Parenting

Resist and Relax – a Baby Led Approach to Weaning

23 November, 2013

You have a baby, you know mess; volcanic eruptions of poo, tides of leaking milk, scattered bags of cereal as an innocent hand bafflingly tugs. You think you know mess. And then you start Baby Led Weaning. The mess you thought you knew was a mere warm up to the full cabaret of FOOD. EVERYWHERE. It is like that scene in Hook where the Lost Boys have a food fight, but with only one tiny warrior involved. Juno manages to squish avocado in every possible crevice- parts of the Campervan we didn’t know existed and parts of her body she can’t even reach.

I love this stage though; the expressions on their faces as they try new tastes. The quick development of dexterity, “I WILL GET THESE SNEAKY BUGGERS OF RICE IN MY MOUTH DAMMIT.” And the sense that they are enjoying participating in the social side of a meal. (That IS Juno trying to hold Ramona’s hand and chatter away, isn’t it? Oh. Oh no. Juno’s just trying to steal her pasta.)

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I love Baby Led Weaning especially, I love the autonomy already being granted to a baby, how they can choose what to chomp on, what to ignore, what to stick in their ear. I love how it is such a gradual introduction to food, they can just take more and more on according to what they are capable of holding and getting down. I also love the sheer ease of it- the “preparation” being simply “leave the salt out of the main meal.”

I would never suggest it is the only way, and it is a bit gutting that people feel Baby Led Weaning people can be a bit militaristic. It seems absurd that Baby Led Weaning could seem superior to puréeing in terms of how much you love the kid- going to the shop especially and lovingly puréeing tens of tiny pot loads of veggies and then warming them individually and then sitting there tenderly delivering each spoon into the baby’s mouth? Vs sitting baby on lap and letting them grab at your food? Massively trumped.

(Parenting choices being used as a Who Loves Their Children More Competition is frankly mad.)

Doing this second time round with Juno has got me thinking about how my approach is differing to what I did with Ramona.

Resist
I was soooooo eager to start BLW with Ramona. I was counting down the days until she could sit up properly and seemed ready. It seems sad to me now that there was a whole period between five and six months with Ramona that I was whiling away waiting for her to be ready. Why? I think there are some deep down ideas here about wanting our babies to be less dependent on us.

Although I was enjoying breastfeeding Ramona I think I still felt a bit of a societal pressure to have her more independent, more able to go to others, to sleep better, to thrive without me. Once a baby has more than breast milk this does happen, but there is no need to rush it. I’m not at all like this with Juno. I feel it is perfectly natural and perfectly wonderful for her to need me as much as she needs me until she decides she doesn’t need me! It is a waste of time to hurry this. I’m all too aware with Juno that days are passing too quickly so I’m much happier with her pure, dependant babyhood.

I think I was also curious about the often bandied about “Once they start solids they’ll start sleeping” concept. I am pretty decided on this- it’s a myth! Some people I know have found this. Others haven’t. Some people I know came across more sleeplessness once their baby had solids. I was excited for the day that Ramona would fill her belly up on food so that she wouldn’t wake me all night. Guess what?! It never came. Even now she is three she stirs next to us for a snuggle in the middle of the night. Now I am much more confident in the fact that night waking is totally normal so it’s neither here nor there for me what impact solids has on Juno’s sleep.

Relax
With Ramona, I genuinely thought Baby Led Weaning meant, like, weaning! Ha! Someone forgot to explain this to her and she is still nursing, three years later. It’s funny though, as alongside being over eager to begin, I was also nervous that it would herald the end of our breastfeeding relationship.

I’m able to be loads more chilled out with Juno, whether she has just a little bit to eat, or stacks, because I am aware that breastfeeding operates quite apart from food in some ways. It meets emotional needs that food can’t. I’m pretty sure Juno will keep going strong with the nursing even if she sometimes seems to be doing a Hungry Caterpillar impression, working her way through every bit if food out there. I do think too, that BLW’s slow progression of solids intake perfectly supports longer term breastfeeding.

