Food, glorious food – baby led weaning

Now that J is over 6 months old, we’ve started the fun of weaning. We’ve opted for the baby-led approach, which advocates skipping the puree stage altogether and going straight to solids.

We’ve used the book ‘Baby-led Weaning; Helping your baby to love good food’ by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett, which has been really useful. According to the book, it’s a myth that babies need purees or mushed up food. Allowing babies to feed themselves early on and choose the food they want to eat from a selection in front of them, gives the baby the opportunity to explore food – all the textures and tastes, gives them independence, and there are less likely to be battles at the dinner table (no ‘here comes the aeroplane’ marlarkee!).

Sounds great to me, I’m all for a battle free zone at dinner time, so for the last few weeks J has joined us for dinner and has mostly eaten bits of what we’ve had. So far, J has tried all kinds of meat, sweet potato, avocado, broccli, mango, rice cakes, naan bread, breadsticks, cucumber, pasta, apple sauce and rice balls to name but a few! Most of these have been fine though the rice balls were chaos – rice everywhere – up his nose, down his top, we even found some under his arms when he had his bath that night! Broccli also seems to find its way into everything too. I swear I found some in the car of all places….

Anyway, the first couple of evenings trying this were a bit nerve racking – what to give him? how big to chop the pieces up? will he choke?? In the end, after consulting our book, we just went for it and offered J some broccli and carrot sticks. After some attempts at grabbing, J managed to pick up a piece of broccli, this was followed pretty quickly by him shoving it in his mouth (he’s at the stage where everything he can grab goes in there!). He looked quite surprised, after all, this didn’t taste like his usual fare of squishy toys, teething rings or socks (yes, any opportunity to pull his socks off the first place they go is his mouth… parents-to-be, you have been warned!!).

So far so good. J didn’t think much of carrot, and the broccli ultimately ended up in pieces, smeared over his face and the rest up his sleeve, but we thought it was pretty good for a first attempt.

Also, after further research, I found out that apparently a baby’s gag reflex is a lot closer to the front of the mouth than in adults, to prevent any choking incidents, so no need to worry about him accidently swallowing a huge chunk of food and choking.

Over the next few nights we carried on in the same way, offering some chunks of vegetables, and then some chicken, which J spent ages having a good munch on. Though he has a good chew, most of his food ends up in his lap or on the floor, which is fine, as long as he’s enjoying himself, we’ve learned to relax a bit more too and let him get on with it.

A few weeks on, and J really looks forward to dinner. As soon as we put him in his chair, he looks expectantly at the table waiting to see what Mummy and Daddy have for him to try. J has absolutely loved sweet potato, broccli and rice cakes, and he’s such a picture, munching away on a stick of cucumber. We think J is actually starting to eat some of the food we offer now too. We’re absolutely amazed at the progress he’s making.

I’m so glad we’ve gone down this route. Some of my mummy friends have told me how exhausted they are by all the cooking and pureeing they are doing. We don’t have any of that worry. We just make sure when we cook our own dinner, that we put some extra big chunks in for J, or alter it slightly if we’re eating something that J can’t have. The extra plus is that we’re having to be a bit more creative in what we eat to make sure J gets a good range of things, so we’re eating a lot more healthily too.

I’d definitely recommend baby led weaning, though avoid the rice balls if you can!

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