Thursday, December 1, 2011

Italian weaning

We are in that time frame where we are teaching/learning to give the so-called "solid food" to our daughter. This is of course not an easy job per se' and we have been very lucky to get an infection just at the beginning of this magical adventure, making it almost impossible for a couple of weeks.

Here in Sweden, the figure of the pediatrician is mystical and rarely seen during the check-ups, we are instead followed by some nurses that, except for the medical aspects, they cover what the pediatrician does in other countries (e.g. Italy).

I am not very fond of this approach, but well, we have to live with it, so there is not so much one can do about it. Of course, one can be very lucky and get a very nice and professional nurse, as one could get a very lousy doctor.
Anyway, this was not supposed to be a post about the differences in the healthcare system for a, let's go back to the original subject.

In Italy, the doctor usually gives some precise indications about what the child should eat based on the background of the kid (if he was born early, the weight, other problems) and on the medical believes the doctor is following, because, of course, there are different studies proofing different things all the time.
Here instead, we got some pages of a book to read and some "oral guidelines" provided by the nurses. I read the pages of the book and I was very very uncomfortable with such scarce guidelines that do not take in consideration that every baby is different.

A lot of people also forget that our child is half italian. This means that she should get a good dose of Italian culture, and not just in form of music, literature and language (which I am trying to preserve despite living in another country) but also through our food and the highly famous mediterrean diet.
We have also discussed it at home and we have agreed in following the italian guidelines for weaning a child, since it is actually much more schematic and it gives the bases for the mediterrean diet.
In fact, it is our belief to think that babies should learn to eat food and tastes from the very beginning and we have noticed that this is true when we have met and it took a while to make Mattias understanding, for example, how a risotto should taste.

Decised, I have gone to one of the meeting with the nurses and declared I was going to follow this approach. I have got discouraged because "of course, kids grow up also in this country and I have heard strange things about other places traditions", however, I promptly translated the material I got from a friend of mine and send it over, just they could finally be quiet (and they didn't).
All the schema and the suggestions are based on plenty of experience. Different kind of food is inserted gradually in the diet based on the nutrition properties, how easy it is to digest, how likeable it is by the kid, and what kind of risks of allergies or intollerances it could determine.

For example, despite the nurse words about demonizing fruit for being too sweet and not allowing kids to eat anything else afterwards, we start giving some spoons of fruit before starting to substitute meals with "proper" food. This so that the kid can get used to use the spoon, swallow food and eat in a complete different way. Apples and pears have been the starting point for many kids, still, most of them have learnt to eat also other kind of food when it was the right time.

A key ingredient when we speak about the meal is olive oil. Since Isabella has stopped growing in weight for a reason or another, I have got recommended twice to use margarine with the excuse that "kids think olive oil has a too sharp taste", which I think is a ridiculous statement considering that all south of Europe base their weaning on olive oil (how do these kids eat, otherwise!?) and that doesn't consider my culture whatsoever. We want to teach our daughter to eat as an Italian, and why should she learn to eat a chemical product when we have the best fat nature has to offer available?

Let's not talk about the suggestion to give gruel to Isabella, typical Swedish invention, which is not that bad, if it was not that it seems like a very strange chemical mix (I will prefer to add some of our traditional cookies, which have never killed any italian nor our teeth to her milk for making it more appetizing) although I said I didn't want to, or others that have come suggesting us to give her porridge not once but twice per day when instead our diet is based on pasta?
I have realized why Italians do not get fat by eating pasta twice per day! Pasta, this evil evil ingredient in people food! And the reason is because we are used from the very beginning to eat it so often, because our metabolism is "taught" to deal with it from the start!
(and yes, there are statistics stating that italian kids are among the fattest in Europe, but that is because of the industrial-produced snacks, not surely for the "abuse" of pasta that is part of our everyday diet).

Have I said everything already? Well, no.
Of course, also Italian mothers, especially the ones that work, do not have the possibility to cook every single meal for their babies and when it is impossible, they use pre-made baby food, but at least 90% make by themselves the base for every meal, which is a vegetable broth.
But in most of the schemas written by the doctors, at the certain point one abandons the pre-made meat for switching to the fresh one...
And preparing food for Isabella is not taking more than 10 minutes every day, although there is a peak of time spent in the kithen for her once per week.

I prepare the vegetable broth, choosing different seasonal vegetables (that I can add to the collection, following the "holy" schema) once per week, I separate the vegetables from the broth for convenience, but I know many mothers do keep every together at a certain point. I pack everything in small containers and put everything in the fridge, so that I have a portion ready for every meal.

Broth and cream made with pumpkin, carrot, fennel, lattuce and celery  
I haven't yet started to give her fish, but I have recently started with meat and I bought fresh meat, grinded it finely and finally froze it in small portions ready to be taken, cooked (right now steam-cooked) and given to her.
The fruit is fresh - it doesn't require more than few minutes for being peeled and smashed in some way.
We want to make her taste "real" food, not something that I would not eat not even under threat.

I am probably being an extremist and being very unflexible in the "Swedish context" but, well, for us it is important to teach her to eat nice food, so, why not, if we have the patience and the will (and a bit of time, also) to do as we wish?

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