Beyond milk

This article was first published in the Newcastle Herald ‘Weekender’ magazine and online on October 31, 2020. Image supplied.

As a registered nurse and midwife and birth and parenting educator, Newcastle-based Luka McCabe has always had an interest in the health and wellbeing of babies and mothers.

However, it was when she became a mother to her two children, five-year-old Flynn and two-year-old Florence, that she discovered her passion for baby and post-partum nutrition.

The topic is the focus of Milk to Meals, her new book on introducing babies to solids.

“I’ve always been interested in nutrition,” says McCabe.

“When I had my daughter Florence, my second child, I studied to become a certified nutrition consultant through Oh Baby Academy, which specialises in pregnancy, babies and postpartum nutrition.”

The course and her own research transformed her approach to first foods and led her to create her website, Boob to Food, in 2018.

“I started Boob to Food on the side, as a passion project, to follow Florence’s journey on solids.”

What began as an online journal and Instagram for family and friends two years ago has since grown into something much bigger.

Boob to Food is now an online community – it has, to date, over 66,000 followers on Instagram – and a resource for parents seeking guidance on starting solids.

McCabe’s approach centres on first foods, which are nutrient-dense and easy to prepare.

“I believe in a whole foods diet from the beginning and eating a variety of foods in their most natural form.”

“Whenever I’m looking at food I think – Is this something we could have eaten before machines, chemicals and preservatives?”

“For babies, I think simple food in its most nourishing state and avoiding the very well-advertised and marketed packaged foods that are thrown at us these days is best.”

McCabe also offers consultations for those wanting tailored advice on introducing solids to their babies. She currently has a waiting list with her appointments booked up two months in advance.

“There are all kinds of information out there. I wanted to help educate people,” she says.

Parents are often overwhelmed by the abundance of information and the many differing views available on starting solids. On everything from what foods to feed their child, to how much, to what feeding style to practice.

Current guidance from the Australian Breastfeeding Association and the World Health Organisation recommends solids are introduced around six months of age.

This is alongside breastfeeding [or formula] and when your infant shows signs of being ready for solids, but not before four months of age.

“My advice would be to choose who you want to listen to,” says McCabe on finding the right approach for you and your child.

“I think the biggest thing is what resonates with your maternal instinct. What does your gut tell you? The biggest problem is that we are fed so much information that we mistrust what our gut is telling us.”

McCabe says Boob to Food – and subsequently her book, Milk to Meals – aims to offer evidence-based and judgement-free advice and ideas.

“You decide what suits your family.”

She cites different feeding methods – such as baby-led weaning or purees – as an example.

“There’s more than one way to do things.”

Milk to Meals is a culmination of the work and research McCabe has undertaken in the last few years compiled into a beautifully designed, 300-page, large-format hardcover book.

While initially, McCabe thought Milk to Meals would be an e-book, she opted to self-publish and make it a print title instead.

It was written over eight months while travelling with her family around Australia in a caravan. A trip they returned from in early-March.

“Milk to Meals is basically designed to answer all the questions regarding weaning from either breast milk or formula onto food and doing it in the most nutritious and nurturing way.”

The book addresses common queries, such as how to navigate top allergenic foods (in accordance with Australian allergy guidelines), what nutrients to focus on to meet your baby’s nutritional needs, and when to incorporate certain foods in their diet.

“Then to make life easier, it has over 80 recipes – which are divided into age groups – to put that new knowledge into practice.”

McCabe collaborated with co-author Carley Mendes, a holistic nutritionist and the founder of the Oh Baby Academy (who she studied under), on Milk to Meals to ensure the book was nutritionist-approved.

“I really wanted a book like this when I had my son five years ago instead of doing all the research myself!” she says, laughing. “That’s where it was created from.”

McCabe notes that everyone involved in creating the book was a small business. It was also produced and printed in Australia.

Milk to Meals is out in November.