Weaning – what a minefield!
I think before having Sophia, the idea I had of weaning was puree. I had in my head that I wasn’t going to be feeding my baby all these brown mush in jars, I was going to make hearty meals and blitz them down myself so that she was eating “real food”.
Oh how I shake my head and laugh at pre-parent me!
Baby led weaning? What even is that?
My friend (who already had a child before I did meaning she was my go to guru!) told me about this strange baby led weaning. Huh? I’d worked in childcare for 5 years at this point and had never heard of it. She added me to a group on Facebook and I’ll be honest, I fell in love with the idea.
So the principle is just to let the baby feed themselves, real food, right from the start. No purees, no mush. By letting your child feel, touch, smell and explore the food they’re getting accustomed to the different textures etc before they even begin attempting to actually eat the food. This usually means they’re much more open to trying new things because they’re pro at different and exciting; they’ve never known anything else.
But what about the purees?
No. No purees. You see if you think about it, feeding your child pureed food means that they become a pro at swallowing. Those smooth textures just slip down easily. But then when you start introducing lumps it’s a whole new learning curve. But what if we just start with the food? The child learns to deal with real food straight away. One learning level, no stages. It made perfect sense to me!
Sounds dangerous to me!
Yes, sometimes your child will literally bite off more than they can chew. Yes, sometimes your child will gag on the food in their mouth. They’re learning new textures. It will catch them off guard at times. Yes, there is the possibility your child could choke. Your child could also choke on puree though, just saying. As long as you’re giving appropriate sized pieces of food, your child should be able to manage any gagging and slight coughing incidents themselves.
I read a guide to help you know when and if to intervene – if a child is red (in the face) and noisy (coughing and spluttering) they’re breathing ok and are working it out; let them be, let them learn.
If a child is blue (in the face) and silent (making no noise and often open mouthed) they are choking and need help. This is a really helpful guide from St. John’s Ambulance on how to help a choking infant/toddler.
You can read more about baby led weaning here if you wish to! Natalie Peall is a genius woman that has really made Baby Led Weaning accessible and easy to understand for parents from all walks of life, as well as creating such amazing recipes! This was my go to for advice, recipes and support – there’s even a facebook group full of other parents in the same boat!
So how do you decide when to wean?
There are signs such as when your baby is able to sit up either unaided or with a small amount of support, hold their own heads so they can facilitate swallowing and whether they are showing an interest in putting things in their mouths. The current guidance age wise is to start weaning at 6 months.
Thing is, every child is different.
Personally, Sophia never really took to milk. We had an up and down journey with breast feeding (something I still haven’t written about!) and then it took us a couple of weeks to find a formula that worked for her. Even then, she would rather sleep than be fed. At about 20 weeks we decided to introduce Sophia to some solids. She was sitting up with support, holding her head but more importantly she just seemed to be looking for more than just milk. It’s hard to explain, I just had a feeling that she wasn’t satisfied.
Even though I had fallen in love with the idea of baby led weaning, Sophia still seemed tiny and giving her real food seemed a bit much. So we started with baby rice, made with her formula. She demolished it. Honestly, I made far too much but she just kept going for more!
Look at that face!
We then moved on to Ella’s Kitchen first taste pouches; both sweet and savoury and from there to Ella’s Kitchen Melty Puffs which are fab because they’re chunky, easy to hold and they (as the name suggests) melt so are easy for the little one to eat…
She did like them, honest!
and messy, ohhhhh so messy! Quick tip – clean up any residue as soon as you can, that stuff sets like concrete!
Did you even do baby led weaning?
When Sophia was nearly 6 months old we moved on to “real food”. We literally just started feeding her what ever we were having at mealtimes and for snacks, puddings and along side meals too to be honest, finger sized pieces of any and all fruit and veg. Banana, melon and pepper very quickly shone as Sophia’s favourites! That and pasta…
So yes, we did do baby led weaning and fast forward nearly a year later and my 16 month old eats any and every thing, she can feed herself with a spoon and a fork, she sits at the table and she eats a great variety throughout her days. Baby led weaning, in my opinion and experience, works! I’m not just trying to sound braggy – honest!
Oh how I’d like to speak to pre-parent me now
However, like all parents, I have days where we are not super heroes. Sophia eats cocopops for breakfast, we graze all day, I make her chicken nuggets for tea. Because life. I’d love to give pre-parent me a really good shake. I wish I could make Sophia homemade wholesome food all day, every day but let me tell you, that’s not real life. Any parents that are able to do that – well done you! And also, share your secret?
I’d also like to remind that irritatingly perfect me, that it doesn’t matter what you plan. As long as your child is fed, healthy and happy. I didn’t exclusively follow BLW, I also didn’t do traditional weaning. I did what I thought would work best for Sophia. I took little bits from here, there and everywhere to make a regime that worked for us. Because nothing is textbook. Each child is so individual that no one can tell you the one true way to make it work. So be flexible and gentle on yourself and your child. You’ll find your way!
There will also always be someone that doesn’t agree with how you do it. The amount of people – even family members – that have questioned my methods “she can’t eat that!” or “she’ll choke!” or my favourite “that is meant to be for 12months+, it says right there on the packet!”
I am really not going to give my child anything to eat that she cannot handle. I know her pretty well you know. I also didn’t ask for your opinion.
Try your absolute best to ignore those people! They suck!
Oh and buy a high chair that’s easy to clean and a shower curtain for your floor! Seriously. You’ll thank me later!