It can be difficult to know where to start with weaning. What food to give first, how often, when to introduce what. Can babies eat eggs, can they eat dairy, and what about common allergens? There are so many baby food products and food is labelled either by age or stage. But you probably want to cook your own food, because that must be better for a baby, so what do you put in baby food? How mushed should it be? Soup or a thick paste? And what about finger foods, when can babies eat them? From six months? So when should you give them the mush? Also six months? This is getting confusing and a bit overwhelming, right?
What if you were told that none of this stuff really matters? That all you need to do is give your baby proper food from your own plate, the food you eat every day, and just put it in front of them? No blending, no separate cooking of baby meals and no spoon feeding. You may be sceptical, you may have only heard of traditional weaning method i.e. spoon feeding of mush, as this is what you friends may be doing and what your family tells you that you should do. How can they all be wrong?
Baby led weaning is an alternative that takes the stress element away from feeding your baby. Food should not be stressful, not for the baby and not for the mum. Food is fun, food is good and the last thing a baby needs is learn to hate mealtimes. When they are pretty much force fed something they don’t like the feel of, taste of or both, just because it was especially prepared for them, this is exactly what might happen, they will start to resent food as it will be associated with something they don’t like. Baby food tastes the same and always has the same texture, even the colour doesn’t vary a great deal. Can you imagine eating the same soup every day of the week, 2-3 times a day? How long would you be happy to do this for?
Babies are capable of chewing even without teeth. Yes, you do need to give them soft foods that they can mush up between their gums, like soft boiled veg or pasta or fruits, and they still shouldn’t eat any additional salt or whole nuts, well that’s just common sense, but everything else is fine. This way they learn about different tastes and textures every time they try something new, nothing really tastes the same. It is a pleasure to take them out, eating out in a restaurant will never be a problem, as you can always find something on your plate that they can eat. What’s more, sooner than you think, they will need their own starter portion. At 10 months old, my baby would finish off my starter without me even having a chance to try it! And she happily helped with a main course too! Everyone from your friends, family and waiters will be admiring how well your baby eats. Even the people who doubted you at the beginning, in a few months will be cooing over your baby’s eating skills.
The best bit is that there is no transition into toddler food, they just continue to eat as normal, a little bit more, eat harder foods once they get some teeth and that’s it. Food is fun, mealtimes are a joy (most of the time) and you get to eat your own food in peace. Because they would have tried the majority of foods by the time they are one, the fussy eating stage is virtually non existent. They just eat, which may seem like a miracle to some parents, and I do feel sorry for them. This is not to say that traditional weaning methods don’t work with some babies and for some families, of course they do. For parents who like total control, measured portion sizes introduced in set intervals of time and following a routine may seem ideal. I just don’t think it is that great for a baby in the long run. Spoon feeding was needed when babies were fed from four months old or even earlier. Now that we know that six months is the time to start, they are able to do so much more on their own. All we need to do is treat them like people that they are and give them independence to make their own choices about food. I have a feeling that this will translate to so much more in later life.
If this sounds like something you are interested in, or are struggling with feeding your baby, gat in touch or leave a comment and share your experiences with others.