Millie turned 5 months old 8 days ago on the 20th January. Sorry, let me say that again in case you missed it FIVE MONTHS!!!! How did that happen? Do you know what comes next? SIX MONTHS!!!!!
With the 6 month birthday/anniversary/whatever fast approaching, my thoughts turn to weaning.
With Callum on the run up to him becoming 6 months old I started to dread the time when I would have to wean him. The thought of puréeing, batch cooking, strict weaning timetables and prohibited food. Ugh! The thought didn’t feel me with joy, in fact I feared it. Then I heard about Baby-Led Weaning (BLW).
I was a fussy eater growing up and one of the benefits that is meant to come from BLW is that children are less likely to become fussy eaters as they are encouraged to experiment with foods and are trusted to do so at their own pace. I was willing to try anything to prevent Callum going down the same route as me!
On recommendation, I bought Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett’s book Baby-led Weaning, Helping your baby to love good food. Other benefits, to quote the back of the book, include:
- Helps to develop your baby’s natural abilities, including hand-eye coordination and chewing
- Allows your baby to join in with family meals right from the start of the weaning process
- Makes mealtimes more enjoyable and battles less likely
Upon reading the book, I also discovered no longer was there a huge list of foods that you must not give your baby. Instead there were a few sensible foods to avoid like too much salt (processed foods), too much sugar, honey, bran or high fibre and anything likely to cause a choking hazard (whole nuts – nut spreads were fine). Allergies were less of a worry because at 6 months, a baby’s digestive system is more mature and prepared to cope with a variety of foods and, as Stuart and I don’t have a family history of food allergies, we had even less reason to be cautious.
Food could be given in its original form – just cut into easier to hold pieces (like sticks).
The book also made me realise that choking was going to be a lot lower risk for a BLW baby as their gag reflex would adapt at a natural pace and is used effectively as a safety mechanism. They may cough and the food may fall out of their mouth but they are less likely to choke.
Another point I really liked was that it should teach children portion control and there would be less inclination to over fill their plates or overeat. Who was brought up by their parents saying “no pudding until you finish everything on your plate” or, like my husband, made to eat everything they were given because their parents or grandparents (in Stuart’s case) were raised during the war when food was rationed, and you’d be made to appreciate every mouthful too. Have you heard yourself doing the same to your children? I confess to doing this with Callum now – its natural when you’ve slaved over a meal only for them to pick at it and you just know that they’ll be complaining that they are hungry 5 minutes after the plates are cleared! But it is also said that this attitude and behaviour with food is one of the causes of obesity in adults – we somehow feel like we can’t leave anything on our plate. We don’t stop when we are full, we continue to stuff in every mouthful until our plates are clean. The below is copied from the Change for Life Marketing Strategy document:
“Since there is no clear guidance on how much babies should eat, parents often offer portions that are too large and encourage children to finish everything on the plate (since it is emotionally satisfying to see babies ‘eating it all up’).”
As the baby is leading what s/he eats and how much, they eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.
So, having read the book, aware of all the benefits and seeing just how easy it could all be, suddenly, weaning became exciting.
Now, 4 years on, I don’t regret this approach one little bit!
In action, not everything was as perfect as the book led me to believe, I had hoped Callum would be more adventurous at trying new foods than he has been over the years and, where other babies were fighting their parents for the spoon, I was giving Callum the spoon and he wanted me to feed him! Typical lazy boy!
But, he did have a pretty varied diet right up until he went to nursery at 16 months where he was subjected to the same weekly menu for the whole 18 months that he was there (he was there full time) – typically they agreed to vary it just as he left!! During that time he went from eating courgette, asparagus, couscous, various meat dishes etc, to not wanting anything unless it was one of the 5 meals he ate at nursery plus sandwiches and he stopped eating the foods he previously enjoyed. It has taken me a year to reintroduce most of those foods.
One thing the book did warn me was that there would be mess! And yes there was mess. This worried me to start but then I thought, what the hell, what’s a bit of mess and as I was prepared for it, I didn’t mind it. And it very soon became less messy as Callum’s dexterity improved very quickly. I was also given tips – I bought plastic ‘disposable’ messy mats from Mothercare that could be used for art or food (have checked their site but don’t think they do them anymore). They could be wiped clean or thrown away. Someone else suggested an old sheet on the floor that you can just pick up and throw in the washing machine. Taking antibacterial wipes where ever you go is a must as the highchairs in some restaurants etc are less than desirable and I’d be in fear of things growing on them!
But overall, I was very pleased with the results of BLW.
At 15 months, I still had friends that were struggling to introduce lumps in to their child’s diet. Callum, however, was munching on chicken on the bone and burgers at a BBQ.
When my friend’s children were taking handfuls of raisins and putting them all in their mouth at once, Callum would take 2 stuck together, separate them and put one in his mouth at a time. Even now, he rarely gets greedy and takes more than he needs if he has the chance to select his own portion size, such as when there is a buffet or bbq (except on the rare occasion with mini cold sausages).
Soon it will be Millie’s turn and I can’t wait! I have the same book beside me ready to read and refresh my memory with all the tips and tricks and signs to know when baby has had enough (throwing food on the floor) and why its good for them to play with their food before eating. Also, with her brother as her example, I’m hoping she’ll enjoy trying and learning about food and eating as much as we will enjoy introducing her.
Here is Callum at 7 months eating a rib from the BBQ:
and here is a short video of Callum eating his wheatabix (btw, these bibs from JoJoMamanBebe are fab):