The journey and discovery of Baby Led Weaning (BLW) started for me with my daughter Ava at around 8 months.
Previous to this I had started weaning like everyone else at approx 20 weeks old (maybe even earlier!) on the advice of the local health visitors. Everyone was doing the baby rice and puree thing so this is what I was going along with too.
Just one problem, the only way my daughter would actually eat anything of a spoon was either if you swiped it in her little mouth without her noticing or used another distraction such as having toys for her to play with while she was fed! Looking back now I can’t believe it didn’t click sooner that this just was not working for us. I would make a million different purees for her to try thinking that it was because she didn’t like the taste but she would still refuse. The one thing you could guarantee she would eat however was mini pots of fruit puree and yogurts so because she pretty much wasn’t having anything else these probably made up most of her diet.
Something had to change… however when speaking to my local health visitors the advice was that if she isn’t eating much then she should be given high fat foods.. some suggestions were cake, fried chips etc. Seriously? Was this the advice I was being given by a health care professional? No mention of foods high in healthy fats, avocados, oily fish etc. Nope, give an 8 month old a high sugar diet and not worry about the health implications that this may lead to in the future…. lovely.
With all this great advice at hand, I headed to the trusted internet. I must of typed in something along the lines of ‘8 month old refused to be spoon fed’ and all these suggestions came up of ‘Baby Led Weaning’ with people discussing how this had transformed their little ones eating. I had never heard of it before so ordered the book there and then. Once it arrived I couldn’t wait to read it and it all made perfect sense. My little girl wanted some control over what was going in to her mouth and also wanted to be able to touch, feel and experience different types of textures and tastes.
From the moment I put some chopped up veg and fruit on her high chair tray she was away. I just let her get on with it; she loved having control over what she ate. I should just mention I had previously tried ‘finger foods’ with her before but because I was always feeding her, I never really gave her the choice and control that she wanted or needed. So from that day on, Ava fed herself. She would have the same as we ate so I didn’t have to make special baby dinners. She learnt to use a spoon and fork very quickly. To this day she has one of the most varied diets I have seen for a 3 and ½ year old. Don’t get me wrong she still doesn’t eat huge amounts, but she is a petite girl and I trust that she knows her appetite better than me! But she will eat olives, raw veg of every variety, loves fruit especially all types of melon. The funny thing is she still will not eat something if it looks ‘pureed’ like a thick vegetable soup, I wonder whether she has been put of being fed that in those early days.
I now cringe when I see photos of Ava’s first foods, with her looking so tiny, propped up in a bouncy chair with baby rice or carrot puree all around her mouth where she had just spat it out. She was clearly not ready to be weaned now that I look back but as with a lot of things you just do what you think is best with the knowledge you have at the time.
When I had my second child in 2012 there was never a moment of doubt that I would be following baby led weaning again. This time around I had seen much less of Health Visitors but still when I had a routine visit for Alfie at around 3-4 months. There were the comments such as ‘he’s a boy he will need to be weaned earlier’ and ‘yes it says in the guidelines 6 months for weaning but it’s usually earlier’. She talked to me about the puree process even though I had clearly stated that we would be waiting until 6 months when he can feed himself. With her not listening to a word I was saying I gave up and instead went into a state of nod and smile (hopefully she will leave quicker!).
Alfie started picking food from my plate (and other people’s plates) at around 5 and a half months. He had no teeth so I was questioned a lot by people as to how he was going to cope with ‘normal’ food! But as I knew he would, he didn’t let having no teeth get in his way. At 6 months Alfie was eating a full range of food, variety of vegetables, fruits, meat, grains, you name it he tried it and loved it! He is now just turned 1 and I can’t name a food that he will not eat. Obviously there are things that he prefers but he will try everything.
He can use a fork and a spoon now to feed himself, and he uses his fingers for dippers! I’m not sure whether there has been any research to look into whether Baby Led Weaning develops motor skills faster but he is a master with the pincher grip! This makes life tricky, with a 4 year old and her tiny little toys that she leaves lying around the floor.
P.S my children have never been subject to a choking incidence.
by Lucy Surry – mother and past BabyCalm teacher