Ramona really enjoyed her food but she didn’t really start eating whole meals until she was about 18 months old, and even then ate heaps less than I thought she would. It was reassuring not having to stress about vitamins and nourishment because I was breastfeeding on demand until I got pregnant with Juno. (Now it is just twice a day with Ramona.)

I’d also relax a lot more about the gagging- we have been eating in a crowded room this week as part of an eco project we’ve been hanging around and the silence that descends when Juno starts gagging is stark! Everyone starts to panic! Even though the baby is calmly just bringing up a slightly stringy bean. They have a wonderfully set up Gag Reflex which means proper choking is quite rare, a few patient gags nearly always brings up the goods (or the bads) – however do know the latest on how to deal with choking so you truly can sit their in a state of calm too. (I did a paediatric First Aid course a few months ago and it advised to turn them on to their tummy across your arm, face down, and smack their back.)

I’m finding this with so many experiences with Juno- lots of stuff with Ramona was tinged with worry, but second time round it is all just confident joy. So cool.

Also, this time round we don’t worry about a bib. We all just put those surgical suits on and sit inside an inflatable paddling pool that we blow up every time Juno wants food. See, it’s dead easy this Baby Led Weaning thing…

Got any Baby Led Weaning tips? Or recipes that your baby and the whole family enjoy?

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11 Comments

  • Reply Ali 23 November, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Perfect timing… My boy is nearing 5 months, he’s always sat with us at meal times bit now I have to be on guard as he’s been launching himself at my pasta & the other day I was distracted on my phone whilst eAting an apple, baby seemed quiet, looked down, sucking apple!! So thoughts are heading towards weaning in a couple of weeks time. We’ll attempt the same way as we did with my daughter as it’s all we know and it worked… Eat the same as we do, off our plates but gently mashed. My 4 year old daughter will eat anything now and happy to try new foods. I’m sure it’s because she didn’t wean on purée parsnip and baby rice. My brothers daughter is been weaned- they have a machine that cooks the food, mashes it, adds vitamins, delivers the exact amount and then gives an account of the amount of vitamins and calories in each portion!
    We have a fork!

  • Reply Jess @ Along Came Cherry 23 November, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I was planning to BLW this time but I just couldn’t bear the mess, or the waste. I don’t mind cheap things like breadsticks ending up all over the floor but when fruit and vegetables do it stresses me out as I spend such a lot of money on it. I was also in a rush to start weaning first time round but this time I hadn’t even started properly at six months. And in my experience it definitely does not help them sleep better either! x
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry recently posted…Cakes and Make-Up SetsMy Profile

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 23 November, 2013 at 10:21 am

      I hear you. The waste really gets me. We try and do it with as little waste as possible- the inflatable pool thing was obviously a joke but we do have an oil cloth so that when things fall we can pick them up and put them back for eating.
      I also think there is potentially a lot more waste when pots are microwaved and them they only eat a few spoons- perhaps it’s why a few purée-ers seem to force their babies to eat because they. Ant bear to waste a pot! That’s not a generalisation though, just a comment on a few months I have seen shoving food into tensor crying baby’s mouth.

  • Reply Gem 23 November, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Just started reading you blog . It’s great! When my son reached 6 months I had decided to stop reading baby books – they stressed me out way too much! So I think we have naturally gone more baby led. Although I do use a spoon sometimes ( for the sloppier stuff – we encourage him to use it but we load it) – I’m sure I’ve heard this isn’t *allowed* BLW? Is this the case?

    • Lucy
      Reply Lucy 23 November, 2013 at 10:18 am

      I’m really not down with things like this being outlawed! I reckon spoon loading is FINE! I didn’t do it that much with Ramona as I didn’t want to break the BLW rules, but this time with Juno I even put things in her mouth if we aren’t in a place that supports loads of mess and it is a messy thing – I hold it near her mouth and wait for her to launch her open mouth at it or grab my hand to put it in.

