Forget the puréed carrots, the BLW (baby-led weaning) approach is the way to go
Self-feeding finger food makes mealtimes easier – all you need are nerves of steel and a handy dustpan and brush
Louis eats much of the same food as us at mealtimes.
When I weaned my first baby three years ago, we moved through the various purée lumpiness like Goldilocks and her porridge. We ran the military-style operation required for spoon-feeding – roasting, whizzing, and freezing every root vegetable under the sun in special tiny containers.
So this time around the baby-led weaning (BLW) approach appealed. Not a blender, or weaning spoon in sight for self-feeding finger food. Just two things are needed – the most important one being nerves of steel.
Because of this method, weaning begins a little later and I was patiently waiting for Louis to turn the recommended six months. But just as the term implies, the baby led and Louis had other ideas.
Two weeks before his half birthday, my normally chilled out smiley baby sat on my lap in a restaurant and gave the yelp of a tiny dog attacking. He lunged at me with a primal strength that pulled my pizza-eating hand towards his mouth. And so began his first gnaw of pizza crust.
From this point, on Louis would make puppy eyes, impatiently turning to cries every time I ate in front of him. So we started including him. Sitting him in his high chair with big chunks of apple or florets of broccoli.
During those first few meals, and still at some point in every meal, a certain feeling takes over my whole body. As he gnaws and gnaws with his gummy jaws and finally gets a large chunk of food into his mouth, my tense arms and my sweaty palms want to reach forward and retrieve it. I have to use all my strength not to interfere,to be brave, to sit, to watch, to trust (in my mind there’s a mammy jumping up and down screaming “how can you trust him, he’s just a little baby, he’s gonna choke”). Louis coughs. I grimace. And just as I can hold back no more, he proudly pushes the large, chewed-up piece of apple skin back out of his mouth. He looks triumphant. I realise I’ve been holding my breath.
I have a niggling sense that this overwhelming feeling of wanting to interfere and forcing myself to trust my son will be repeated throughout Louis’ life, well beyond babyhood.
While a little taxing on my nerves at times, BLW has brought us back towards pre-baby eating habits. For the first few months after his birth, the aim of most of our meals was to eat food as quickly as possible using as few limbs as possible. But now we can take it slowly. Louis eats much of the same food as us at mealtimes (unsalted). He plays with his barbecued red pepper, or baked salmon or sliced avocado happily in his high chair. His excited eating noises at the sight of a new food makes me feel like a Great British Bake-Off contestant who gets one of Paul Hollywood’s handshakes (and that’s for my really rubbery scrambled eggs).
Dustpan and brush
Most of the food still ends up in a semicircle on the floor around his high chair (thus the second thing needed is dustpan and brush – once relegated to idleness by the cordless vacuum, it has taken a new starring role in my kitchen).
For many months yet, eating is more about play than what goes in, and milk will still be his main source of nutrition.
A little like the early days of breastfeeding, at this stage there is only one way to tell what’s going in. What comes out. The shift in “output” once a baby moves to solids was a ‘surprise’ when I was a first-time parent. My baby’s dirty nappies, once as offensive as candyfloss, suddenly look and smell more ‘real’. Break out the nosepegs.
One desirable outcome, we hoped, was that the spirit of sibling rivalry would inspire his older brother to rediscover foods like broccoli. Ah, the foolish dreams of parents. The preschooler was not spurred to be the same as the baby but was inspired to be different. A few days after the baby began using the high chair, his brother asked to sit in one of the adult chairs rather than his plastic junior chair. Visions of tuna handprints on our non-wipeable beige cloth dining chairs flashed through my mind.
But once again I held back and realised that it’s down to trusting my child ( although I’m keeping the wipes within reach at all times . . . just in case).