Now don’t get me wrong, I love my children very very much. But there are times when little baby Nw reaches out his pudgy little hands for me, smiling his cute toothy smile, and I really don’t want to pick him up.
Because he looks like this!
And why is he such a mess? Because I’ve chosen to wean him the baby led way, and, as much as I love this way of doing things it is darn messy.
There’s been a lot about baby led weaning in the press recently, and having raised two children this way I thought I’d add my thoughts to the discussion. People often have differing ideas about what baby led weaning involves, so here’s how I see it.
1. It’s not about ‘when should I wean’, but rather, ‘are they ready ready to wean’?
People often get caught up in when they should wean their child, and whether you wean at 3, 4 or 6 months has become quite a hot topic in the mother and baby groups I go to. But the way I see it, nothing magical happens on the eve of your baby’s 6 month birthday that suddenly means he needs solids.
Babies will naturally, as they start understanding the world, start paying an interest in mealtimes and what you are eating. Just because they are watching you doesn’t necessarily mean that they need food, they’re just learning. But, say that your baby is sitting unsupported on your lap and and he’s developed enough co-ordination to swipe food off your plate and take it to his mouth, as long as you are eating something healthy why not let him have a taste. He’s showing you that he is interested. This may happen at 5 months or 8 months, either way its looking out for the pointers and following their lead that’s important. Being able to sit unsupported is an absolute must though, otherwise eating could present a choking hazzard.
2. Its not about finger foods versus spoons.
This is one which throws a lot of people and one of the most common questions I get asked is ‘How do you give him soup, porridge, yoghurt etc’. To me baby led weaning isn’t about saying spoons are wrong, it’s about not using a spoon to force a baby to eat when he doesn’t want to. If I’m eating something sloppy, I usually pre-load the spoon and give it to Nw to play with. Sometimes it ends up in his mouth, othertimes not, but as long as you remember the next point it’s ok either way!
3. Food for fun until they are one
I think that to get your head around baby led weaning you really need to switch off the voice that says he needs to eat so and so much solids at such and such an age. The reality is that milk provides the best balance of nutrition for your baby until they are a year old and anything else is complementary to it. So if baby just wants to bash his food about on a tray or squish it through his fingers then so be it.
4. Babies don’t need baby food, they just need food!
You often hear people complaining about how expensive baby food is, and I think there is a common misconception that babies need a certain type of food, ie super mushy until they are 6 months, mushy with bits from 7 months etc which is probably derived from clever marketing by baby food manufacturers that has told us this is the way it must be done and here are the wonderful products we can sell you to do it.
But the reality is babies just need food, normal food like you and me. Ok, so a 6 month old baby with no teeth may not be able to crunch a carrot stick, but he can still stick it in his mouth, and experience the sensation of taste and texture. The founding principle of Baby Led Weaning is that its ok for a baby to eat something as long as they are developmentally able to eat it, so no need to puree or spend a fortune on age specific items, just let baby pick off your plate or give them a plate of your food from the beginning.
There are just a few things to watch out for. Too much sugar or salt is bad for us all, particularly for the developing body of a baby so best be cautious with these, and the other big one to watch out for is honey, which apparently can cause infant botchulism. And of course, no baby should be left on his own to eat unsupervised.
5. Meal times are family times
Freeing yourself both from thinking baby needs to eat something different to you and needs to be spoon fed makes it easier for baby to join in with family mealtimes. This isn’t perhaps a founding principle of baby led weaning, but its a social benefit that comes from it that I think is hugely important. If everybody eats together and eats the same, not only does it make life simpler but it gives great family time.
Little Nw is now approaching 10 months, and whenever I take him out to eat people are always amazed at his coordination and his enthusiasm for food and I put this down to baby led weaning. By letting him do things at his own pace, have fun with food and not single his mealtimes out as something seperate from our own we’re seeing a little man develop who is as exited about the diversity of foods and flavours out there as I am, and that’s really important to me. So what do other mum’s think? Do you agree, and what does baby led weaning mean to you?
Before I finish up, I just wanted to share my my top tip for baby led weaning – get an easily wipeable floor and a dog!xxx