    • Reply Janine 26 November, 2013 at 8:39 am

      I blogged about BLW with my first baby (babyledweaningblog.com – We are Janine & Sebastian) and it was all very laidback. We did a good amount of spoon-loading and it seemed pretty common amongst the BLW crowd.

      I feel a little guilty because knowing what I know now, my first baby probably wasn’t quite ready for solids when we started. Thankfully we didn’t do any spoon-feeding with him so I like to think that he didn’t get much down before he was ready. With #2, we have done a good amount of baby-led spoon-feeding (where I let him guide my hand to his mouth as I hold the spoon). He is such an eater, he will SCREAM if it doesn’t get into his mouth fast enough. This guy has gone after everything we’ve offered with extreme gusto and I have high hopes that he will be my grand non-picky eater. (He already slams down vegetables that his brother turned his nose up at even as a small bebe.)

      I certainly don’t think that BLW means you love your child more but I do think it is more respectful – but as I said, it is possible to spoon-feed in a baby-led way as well. :)

      Zeke is 6 months old and so far his favorite foods seem to be cheese, egg yolks, and yogurt.

  • Reply Bea 23 November, 2013 at 11:25 am

    We decided to do BLW with our daughter after seeing how well it worked with our nephew. I think it’s great, it works well for us. The best things are having family meal times together at the table, all eating (virtually) the same foods, and giving your child the choice to eat what they want and to experiment, that it allows such flexibility and balance with breastfeeding, and knowing my daughter has had freshly cooked food not processed baby foods with lots of additives. Also, I think it must be cheaper than buying baby food!?

    The not-so-good is the mess (but with long sleeved bibs,a tea towel and cloth on the floor i don’t find it that bad, especially as there is less preparation involved in making the food), but my daughter currently likes to put all her food into her water cup, splash in it and then drink it haha! it can be wasteful but a.cloth on the floor helps and eating some of the less-mangled leftovers yourself.
    i spoonload and occasionally offer her pieces of food and actually spoonfeed sometimes but only things like soup and only if she opens her mouth to take it happily. I find the whole ‘rules’ thing a bit silly tbh.

    my daughter’s favourite foods are soups, chunks of tomatoes and beetroot, and pea or tomato pasta – especially penne which she likes to put on her fingers, and spaghetti which she flings about everywhere

  • Reply Menai 23 November, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    We are using BLW with baby no2. Child no1 is an extremely fussy eater and it’s a delight to see all kinds of foods disappearing into baby no2. We hoped it would help child no1 but it’s had no effect…favourite recipes are dhal and “yellow rice” (boiled rice with turmeric&ghee), pumpkin mash with chicken breast pieces, lightly boiled tomato chunks & babganoush. We put a cloth under the high chair, mainly so that discarded food can be given another try and it does ease with cleaning up. One very damp muslin does baby’s face and hands, then the high chair, table surface if things got beyond the highchair tray (I say “if”, I mean always) and then the area around the cloth on the tiled floor that got spattered with spag bol or whatever. Both cloths and a bib in the wash. Next meal. Repeat. Etc. Hurrah.
    Menai recently posted…Celebrating with little H in MumbaiMy Profile

  • Reply Hurrah For Gin 23 November, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for the mention :)

    Great post, you sound like a BLW’er of the completely normal variety! We are actually doing a lot of finger food now, S seems to prefer to eat himself which has been a totally organic thing. The mess does drive me slightly barmy though x
    Hurrah For Gin recently posted…An open letter to Postman PatMy Profile

  • Reply Roger Driver-Burgess 23 November, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Hey, Lucy.
    This was a laugh-out-loud piece; it’s so much like what it was for us. I really relate to the difference between the first child and the ones that follow.
    Thanks, and keep on enjoying your European wander.
    Roger
    Roger Driver-Burgess recently posted…On Being Sensory and why I don’t ‘hug’ online.My Profile

  • Reply Baby-led weaning | Emotionally Aware Feeding 23 February, 2014 at 1:13 am

    […] Potock  offers a very in-depth investigation of BLW from a developmental perspective. I also love this post on the Lulastic  blog which offers a really balanced and sensible take on the […]

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