Jules idea of adding creamed corn was great. It is a surprise to see that she eats it.
Far easier for me is cheese. I was pleased to see her eating cheese straws inspired by Lorraine - if not as pretty (note to self, remember to use baking paper next time). She has also loved my creamy pumpkin dip on toast, loves vegetarian sausages and has tried some sausage rolls (I tried cindy's vegan version) but refused my adaptation of this lentil loaf. It was a bit dry. Never mind, I loved the loaf in a burger with tomato, onion and sauerkraut inspired by the Court Jester.
As for milk, the very idea of drinking a glass of a stuff makes me shudder in horror. The doctor suggested smoothies which I love but she was even more impressed when I said that I had made bread and butter pudding. Obviously she expected it to be full of eggs and milk as did my mum when I discussed making it with her. My favourite one I have made to date is actually the very vegan friendly Pumpkin and chocolate bread pudding with no eggs. But I didn't mention that.
I had told my mum that I wanted to put in some of the blood plums I had bought. She thought it sounded too fruity and suggested I use some of my plum jam. I did so because I wanted to make it like my mum had made it for me as a child. Strangely enough I had never thought of it as a healthy food but there you go. I used some panettone that I had been saving to make a summer pudding and the milk I had accidentally bought a day before the use by date. I gave it the full nostalgic treatment of coconut on top and served it with a little milk and sugar like my mum used to.
It was delicious. Maybe it needs to be a regular health food in our house. If I didn't have panettone I think a good sourdough fruit loaf would suffice or else plain bread with some butter, sultanas and a little orange zest.
When I said the blood plums had to be used, my mum said she would stew them for me. She was as good as her word. Stewed blood plums also make me think of my childhood. I used quite a few of them in smoothies for Sylvia. The combination is below. It took me a few attempts to get Sylvia drinking them but she has just learned to use a straw and sucking anything through a straw delights her, even smoothies. The rest of the plums went with some stewed apples (thanks again mum) into a crumble like this one that Sylvia also loved.
So now that my rant is done, here are a couple of recipes, which are just written as I did them. The bread and butter pudding goes to Susan for YeastSpotting. I don't always have plums and leftover condensed milk and unused panettone in my kitchen but if I did I wouldn't hesitate to make these again, baby or no baby!
Banana, berry and plum smoothie
1-2 stewed blood plums
½ cup milk
2-3 heaped dessertspoons yoghurt
1 tsp pediasure supplement (very optional)
Blitz all ingredients in a blender til smooth. Pour and drink!
Bread and Butter Pudding
½ panettone, sliced
about ½ cup plum jam
2½ cups milk
1 tbsp condensed milk (or a little sugar)
coconut for sprinkling
Spread panettone with plum jam. Layer in a greased casserole dish. Lightly whisk together milk, eggs and condensed milk and pour over panettone. Press down to make sure the panettone soaks up all the milk and egg mixture and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with coconut and bake at 180 for about 45 minutes or until top is golden brown and crispy. Sit at least 10 minutes before serving. You can serve it with a smidge of milk and a sprinkle of sugar if desired. It will keep overnight and taste even better the next day - I just heated it in the microwave.
On the Stereo:
Tarkus: Emerson, Lake & Palmer
It completely baffles me how medicine can be so advanced and yet many doctors and nurses are still so ignorent about the health benifits of a vegetarian diet... My parents were confronted quite a bit by doctors for raising me as a vegetarian, and I'm saddened to find things still haven't changed... Hopefully, though, with wonderful, wise vegetarian moms like you, more doctors will see how happily and healthily veggie babies grow up... Sylvia is very, very fortuante to have such a wonderful mom fixing her gorgeous vegetarian meals!!ReplyDelete
Johanna, I don't have a child so at first I wasn't sure whether to comment, and I don't think I be very eloquent regardless, but I'm really interested in/frustrated by the way the medical profession treats/controls/disempowers women and the female body. Pregnancy and childcare seem to be huge issues in this regard, "issues" both from our disgruntled perspective and in terms of how they are treated by doctors.ReplyDelete
I think it's fantastic that you were able to pull back and look at how you were treated in perspective - which is not to say that the way you were made to feel is any less important or valid. Sylvia's overall health is the most important thing, and honestly, one need only look through your archives to see that you're constantly opening Syvlia up to new tastes/flavours/experiences, all of which are healthful and wonderful.
I'm coming across all gobbledegook but my main point is this - I'm sorry that you were treated in a way that made you doubt yourself, because it's clear that you're doing all you can to raise Sylvia healthfully. Just keep on keepin' on! :)
(I'm still angry about the time I went to a doctor with a virus and she asked whether I wanted antidepressants. Um, no. I'm miserably because I'm sick. Cure the sickness, please!)
