Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Baby Led First Foods

I felt inspired (thanks @BabyMakingMama )to blog about this today.

You may or may not know that I have three children. Two boys and a girl, 5, 3 and 6 months respectively.

With my eldest son, Jayden, I followed the traditional method of weaning onto solids religiously. I bought a couple of puree books, I recommend Annabel Karmel as her recipes taste delicious if you are going down that route incidentally, and set about introducing my son to the delights of non-mummy-milk foods. I started with baby rice which is pretty tasteless really, mixed up with breastmilk; just an introduction to new texture I suppose. Then on to a new taste every few days, eg a few days of pureed carrots, then apple, then parsnip/squashes, then apple AND carrot, then mashed potato... gradually increasing the lumpiness until FINALLY I dared to give him a piece of food to hold himself. And the fear in the room was palpable. I was literally terrified that he would choke, but he didnt and we all lived to tell the tale.

Alongside this, he gradually started cutting out breastfeeds by himself by asking for mummy milk less frequently, then a week after his first birthday he had his last feed after a couple of nights of only a bedtime feed, he just lay down one night and that was it, didn't reach out to me other than a cuddle. I had NO discomfort in my breasts, no engorgement, no leaking, nothing. He never asked again and though I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it, I knew that it was perfect because he did it in his own time.

My second son, Reuben. Well I was a little more experienced I guess and felt I could bypass the babyrice thing, seemed a little pointless to me to be perfectly honest. So Reubens first meal was finely mashed banana. And he absolutely loved it. We quite quickly moved onto different tastes, quickly combining tastes, textures, flavours etc. We introduced him holding food much sooner, probably a couple of weeks after his first taste of food at 6 months. He got the hang of it very quickly and yet again I seem to have a 3 year old who will eat anything, curry, spicy things... anything!

He continued breastfeeding longer than his brother, but that is the case with most things with my little Roo as he has severe speech delay and consequently some learning difficulties, which I can tell you is a real challenge to us as parents considering Jayden was very forward in his communication. Isn't it hard not to compare our children? (In terms of what they do and at what age I mean). Reuben breastfed until 16 months old and actually I think he may have stopped a month earlier but to be honest I wasn't ready! Thankfully he humoured me and he continued with a bedtime feed until we were both ready and then he stopped peacefully too.

Now Daisy. She is 6 months old. Ive been reading about Baby Led Weaning onto Solids for some time now and we followed it to a degree with Reuben but we're pretty much going all out with it with Daisy.

Why did I decide on this route this time?

I have come to believe that a lot of baby rearing is an instinctive thing, for both the baby and the mother. If I believe that, then I have to believe that a baby will come to eating instinctively and at their own pace. This might mean for some babies that they wont eat until some time past 6 months and thats ok too. As the gut isn't sealed until 6 months, they shouldn't have solids until then though. At around 6 months, most babies will have head control and will be showing some hand co-ordination.

So around 2 weeks ago Daisy started showing interest, and I mean REAL interest in our family mealtimes. We started sitting her in a highchair once she could support herself and play with her toys while we ate, we wanted her to feel involved as up to that point she'd be playing on her nest so a little 'removed' I guess. So when she'd be on our laps at the table (when she was done with playing!) she would grab at food as it passed her between my plate and my mouth!

So last Saturday, she was 5 months, 3 weeks, and I gave her a stick of Cucumber and she put it straight in her mouth and sucked the living daylights out of it, didn't 'eat' any of it but that wasnt really the point. So since then, at mealtimes, we have given her something similar, bits off our plates, steamed carrot stick, long slice of banana, slices of apple and cheese, anything that she can hold herself and put to her mouth, but not break too easily as at this point it's to do with the new experience.

So we're actually only a few days into this, but its been so lovely seeing her really going for it with eating by herself. I put a spoon on her tray and she picks it up and puts the end in her mouth too.

I don't think I'm going to be too puritanical about this, for example I will probably spoon some things such as yoghurts as I am keen that she gets a balance of nutrition but its amazing the difference it has made to our family mealtimes. It's so much easier that she sits and eats with us, because often she would want to be breastfed at that time and so I would feed her at the table which is fine of course but invariably means my food is cold by the time I've finished it. So now, she sits and messes with the bits of food I've put on her tray, I get to eat my hot meal and we're all happy.

I hope I've put across the fact that I don't believe there is a particular right or wrong here, only whats right or wrong for a family within the constraints of what is healthy for the child (ie, no whole nuts, honey-risk of infant botulism etc etc). I am really enjoying the process which is making it more enjoyable for Daisy.

How are you enjoying your weaning onto solids experience?

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