We’re having an exciting time over here. We’re now into our fourth week of introducing solids to baby Ailish, who just turned seven months old. Us mums love nothing more than a good chat about what’s working (or not working) for us in terms of our babies’ eating, sleeping, playing, and sometimes even pooping. I especially love the playgroups which include the kids sitting together and eating food brought from home, it just fascinates me that there are so many ways to feed a baby. Other mums are full of brilliant food ideas that would simply never occur to me. So I suppose it’s natural that with my baby not taking to spoon feeding, and in the absence of any real life friends or acquaintances having similar problems, I turned to the internet to learn more about baby led weaning. And now, in turn, I’m adding my own experience to the wealth of information out there. After all, experiencing and sharing is what us mums do.
Taking the traditional route
When we introduced our first-born to solids a couple of years ago, we went the traditional (messy, labour intensive) puree route. I was curious about baby led weaning, but was put off at the first mention of gagging and choking. Too scary! As a first time parent I didn’t really trust that my baby or I could know better than the experts. And the experts were all about the progression from smooth purees to chunky purees to finger foods, spaced over several months.
Incidentally, the print material we received from our health visitor was produced by a large food manufacturer with a line in baby food. Not trying to start up any conspiracy theories here, just saying…!
With baby number two I intended to stick with what we knew. Spoon feeding had worked well enough with James (the elder) up until about 9 months of age when he wanted to feed himself and I expected a similar progression with Ailish.
The first bite
I reinstated James’s old high chair to its former tripping-hazard status in the centre of the kitchen. I decided to go with carrots first, since that’s what James had loved as his first food. We all gathered around in the kitchen to watch Ailish take her first taste of solid food. Ah, that first feed of solids is such a bittersweet moment for mums who’ve been the sole source of baby’s nutrition from the time it was an embryo. We can no longer say “I did that. That’s all me.” Though we’re hardly off the hook with years and years of meal prep and and eating education ahead of us!
I wasn’t expecting a duck to water, I expected from our experience with James that it would take several days before she’d accept hungry spoonfuls. When Ailish put her lips to the spoon and licked a bit of carrot off her gums we clapped and cheered, she thought it was great fun.
All the indications were there that Ailish was ready for solids: she was over 6 months, a healthy baby in the 75th percentile, sitting up well (though unpredictably when unsupported!) and extremely interested in what everyone else ate. Poor James had to be careful not to go too close to her with food or she’d snatch it. But as the days went on Ailish appeared to become less interested in her solids, turning away from the spoon and using her tongue to push it out. I began to get uncomfortable about mealtimes, frustrated and feeling as through I was trying to force feed her. One of the things I want most for my daughter is for her to have a healthy relationship with food and it didn’t feel like we were getting off to a great start.
Deciding to try a different approach
James is as stubborn as they come and he’s taught me a lot about picking my battles. I prefer not to have an oppositional relationship with him (though sometimes it’s necessary). He fussed about being spoon fed for weeks before I copped on and realised he was ready to move on to finger foods. What a relief for both of us when I did. Wanting to avoid similar frustrations for and with Ailish I decided to take another look at baby led weaning.
I felt out of my depth, taking this new and unknown approach to feeding. I didn’t know how to do baby led weaning ‘properly’ and was still worried about choking. But it’s my job to make sure Ailish is properly nourished and my job to figure out what works for her. So I watched a few Youtube videos about baby led weaning and refreshed my baby first aid knowledge for choking and CPR. I took the plunge and put a couple of cooked carrot sticks in front of her to see what she’d do. Hurrah, she gave it a go and managed pretty well!
One week in…
Technically, I’m not sure I can call our approach ‘baby led’, since Ailish was spoon fed first, but at this stage baby is certainly taking the lead!
It’s early days but I’m thrilled that I decided to give baby led weaning a go. Ailish’s interest in solids has definitely improved and it seems to be having a great effect on her mobility and co-ordination as well. She’s more stable when sitting forward and getting quite good with her grasp. She has a taste of absolutely everything I put in front of her and I’m really pleased that she’s starting out her eating education with such an adventurous spirit.
There’s not a whole lot actually going down the hatch at the moment, but I’m not too worried about that. In fact I think it’s a good sign that she’s able to spit out pieces that are too big or hard for her and so far there’s been none of that infamous gagging. She certainly would be getting more food on board if she was interested in spoon feeding, but she’s as happy as ever and in no danger of going malnourished thanks to her still-voracious appetite for breastmilk, so I’m not worried about that at this stage.
So far she’s tasted broccoli, avocado, orange, pear, apple, cucumber, carrot and capsicum. She has a special interest in toast and banana and gets wildly excited when she sees me heading her way with either of them, bouncing up and down in her seat and waving her hands in the air. She’s already happily tasted things that James has never consented to try, such as broccoli and cucumber. I think we’re on the right track.