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.)
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.
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.
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?