Friday, 12 November 2010

Baby-Led Weaning...the story of broccoli and carrots.

When we first heard about the 'common-sense, safe, easy and enjoyable' way of starting your baby on solids, we knew from the start this was what we wanted to do. And when our son first reached out for an apple my husband was eating, the most natural thing to do was let him have it.

Baby-led weaning is the way of introducing your baby to solids by letting him feed himself, at his own pace, with his own hands. Sounds unrealistic? Yeah, maybe. Sounds fun? For sure. But the thing that convinced us more than the fun (and the cleaning) we were about to have, was the principle behind BLW. We simply like the fact that our son will learn to chew before he learns to swallow. That he will get to know his food by smell, taste, texture and shape. That we will be able to enjoy family meals together. We loved the idea that our son will be the one who decides how much or how little he will eat.

To be able to do all that is necessary for eating the baby needs to be developmentally at the right stage. He needs to be able to sit upright with minimal (or no) help. He needs to be able to grab things and put them in his mouth (or, well, in the area). He needs to be able to chew or at least try. This basically means that a healthy baby can start feeding himself at about 6 months, which is the age we are advised to start feeding babies something more than breastmilk or formula (according to most pediatricians and WHO).

The advantages are said to be huge - which is why BLW is slowly becoming ore and more popular among mums and dads, or at least so we hear. A lot of mums say their babies are great eaters, not fussy and not picky - they simply eat whatever is put in front of them, because that's what they learnt to do from the start. There is no need for additional meal preparation - you simply give your baby whatever you yourself are having. We have given up (well, we were never really big fans of) fast foods, ready-made meals and the like, so we know whatever we are having our son can happily enjoy.

The biggest disadvantage, fo a lot of people,  is the mess. But since it is messy with our little one anyway, we just have to accept the fact that most food will fly about the room, and hope it will not end somewhere we won't find it and grow legs. It gets REALLY messy. We put a mat on the floor underneath the high-chair, and we clean it after every meal. This way whatever ends up on the floor can go straight back onto the tray, and hopefully into the mouth. At some point.

We realised, yet again, that the best thing we can do for our son (and ourselves)is slow down. Slow way down. BLW reminded us of it again. The meals seem to last forever.  So this is how it went with our first meal together, at the table, as a family:

We decided to go ahead and start when Antek turned 6 months. He had been interested in food (apples more than anything) for a few days, and once my husband gave him a big piece of apple he knew exactly what to do with it - the chunk went straight in the mouth and we heard happy sucking noises. Mat on the floor, small cute bib (oh how little we knew!) on the neck we were all ready to go. We put broccoli, long pieces of carrots (both boiled) and a piece of apple in front of him and waited. Did he eat? No, not even close. He made funny faces when he tried to put broccoli in his mouth, bit off a piece of carrot, gagged and spat it out, threw the apple on the floor. Maybe he eventully ate a bit of something, got some apple juice. It was definitely the most enjoyable meal we have had in a long time.

It might take time for him to properly eat something, but we're not in a hurry. I think that is the whole point though - he will slowly move on to 'real' food when his body is ready for it. I will continue breastfeeding him until he is completely happy with other foods. It might take time. But we really think time is the most important gift you can give your baby.

Tomorrow we are moving on to some proper breakfast-type food... I have a feeling we might as well leave him in his PJs for that :)

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