The last few weeks have flown by. E has been turning into a chunky little girl – you know, the kind of baby with podgy legs that you just want to chew on and a tummy that needs to have raspberries blown on it. She wants to roll around everywhere and when she sets her sights on something she squeals in frustration if she can’t get to it and put it in her mouth straight away. Baby proofing comes with a whole new range of problems this time round – I caught the boys trying to give her a pine cone to hold the other day, which I grabbed just before it met her lips!
Weaning her has been a dream. We started feeding the boys at 4 months as T2 had an undiagnosed diary allergy at the time and the health visitor felt food might help him with his ‘reflux’. We started slowly with baby rice. I bought a hand blender and made ice cube trays of purees of all kids of concoctions. I scooped spoons full of food in, they spat them out and I scooped them back in again. This time round I wasn’t in any rush for E to grow up, so we waited until she turned six months and started baby led weaning. I was a bit worried about what to give her for her first food as all of the information I found said to give her more or less anything that she can grip. I just couldn’t understand how that was going to be possible – surely chunks of food like meat would choke her and certain softer foods would be better?
I read a few books and blogs (Debbie at My Pregnancy Mummy Diary has been a huge help as her baby Millie is just a little older than E and she has been blogging about her experience of BLW) and basically that is exactly what you do.
First things first, if you are thinking of giving it a try my advice would be buy a few big cover-all bibs and a soft pelican bib as you find they drop so much of the food and if it lands in the bib it is much easier to save from the dog! Doubling up your bibs also saves their clothes as much as possible. It’s worth putting a plastic table cloth under the high chair to catch the worst of the mess too.
Baby led weaning IS messy, but actually not as bad as I was expecting. Although technically I haven’t done 100% baby led weaning. You see, I decided to get her started with finger food and then after she got used to it, I introduced some food on spoons (like yoghurt, porridge etc.). I didn’t fancy giving her the spoon to do with as she wished (as I knew she’d coat our dining room with it), but I wanted to give her variety in her diet rather than being restricted to stick shaped foods. Sometimes she’ll help guide the spoon in her mouth with my help and occasionally I’ll let her hold the fully loaded spoon - in which case most of the food misses her mouth completely, but it’s all good fun. Most of what she eats she puts in her mouth herself, but if we have something with rice I’ll put some on her tray to play with and I’ll scoop the odd spoon of it into her mouth too. She has taken really well to this combination method of feeding. But it’s worth remembering that it’s important to begin with finger food as they need to get used to controlling their own food by putting it in their mouth and chewing it, otherwise it will be confusing to switch between textures. A great way to feed smooth foods without using a spoon is to dip things in it like breadsticks or rice cakes. Most of the dip ends up all over their faces, but it’s very cute to watch!
If you’re thinking of giving it a go, here are a selection of foods which E pretty much tackled from the word go:
Toast and Marmite or cheese spread
Breadsticks dipped in hummus or cream cheese
Chunks of cheese
Banana chunks (messy) or mashed up and fed with a spoon (less so)
Any sticks of steamed veg
Weetabix, Rice Crispies, Cornflakes, porridge (you can try dry cereal on the tray of their highchair to self feed or make a bowl with full fat milk)
Scrambled or hand boiled egg
Chunks of meat that can be sucked (even big things like chops), or very small, soft pieces of meat in a sauce (e.g. bolognese, slow cooked chicken casserole)
Pasta of any variety, although think about what shape is easier to grip
Rice with a sauce
Small pieces of soft, bone-less fish like cod
Roast dinners (especially strips of yorkshire pudding dipped in gravy!)
Basically, whatever we eat I will serve to her in some form or another.
No purees, no fuss and now at almost eight months she is tackling big mouthfuls of rice, easily demolishing pasta, eats bread like a trooper and actually often eats more of a roast dinner than her big brothers. She is so much more advanced than the boys were at this age and she rarely turns her nose up at anything I offer her (unlike them!) She has even tried mild curry and slices of olive to suck! The first couple of weeks she gagged as she moved food towards the middle of her tongue (a natural reflex that is there to stop babies from moving food too far back in their mouth before they can deal with it) but now she very rarely does it. I’m confident she’ll be less likely to choke as she knows how to handle her food, whereas her brothers were still regularly gagging at this age on their lumpy purees. I am also already feeling that I might just have a child who is willing to eat something other than chicken nuggets, fishfingers, waffles and spaghetti bolognese! Maybe her eating will end up influencing the boys to be more adventurous. I can but hope.
Not sure whether baby led weaning is for you? Worried it is too messy? Do a combination version like me and get the best of both worlds. Trust me, it is soooo much easier and so much more fun!