I touched on the topic of Baby Led Weaning in my post about My motherhood experience so far: Part Two but its a topic that I can talk about forever more and it is also an experience I would highly recommend to any parent starting to wean their child. I don’t know what it is about the prospect of food and babies but it seems like a scary experience. I think you go from the convenience of being able to pull a booby or a bottle out and having all of the nutrients they need in one go to then having to think “oh god, what can I give you to eat that isn’t going to ruin you for the rest of your life!” (dramatic I know). In the months running up to Ivy turning 6 months, weaning was all I could think about. How would I know when she was ready? What would I give her? How would she react?
The technical side: The guidelines state that your baby is ready to start weaning from six months old, research showing that before then they get all of the nutrients they need from breast or formula milk. It takes six months for a baby’s digestive system to properly develop ready for solid foods. The recommended age used to be four months old and that is why a lot of manufactured baby foods are still allowed to advertise their products as being ‘from 4 months’ which may confuse a lot of parents. The three signs that your baby is ready for weaning are, that your baby can sit up unaided and hold their head steady, they can coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth, and they can swallow food instead of just pushing it out with their tongue.
Making the decision: When Ivy was about 5 months I started thinking about our weaning journey and how I would approach it. I’d heard of BLW through a friend who five years previously had taken that route with her child and I remember watching her enjoy the experience so much that I knew I definitely would consider doing the same. I began to read up on the topic which is when I found two good books by the same authors, a leading health visitor Gill Rapley and a journalist and mum Tracey Murkett. These explain the concept really well, they are:
This book taught me about how when a baby is born their gag reflex is more forward. So when a baby gags on a piece of food, they’re not actually choking because the piece of food is nowhere near their throat. This little tidbit of information is what made BLW and Ivy and mines experience a hell of a lot better because it completely put my mind at ease. I’m not saying I didn’t inwardly panic the first few times Ivy started gagging on a piece of food but I didn’t panic straight away or try to rush in and save her which I think put Ivy at ease as well and allowed her to learn on her own.
This book is filled with so many ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But it also gives a little introduction to BLW so the above book isn’t completely necessary to begin your weaning journey but is more of an informative read on the topic.
www.babyledweaning.com is also a brilliant source of information.
I also follow quite a few BLW pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter that give me great ideas for recipes! Just search Baby Led Weaning in their search bars and loads will come up.
What attracted us the most: The thing that attracted me the most to BLW was not having to prepare Ivy’s food separate to ours. I didn’t have to make batches of food for her and refrigerate or freeze it. Ivy could have exactly what we had. So when we first started out she’d have one piece of food from our plate to introduce her to different flavours until she eventually would have a little plate of food herself with each meal. I just made sure to cook without any salt or heavy seasonings because those could be added to mine and Stuarts meals after.
Our beginning: Around a month before Christmas, Ivy was now sitting up on her own really well so at tea time I would sit Ivy in her highchair at the table with us. I would put one of those toys that sticks to any surface (claims to stick to any surface!) on the table in front of her so that she wouldn’t get bored. But I noticed that it didn’t take her long to become curious in what her dad and I were up to. She wouldn’t take her eyes off of us, watching our forks pick up food and then putting it in our mouths. She started to mimic us with her own hands and eventually started reaching her hand out as if to ask for some food.
On the 22nd Dec we tried Ivy with her first piece of food, which was a baked sweet potato cut into wedges. She played around with it for the first five minutes to get the feel of it but within no time it was straight to her mouth. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her the whole time, I was completely fascinated watching her be fascinated with food. It was just so amazing to watch her experience food, that as adults we just take for granted, for the first time. She ate about 30% of it, mushed 35% of it into her clothes and 35% on the floor (in the dogs belly) which I think was brilliant for a first time! It was nice because with Christmas day being just a few days away it meant Ivy could join in with us for our Christmas dinner, even if it was just a parsnip.
Moving on to meals: Each evening we would introduce a new food, sticking with vegetables first and then fruit and then potatoes (chips, wedges, baked) and soft meats like chicken. We began slowly working out which were Ivy’s favourite (although she didn’t actually turn anything away!) For around 2-3 weeks we did this and then I began giving her two different options, a vegetable and either a potato option or meat option. To eventually giving her three options, veg, potato and meat. We then moved onto rice, pasta or noodle dishes. Once she was eating a ‘meal’ every evening with us I then began introducing breakfast. Anything from porridge, numerous things on toast, omelette or scrambled egg. At first I found it hard to introduce lunch because Ivy would always nap through it and then it would be too near tea time, but we eventually managed to get into a better routine and now it’s as follows; she has breakfast, a bottle with her nap around 11-12, dinner, tea and then a bottle before bed.
BLW Journey in Snapshots:
This was when we bought our highchair but Ivy wasn’t quite ready because she was still unsteady when we placed her in it. It is the Stokke® Tripp Trapp® with the Baby Set and we later bought the Tray to go with it.
Ivy’s first experience was with sweet potato. (Warning: This is quite a messy food and it can stain clothes!)
When we eventually transitioned into having breakfast as well, I tried Ivy with banana on toast which she loved (as you can probably tell from her face).
We did use one of these mesh eaters for a while once Ivy was introduced to banana. She just found it really difficult and slimy to get a hold of so in one of these it was a lot easier for her to enjoy.
As you can see the messier the food, the better. I will say BLW is not for you if you have an aversion to letting your child get messy with food. (You WILL have food peeling down your walls and sticking to your ceiling. But at the end of the day it’s cleanable!)
Things like yoghurt, we would have to have at least four spoons handy. Ivy liked to have one in each hand and then I would have a spoon (occasionally one or all of them would get chucked on the floor).
Eating out does get messy. It used to bother me quite a bit because of the mess that would end up on the floor. But then I realised most places and staff completely understand and I try to clean up as much of it as I possibly can. So we still get to enjoy our meals out together. BLW whilst eating out also means that I don’t have to take any pre-packed food with us, Ivy can usually have anything from our plates or now she’s eating bigger meals she can have options from the kids menus.
Overall thoughts on BLW: I have loved every single step of our BLW journey so far. Even the current phase of food throwing that Ivy is going through at the moment because she’s found out food can be fun (not for mummy and daddy though). I just love watching her learn with food. I also love coming up with new and exciting recipes for all of the family to enjoy. I was brought up with us all sitting around the table as a family for our evening meals and this is something I intend to stick to in our home. After all they do say the kitchen is the heart of the home.
See Weaning Products We Found Useful In Conjunction With Baby Led Weaning to read more about our BLW experience.