Sunday 7 December 2014

An introduction...

Hello and Welcome! 

It's now June 2015 and we're almost a year into our weaning journey! I recently re-wrote this post for Yummy Mummy's World so I'm posting the updated version here....

Little Dude has always had his own ideas when it comes to food. Our breastfeeding journey was extremely challenging and although we battled through for four months - when he finally decided to stop latching altogether - I still feel a little disappointed that we didn’t get it ‘right’. Introducing solids felt like a fresh start and I was determined to fill my beautiful firstborn’s rapidly expanding tummy with delicious, home cooked purees. Yes, you read that right!

We started with traditional weaning when Little Dude was five months old. Despite a healthy appetite for milk his little tum was rumbling between feeds and he showed plenty of interest in what Mama and Daddy were eating so I figured he was ready. Given that he barely ate a crumb for the first two and a half months, he probably wasn’t. Regardless, I lovingly batch cooked all the usual purees - apple, pear, sweet potato, broccoli, parsnip - and steadfastly popped L into his Bumbo twice a day. What followed was several weeks of me desperately waving a spoon in his direction while he even more desperately wiggled out of the way and bellowed at me. You've got to give it to the little fella – he definitely knows his own mind.

I'd heard about Baby Led Weaning and quite honestly I thought it sounded pretty terrifying. Giving real food to my tiny baby who still managed to choke on his milk half the time? No chance. Instead I made a seemingly endless list of excuses: he didn’t like the taste of that particular puree. Maybe it was too cold or too hot. Perhaps I’d used the wrong spoon. He wasn’t comfy in his Bumbo that day. He was too hungry or not hungry enough. He was too tired, too playful, too cuddly. After a month of his complete refusal to be spoon fed, I reluctantly put the cutlery down and picked up my secret weapon: an avocado.

We started very slowly. Although everything I’d read about BLW suggested that babies are physically capable of handling ‘proper’ food from 6 month and up, I was very nervous about the possibility of choking. The gag reflex was unnerving at first but is a completely normal part of the learning process and drastically reduced within a few weeks as he learned to move the food around his mouth. At first I offered sticks or bite sized pieces of soft food like avocado or steamed carrot and things that dissolved in his mouth like sweet potato mash or grated cheese. Certain foods I’d expected to be perfect for starting out didn’t work for us at all – banana was too sticky and made him gag while toast fingers got cemented to the roof of his mouth and stayed there for half an hour while I wondered what on earth I was supposed to do about it. Other foods that I’d expected him to hate seemed to be firm favourites; broccoli, sprouts, and lentils were all eagerly explored. Even my husband won’t eat some of those! 

Every day we both learned a little more and it wasn’t long before I was serving him hearty home cooked food like chicken casserole, chilli con carne and stir fried veg. Even wet foods that don’t seem to naturally lend themselves to BLW are no match for determined little fingers and a carb-heavy accompaniment like pasta, cous cous or mashed potato (to soak up the juice). Sure, my kitchen walls were regularly plastered with mashed potato and there was always Weetabix in our hair but we were having fun. One of the things I credit to BLW is Little Dude’s fantastic pincer grip. He mastered this very early by picking up grains of rice, pieces of pancake, Cheerios… even if it was just so he could drop them triumphantly over the side of the high chair.

It hasn’t all be plain sailing. L was 7.5 months old before he actually started chewing and swallowing his food rather than popping it into his mouth and just spitting it out again. Since then we’ve had food strikes, changing tastes, mess (lots and lots of mess) and the ultimate challenge - eating out without leaving a trail of destruction behind us. It’s been totally worth it though; there is something so wholesome and satisfying about sitting down to a family roast dinner on a Sunday when we’re all eating exactly the same thing. The clue really is in the name – let your baby lead the way and everything else will follow.

Top Tips:
  • Research, research, research. ‘Baby Led Weaning’ by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett is fantastic because it explains the different stages babies go through when learning to eat. ‘Weaning Made Easy’ by Dr Rana Conway is another good one for explaining the reasons behind weaning guidelines and recommendations, particularly around what age to start
  • Attend a paediatric first aid course so you know how to react in the unlikely event that your baby chokes. I booked onto one run by a Private Health Visitor but my local Surestart Children’s Centre runs them too.
  • Dedicate a freezer drawer to baby food and cook in batches. That way you can offer a variety of flavours at each meal without spending hours on food prep – the key is to offer different things and let your baby choose what to eat
  • Trust your instincts. If you want to start slowly with bite size foods or just one flavour, do it. You know your baby best.

Some more 'official' resources on weaning:

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