Let baby lead the way to weaning

Baby-led feeding builds a good relationship with food from the start

Aileen Cox Blundell with her son, Oscar, as he feeds himself pancakes at home in Swords, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Aileen Cox Blundell with her son, Oscar, as he feeds himself pancakes at home in Swords, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

xAileen Cox Blundell gave her son Oscar his first solid food exactly six months after his birth.

“I am a ‘by the book’ kind of person,” she says, recalling that in the first few weeks she offered him single foods he could eat with his fingers, such as spears of sweet potato, banana, butternut squash and really ripe avocados. “Things I thought that were really nutritious but soft, easy-to-manage foods. The food complemented the breastfeeding for me and he was still getting the majority of the nutrition from the milk.”

She took a “baby-led feeding” approach based on experiences with her two older children.

She had started weaning Jade, now aged 13, at four-and-half months, as was the advice at the time. However, she refused to take food on a spoon, so Cox Blundell started making lots of little things her baby daughter could feed herself with, rather than purées, and she took the same approach with Oscar. She didn’t do that so much with her second child, Dylan, now aged nine, because she was busy setting up her graphic design business in Swords, Co Dublin.

The fact that Jade now “eats everything” and Dylan is much pickier convinced her that baby-led feeding was the way to go with Oscar. “It definitely does build a good relationship with food from the start. He decides what he wants to put in his mouth himself and he stops eating when he’s full.” Admitting to being “petrified” about the risk of choking, she uses a “softer” alternative to baby-led weaning that has become popular in recent years.

Food epiphany Cox Blundell had her own food epiphany before Oscar arrived. She stopped eating all processed food and then gave up refined sugar. “I just felt really sluggish,” she explains of her resolve to cook from scratch, including baking her own bread, and trying to eliminate refined sugar from her diet.

“I know it is extreme cutting it out completely. I still eat sweet foods, I just use different ways of making sweet things, like dried fruits and fresh fruits. That has made a huge difference in my life. I used to crave sugar.”

The children get commercial treats from time to time and sometimes her husband, Conor, buys a loaf of bread – “We’re not perfect. But I don’t eat it myself, or the baby.”

Having worked in restaurant kitchens since she was 15, she decided not to pursue cooking as a career after school but continued to enjoy it at home.

She has documented recipes and photographs of the food she has prepared for Oscar, who is now 19 months, and hopes to get them published. She roadtests everything and, for instance, it took her four attempts to create baby-friendly mini lasagnes in a muffin tin – the rest of the family dined on the crispy failures. (Soaking the lasagne and cutting discs to fit the tin proved to be the answer.)

Meanwhile, she has been “very surprised” at the interest shown since she began to share her recipes through a website and Facebook page. “It has grown so much in the past five weeks, it has become something different. It is not just about getting a book published, it is about changing the way people eat. I know it sounds corny,” she adds, “but it is now my aim in life to change the way people feed their kids.”

See babyledfeeding.com

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. You will find food-related content in all of our sections. We will also have reader events, competitions and lots of exclusive content at irishtimes.com/food

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