Sophie’s nearly eight months now, and for the past six weeks or so we have been venturing into the realms of solid food alongside her milk feeds. However, like a lot of parents, we are eschewing the traditional pureed veg, baby rice and stewed fruit in favour of ‘baby-led weaning’. This involves allowing Sophie to feed herself a range of family foods – not mashed, not puréed – from the start. In practice this has meant giving her finger foods to play with and eat if she wishes. She’s tried all sorts: steamed carrot, broccoli and corn; baked sweet potato and chicken; rice cakes, pitta bread, and toast; banana, avocado and steak. Since starting, the amount she has eaten has definitely increased, and even though a lot of food still ends up on the floor, she’s certainly eating a fair amount. Believe me, I can tell.
Before I started to think about weaning, I was all in favour of baby purees, and even got as far as researching ice cube trays to freeze portions in. Then I found out about baby-led weaning, read the book (by Gill Rapley) and was convinced it was the way to go. Yes, it is very messy, and yes, it is a slower transition from milk only to predominantly solids than with spoon-feeding, but there are so many advantages:
- No need to prepare separate foods (this is a big one for me, as I am lazy)
- Baby continues to manage her own appetite, as she has all along when breastfeeding
- Helps development of motor skills (Sophie can now pick up and eat a slimy piece of avocado, which she couldn’t even almost do a week ago)
- Baby learns to chew first, swallow second – the thinking is that this reduces the risk of choking compared to puree-fed babies who don’t know how to cope when food with lumps is introduced
- Baby is part of family meals
- Baby can explore a range of tastes and textures from the beginning
- Apparently babies weaned this way are generally less fussy eaters than babies who are spoon-fed
It’s really not that radical, loads of families do it (whether by design or accident – apparently when there’s more than one child at home the older ones like to feed anything and everything to the baby), and even the NHS is moving increasingly towards recommending it as a great method of transitioning from milk alone to proper food. I’m absolutely not opposed to families choosing to wean their babies in the more ‘traditional’ way (though apparently it’s only really ‘traditional’ in modern Western culture), as it clearly works for some, but I’m glad I don’t have to mash up carrots as a pastime, or play aeroplane games to get my baby to eat!