Yet again, I’ve been struck by how different both my babies are and how what suits one baby won’t necessarily suit another. Our experiences with weaning are yet more proof that there really is no “one size fits all” approach to bringing up babies.
Four years ago, when Frog turned six months old, I introduced her to her first piece of food: broccoli. We went down the Baby-led Weaning route, which suited her perfectly. She didn’t properly start actually consuming food until she was around nine months old. The first three months, for her, were about playing with it, learning to swallow, learning to hold the food and generally wiping it all over herself. She wasn’t particularly hungry and was content to just live off milk feeds (a few hours apart) for a long old while.
Baby Girl is a very different baby to her big sister. I had planned to do exactly the same when it came to the weaning stage. Because weaning went so well last time, I was a little cocky. “Oh we’ll just do BLW, it’s SO easy,” I laughed. But Baby Girl has other ideas. She’s rapidly approaching five and a half months, but has been enjoying her first experiences of solids for a couple of weeks now. This is way, WAY earlier than I’d planned to introduce them, and far earlier than her big sister.
Our reasons for introducing solids earlier than planned? She’s a hungry baby. Like, really, really hungry. She breastfeeds big feeds every couple of hours throughout the day and night. She’s active in a way that her big sister wasn’t at this age – trying to crawl, rolling everywhere, sitting up and into EVERYTHING.
It became quickly apparent that the purist BLW route I took with Frog just wouldn’t suit this baby. She is hungry and she needs food now! Unlike Frog she’s not happy to wait another three months when she can properly eat. And, also unlike her big sister, she’s more than happy to take her food from a spoon.
But the die-hard BLW fan in me is not quite ready to give up altogether and embrace the mush. So, when it comes to eating, I am still very much following my baby’s lead. She’s been having porridge for breakfast, which she sucks off the spoon (I don’t put the spoon in her mouth, I simply hold it to her lips and let her do the rest). I always make sure to give her pieces of finger food so she can try to feed herself too – banana is a current favourite. Lunch is mashed up veg or fruit taken from the spoon, along with finger food like sweet potato wedges, avocado slices, celery or cucumber. I have a feeling she’ll get the hang of feeding herself pretty quickly, at which point I’m happy to stop with the spoon-feeding altogether.
Another piece of BLW wisdom that I carry with me is, “Food is just for fun until they’re one”. Although I know Baby Girl is hungry and is more than ready for solids, I am still following her lead with how quickly she learns that food is fuel and not just another thing to play with. This means that I continue to breastfeed her on demand and, if she’s hungry, I offer her a milk feed before giving her anything else. I don’t have an expectation that she’ll eat a certain amount and I certainly don’t try to force the issue if I can tell she’s had enough. However, she rarely has had enough and I’m constantly surprised by how much food my little baby manages to pack away at each sitting.
My work with Organix has also given me lots of new information on the weaning front and helped to give me the confidence to just relax and enjoy this new phase. Organix’s research and the “Babies Who Lunch” campaign has shown that babies love to be sociable, so sharing mealtimes as a family will not only make the whole process more fun, but will give babies the chance to copy the rest of the family. Although Baby Girl might not be hungry at our mealtimes, I always sit her up at the table with us in her high-chair and have done since she was four months old. Back then I used to give her a toy or a plastic spoon to play with, but these days I give her something she can actually eat.
Here are some other useful weaning tips from the Organix survey:
- Every baby is different and your experience will be your own – you know what’s right for your baby.
- Try lots of different tastes and textures – prepare and share food in different ways. It can take between 10 and 15 times before a baby accepts a new taste or flavour, so try and try again.
- Play games and get messy – encourage babies to lick, mash, squash and squeeze food so they get used to different shapes, textures and shapes. This is not the time to get all house proud.
- Let the baby have some control by giving them a spoon or some soft finger food so they can learn to feed themselves.
For loads more tips and information download the Organix Little Book of Weaning and check out this video:
And a last tip from me – be prepared to do even more washing than normal, or strip your baby before tea time. Baby Girl tends to eat her evening meal wearing nothing but a nappy. Far easier to just plonk her in the bath afterwards than fuss about trying to get encrusted bits of sweet potato off her clothes. Who has time for that?!
What are your experiences with weaning? Any tips to share?
Disclosure: Thanks to Organix for commissioning this post. For more information about how I work with brands check out my Work With Me page.