Welcome to our blog to accompany the @myfoodbabyblog Instagram account. I hope to give a little more insight – in case you’re interested – into how and why we do what we do, what works, what doesn’t and anything else you might like to know about our baby led weaning adventure.
I am Mummy to My Food Baby who is (almost) 9 months old and step-mummy to Miss Toddler who is 2 years old. Miss Toddler was weaned the traditional way by her mummy and Daddy and I got to be a part of that exciting adventure. However when My Food Baby came along, the reading I had done left me keen to try the baby led weaning route. I believe it is slightly more common in the UK, where I am originally from, than Australia where we live, and so maybe that had something to do with it, or maybe I just (really really) liked the idea of not having to prepare and travel around with everything necessary for feeding purees! But in all honesty there were a variety of reasons which really piqued my interest the main ones were;
- Baby led weaning helps develop / improve baby’s fine motor skills and is said to be a benefit when it comes to developing their speech.
- It is easier for mummy (or daddy) – no preparation and storage of purees – and enables baby to be a part of family meal times from the get go.
- It is said to encourage a wider range of foods, tastes and textures, and can lead to a more varied palate (I must say here that Miss Toddler was traditionally weaned and has a varied palate so it is not to say puree fed babies automatically equals children with a bland tastes!)
- Did I mention it would be easier for me?!
I was also of the opinion that if it didn’t seem to be working in any way that it wasn’t a decision that I was unable to back out of, and I could just start pureeing / mashing food so it seemed that there were no obvious disadvantages to going ahead. When I explained to My Food Baby’s Daddy however, I came up against a bit of opposition to my wonderful, can’t fault it, plan. He was against it, and not just a little, but quite resolutely. His objections included;
- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
- She might choke.
- He worried that I was just trying to be different.
But he is a good (smart) man, and as with many things he said that although he wasn’t really onboard, ultimately he would go with what I wanted.
I did, of course, take his concerns into consideration and this is what I thought – I totally disagreed with the ‘just go with the norm’ argument, just because something is, doesn’t mean it is the best. I too worried that she might choke, but I had read that breast fed babies may find baby led weaning easier than bottle fed babies as they are used to working their mouths a little harder for their food and might be better able to work the food backwards with their tongue. I also felt fairly confident that the first foods wouldn’t provide too much of a risk due to being so completely soft, and finally I read A LOT of blogs, forums etc and they all seemed to say the same thing, yes the baby will gag but as long as they are making a noise they are not choking, because choking is silent – and then they get used to and better at eating and they stop gagging so much. If everyone was saying it, I tended to believe it was probably true.
And so….at about a week before she was 6 months old I was cooking and I thought today is the day, I am going to give her a bit of avocado. Her Daddy and I watched with baited breath as she tasted her first taste of food, and then gag on it, and then throw it up. Ok that’s not exactly how it happened she ate a little, seemed to be enjoying it, ate a little more and then gagged and coughed a bit and it made her regurgitate a bit, but once she did she carried on eating, she was completely unfazed by it and I felt like it was a complete success. Her Daddy thought that he had won the argument, baby led weaning was a bust, she had choked and vomited and it was categorically not safe. I disagreed. I carried on.
The next day I got an unexpected gift, the most disgusting nasally offensive poo that ever graced the earth. Ok, I might be exaggerating a little, but it was gross, and unexpected. Breast fed baby poos are generally pretty inoffensive, there is little waste and so they aren’t very stinky – or at least that has been my experience. And boy, one tiny nibble of avocado goes through her system and YUK! It was almost enough to make me consider exclusively breast feeding for the next 10 or so years, or until she is fully potty trained at least….
Over the next month we gave her different things to try, not every day at first, and definitely not in any type of meal regime. I was under the impression that it was an introduction to food and so I wasn’t concerned about enforcing a feeding structure yet. We found that she LOVED cucumber and this also coincided with a period of teething so a bit of cold cucumber was a great distraction and soother in one. At about 7 months she had progressed to having breakfast and dinner every day, and by 8 months she was having lunch as well. There was no reason for this other than with her feeding and napping, lunch just seemed to get missed. At this point I should point out that My Food Baby is a breast fed baby, and she is demand fed. She does have a regular structure to her feeds, but they are not set in stone and if she seems hungry she is offered the boob….. Or now she is offered a snack or the boob depending on what she has had last, and the time of day etc.
For the sake of clarity I should point out a couple of issues that I have found with baby led weaning. For me personally, they have not been significantly negative to put me off, but I know that for some people they are, and I completely understand that.
- Baby led weaning should be called ‘extremely messy baby throws all the food on the floor’ weaning. Food goes everywhere, in their lap, in their hair, in their eyes, in the dog(!), in their clothes and very occasionally in their mouth. For anyone with a mess aversion, this is not for you, and I mean that sincerely and kindly.
- It is very wasteful because of point 1. It can be demoralising, upsetting, frustrating to see your $10 raspberries squashed in the high-chair, on the floor, in the dog….
- You worry that your baby is not getting food because of…. well point 1. Sometimes it can be hard to tell how much they have really eaten and whether they have only eaten rice cakes at every meal for the last two weeks and maybe they aren’t getting any potassium, iron, protein etc etc…. I think this is one of the big ones that really gets to lots of parents as with purees you know each mouthful is ‘balanced’ and you know exactly how much they have eaten.
- Choking. My Food Baby has never choked on anything, she has however gagged may times. The gagging was more prevalent early on as she was learning how to effectively move food around her mouth, and as she tried new textures. I was expecting it, and after a couple of times of seeing her gag and be completely fine and happy I became quite relaxed with the gagging. I always keep in mind if she is making a noise she is fine, if she is silent then she is choking and I need to (panic) jump into action! But as I said, she has never choked, yet.
For me the mess and the waste do bother me but not enough to go to purees. I also worry whether she is eating enough of the different types of food, but they do get better at getting the food in their mouth quite quickly (it’s surprising really how effective she is) and as she is still breast fed, and still feeds regularly, I feel confident that she should be getting everything she needs nutritionally anyway (I think this would be the same with a formula fed baby).
And so here we are, she is almost 9 months old, she loves eating, she is pretty good at it, and I feel very comfortable with my choice to go down the blw route. I love that we can all eat together as a family, if we go out and I am stuck without snacks or meals I can relatively easily get food for baby, and My Food Baby and Miss Toddler can share snacks, so basically life is easier, if a little (a lot) messier.