Baby-Led Weaning: Lessons Learnt From Starting Solids
When the time came for my son to start solids, I had certain expectations that were fueled by things I had read or heard from various sources. I would later find out that my expectations were unrealistic. I expected my baby to readily accept solids and love whatever I gave him at 6 months. WRONG! It took months of hard work to get him to start eating regularly.
I was advised by supporters at my local children's centre to try Baby-Led Weaning (BLW). The basic idea of BLW is to allow babies feed themselves whole foods (cut up into appropriate sizes) rather than offering purées or mash on a spoon. This is so that baby is in of control his intake as well as being exposed to different textures from an early age. This is the method I started with as I was convinced it would be a good fit for us.
We started BLW at 5.5 months but we switched to purées after about a month as he was not reaching for food at all. The first two days we tried carrot purée, he ate quite well and even tried a couple of times to spoon-feed himself. However, the days that followed were filled with spitting, crying and ChiddyBear refusing to open his mouth. He was eating but not very much and mealtimes were a struggle. By the end of month 7, I did not feel he was eating enough solids and I based this purely on how other babies his age were eating. I was a little worried but I continued to offer him a variety of foods and alternate between baby-led weaning and spoon feeding while still breastfeeding on demand. I took him for monthly weighings/check ups and he was gaining weight and doing just fine. I was encouraged by the Health Visitors not to worry, that his reaction to solids was not abnormal, to be patient and keep offering him food until he was READY.
To cut this potentially long story short, when he turned 9 months, he suddenly became more interested in food and started to feed himself whatever he was given. You can imagine how I felt. So I wanted to come on here and share some lessons that I learnt from the process:
1. 6 months is only an average.
Developmentally, a baby may not be ready for solids at that age and as such may need more time. As you can see in my son's case, they will eat when they want to eat. No worries!
2. Be patient and keep offering a variety of foods in different ways.
For example, we now rarely use his high chair because he prefers to sit on the floor. Trying different things for months can be terribly frustrating but patience really is key.
3. Be prepared to adapt.
I have had to alter what I eat i.e. eliminate salt, hot chillies and other things I know he cannot have so that he can eat off my plate sometimes. Yup! Sacrifice is also key.
4. Do not compare!
I kept comparing his eating habits to other babies' and it just frustrated the heck out of us. My advice, don't compare because no two babies develop the same way.
5. Don't let pressure from people get you down!
I kept getting flak from concerned folk who thought I should force him to eat and since I don't believe in the use of force, you can imagine what those conversations were like. Encouragement rather than criticising would have been great but I refused to let it weigh me down.
6. Baby-Led weaning is the way to go.
Although it can get very messy, it is easier and probably better for everyone in the long run if baby gets used to finger foods and feeding himself/herself early. Plus after a few weeks spent whipping up delicious purées and having to wash them down the drain, finger foods started to make sense.
7. Try to keep mealtimes as fun and as social as possible.
Even now, he eats better when his daddy and I are also eating or when I don't take it too seriously. He is usually as relaxed (or as stressed) as we are.
I would like to end this with a saying I have heard many times and one that I roll with these days, "food is for fun until they're one". So yeah no worries, relax, enjoy exploring different kinds of food and have lots of fun with your baby.
I really hope this helps somebody. If you are interested in knowing more about BLW, check out babyledweaning.com. It's a great resource.