Johanna, I am sorry your health care providers treat you in such an accusatory way. In India, a very large proportion of the population is vegetarian (generally for religious and cultural reasons) and being vegetarian is highly mainstream. I can tell you that millions of Indian families are raising beautiful, happy, intelligent children simply by doing what you doing, feeding them a normal diet of REAL food, all sorts of grains and vegetables and fruits and nuts, dairy. It is sad that no one would raise an eyebrow to see parents feeding their child packaged food day after day but leaving out meat is such a big deal.ReplyDelete
I'm appalled by the treatment of that nurse, and even the doctor! Excuse me, but aren't there whole COUNTRIES and other CULTURES that exist very well on vegetarian and even vegan diets?? As for calcium, countries that ingest large amounts of dairy tend to have HIGHER rates of osteoporosis than others, so it's not the dairy that's helping them get calcium. Leafy greens (esp dandelion) are a great source, as are almonds and even figs. And, of course, calcium-set tofu.ReplyDelete
It's also astonishing that the nurse said that about Sylvia even though she is still above average for her age! What does this nurse want, an overweight baby? Those pudgy hands and arms we see in photos point to a healthy and happy baby as far as I can tell. Time to find a new nurse!
Okay, now MY rant is over ;) The smoothie and bread pudding both sound lovely--never thought to add jam to a bread pudding, but I bet it works great.
Did you use the plum jam we mentioned on Sat? :) Lovely smoothie! I'll make some stewed plums soon.ReplyDelete
The maternal and child health nurse system is fantastic in so many ways, but not perfect. On the matter of weight, the top 10% on the charts get told their child is overweight, and the top 24% get told their child is underweight. So in a population of healthy children, natural variation means that a third of these mothers will be made to worry about their child's weight. It's just silly.ReplyDelete
Thanks for a lovely post.
Your health nurse seems like a very silly person. Perhaps you should direct her here where you write about the wide variety of foods that Sylvia eats, many of them handmade by you. I doubt that many parents are as involved in the preparation and creation of their baby's food as you are. If you are confident that Sylvia is healthy, happy and chugging along nicely, then ignore that nurse!ReplyDelete
Maybe a specialist nutritionist would be better than a doctor? I remember not too long ago reading an alarming statistic about how little health professionals like doctors and nurses get trained in nutrition - you might be hearing their personal opinion rather than a professional assessment? I know I personally have NEVER gotten good nutrition advice from a doctor - just the opposite...ReplyDelete
Sylvia looks like a gorgeous, perfectly nourished baby! And your cheese straws look wonderful I have to say! :)ReplyDelete
Thanks everyone for your feedback - for sharing my outrage and for making me feel good about the way I feed sylviaReplyDelete
Thanks Astra - I think I was just ataken back how vegetarianism became an issue and all other aspects seemed to suddenly fade into the background - I am so used to dealing with be vegetarian myself but it is a new learning curve to get used to Sylvia being vegetarian
thanks Hannah - love your gobbledegook :-) and I appreciate how your comment makes me think about my experiences in the big picture of the health system - we have such a long way to go! I am fortunate to have others around me - both bloggers and family and friends who will give me some common sense to weigh up the attitude of the nurse in question
Thanks Nupur - a world where vegetarianism is mainstream sounds idyllic - and I agree with you about how crazy it is that a vegetarian diet is questioned much more than a prepackaged food diet
Thanks Ricki - my mum always spread jam on the bread for bread and butter pudding so this seems quite normal to me - and comforting - and you know comfort is needed to deal with the healthcare system - as you say the woman is very narrow minded and blinkered to any diversity.
Thanks Anh - yes it is the plum jam we were discussing - I think it helped to make the pudding taste so good
Thanks Paula - yes good reminder that there are good things about the maternal and child health system - it is useful to be aware that sylvia hadn't put on a lot of weight - it is just a shame the nurse couldn't have discussed it in a more reasonable way with me
Thanks Miss T - from talking to others it seems hit and miss which nurse you get - the pitfalls of a public health system - I had been lucky enough on my last visit to have a different nurse who was much more helpful and supportive - wish she was there all the time - I have enough support and confidence to be able to ignore the nurse and get really angry that there are other mothers who have less support than me and have to depend on such people more
Thanks Lisa - have wondered about just talking to a specialist and if there was one who really understood vegetarian diets I might but don't have much energy to look around at the moment - I think specialists are like doctors - if you find the right one they are brilliant and if you don't it can feel like a waste of time and money!
Thanks Lorraine - I didn't have a clue about if I was doing the cheese straws properly but plan to try it again a few times to improve my straw skills! (looked for a recipe on your site but couldn't find one)
Doctors who recommend giving dairy to kids should get the boot. They obviously have no clue about nutrition. I certainly hope someone sues one of those morons some day.ReplyDelete
Eating dairy is also a very good way to get iron deficiency. I was always borderline anemic when I still ate meat and dairy products, a long time ago. As a mostly vegan my hemoglobin has got nearly too high. That's what happens when you skip the dairy.
I feel really strongly about this and I'm really glad that you were able to stick to your guns and not feel too railroaded by the health professionals. Allergic to milk when the poor child just doesn't like it?! Sylvia clearly has an amazingly varied diet and the longer you can keep food an interest and not something that needs to be obsessed over, the better. I was a skinny little thing all through my childhood and my mum decided that as long as I was healthy and full of energy she wasn't going to worry. And now I'm 5 feet 10, so it obviously didn't hold me back (despite being a veggie :) ). So I think you should stick to your own well-informed instincts and just enjoy sharing your tasty dishes with Sylvia :)ReplyDelete
Great blog, Johanna.ReplyDelete