‘We’re going to try baby led weaning’, Becs said, this being the first time I’d ever even heard of the subject. ‘OK’, I replied. I wasn’t in a position to discuss it having nearly choked Huey to death with a chunk of Tomato a week earlier, (no subject reading, just shoved it in his mouth. Not my defining Dad moment).
In an attempt to get up to speed with this decision I decided to poke around on google and was left a little puzzled at the result of my search. It wasn’t just controversy I found. Exponents of B.L.W were being branded as pretentious fools, to be damned in time by their starving, spoiled offspring…the anger was palpable and so I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
We are now 4 months in to feeding Huey the B.L.W way, so I’d like to share with you our experience and maybe look at dispelling some of that controversy…
What is Baby Led Weaning?
The name’s a bit of a giveaway but we’re not sending Huey off down the Chippy with a fiver in his baby grow just yet. The idea, is that your baby feeds himself from a selection of food you put in front of him. The sort of food you’d eat, in fact, exactly the same food you are eating.
- Baby feeds his / her self. No spoon feeding, they use their own hands.
- The food presented is solid food, possibly a selection from what you are going to eat.
There it is, no more mystery than that. Admittedly, if I’d previously fed a child processed food by spoon, this would seem an odd concept. In fact from the offset it was a personal battle not to pick food up and shove it in his mouth to ‘help’, him.
Why bother with Baby Led Weaning over traditional spoon feeding?
There are whole Thesis of thought on this so i will give you my understanding (from our experience and what we’ve read), and keep it brief:
Your baby learns to feed itself (and learn about the world) through play. This certainly seems to the case with Huey. He sits engrossed happily playing with whats in front of him, exploring the colours and shapes on offer.
Straight away he was eating some of the food put in front of him but he was still heavily relying on milk. A few months later you can really see the weaning to food has taken place, (though at Christmas my Dad wanted to weigh what was on the floor and see if he had actually eaten anything!).
Solid foods look and feel very different to processed so your baby learns the difference. Even from the start Huey would try the different things on offer but a lot of it just ended as mush. Only a few months in he can manage to feed himself slippy pieces of Avocado and bite off chunks of baby sweetcorn, (new teeth are helping!).
The foods that are challenging for him to hold are more a frustration to watch than they are for him trying to eat them. He’s happy just to have a go and wipe it round his face or drop it on the floor if it doesn’t work out!
He has certainly developed his favourites (his eyes light up when he sees rice crackers with peanut butter), but that doesn’t seem to stop him trying and eating the rest on the tray.
B.L.W helps your baby learn the skills of hand eye co-ordination. Huey has earned himself the nickname of ‘porridge face’, from an early encounter with the cooked oats that resulted with more on his face than anywhere else. From that messy beginning though, he can now pinch a grain of Quinoa and pop it successfully into his mouth
It’s fun. I’ve touched on this above so you get the picture, play is fun any baby and Huey certainly seems to be learning a lot through this play. He sits in his highchair for 30mins to an hour, shovelling in food and seemingly content!
What do we feed him?
Honestly, almost everything we eat. Before you scoff and exclaim, yes, there is some common sense to be applied here. He’s not getting the chocolate I’m addicted to and washing it down with a double espresso.
He’s eating the healthier part of our diets; vegetables, fruit, grains, meat and fish. Huey’s personal favourites are Broccoli, grains like Quinoa, baby sweetcorn, Cheese and rice-cakes. He loves peanut butter on toast, he will suck a chunk of Chicken, down fish fingers and I’m proud to say even eats my lentil curry!
Doesn’t the baby choke from feeding itself?
In our experience so far, no. In the early days this was some what terrifying, but this was largely due to my stupidity with the tomato. There are the usual considerations, don’t feed them foods known to cause choking. So no peanuts, no grapes, nothing shaped conveniently to block airways.
On the very odd occasion he will load up his mouth getting a little excited. The end result is a choking watery-eyed ejection of chewed food. This has had us leaping to our feet to commence emergency first aid but we’ve never had too. Every time he’s managed to clear it himself without issue, more essential learning!
I would encourage anyone contemplating B.L.W to read up carefully (as we did), beforehand. Obviously, you need to stay in attendance as he eats but that’s the same for any baby feeding.
Do we spoon feed him any foods?
We do. My feelings are you don’t have to follow any rule book in this regard. We make B.L.W work for us and and add in some spoon feeding as practicality dictates. We feed Yoghurt and some pureed fruit by spoon, after he’s had his main meal. A spoon fed dessert if you will…
Don’t you end up with a lot of mess?
If there’s one thing I don’t like about B.L.W, this is it. A lot of food is grabbed and literally launched skyward inevitably ending on the floor, wall, into hair, wherever. We have minimised the damage and cleaning workload by putting a 6 x 4 piece of lino under Huey’s highchair. A bit of an eyesore perhaps, but I’ve given up on homely aesthetics as the house is full of plastic baby toys anyway!
Having said that I imagine if you’re flying puree aeroplanes into your baby’s mouth you’re still going to be picking ‘matter’ of your clothes and floor. At least this way you get to watch your baby rub fist-fulls of food over themselves.
Isn’t Baby Led Weaning a big hassle, is it worth it?
I guess it’s more work than opening a pureed packet, squeezing it on the plate and spooning it in. However, it’s not that much work. Whilst we are preparing dinner for ourselves, we put a little aside for Huey. We keep the components of meals we’ve prepared in a baby packed lunch box and take it with us when we go out. We’ve get into the habit and we don’t think about it, don’t know any different.
If it is more time-consuming I’d like the points I’d made above to show that it seems worthwhile. They’re just my feelings on the matter though, you’ll decide what’s best for you, your baby and your circumstances.
For me personally when we’re out and about on our travels, I love getting out and offering his little box of goodies. Any hassle at this stage has been worth it.
How and where did we learn about Baby Led Weaning?
Becs first learnt about B.L.W at the BAPS breast feeding group in Gloucestershire.
They had a visiting speaker to promote the idea, Gill Rapley. We went on to buy her book, ‘Baby-led Weaning, helping your baby to love good food’.
There is plenty of information available online but it’s this book that gave us the confidence to try B.L.W.
However you choose to feed your baby, all the best. If you have a go at B.L.W I’d like to know how you get on.