Why I love Baby-led Weaning

Anyone who knows me well knows I probably take food too seriously. I just can’t help it.

Food is one of the great joys of life. It’s not just fuel. Food is bound up with family, talking, laughing, art, passion and traditions.

In Nigella Lawsons recipe book, How to Eat, she talks about her first pregnancy. In a short anecdote she describes chatting to an obstetrician at a party about breastfeeding. She was excited to learn that the taste of breast milk changes, depending on what the mother has eaten. In this way, the baby becomes accustomed to a variety of tastes. Amazing!

When it came time for Eloise to start eating, I hoped I could pass on my love of food. At first I was going to go down the path of making my own purées. However something about spoon feeding mush didn’t seem to work for me. I didn’t feel comfortable with it.

I’d heard mothers talking about forcing, distracting, coercing, persuading, shoving and tricking their baby into eating. This made no sense! Why would you need to “force” someone to do something as enjoyable and natural as eating!

You don’t force anyone to laugh, or sing, or look at a beautiful sunset or to play. Surely a baby simply wants to eat.

Well luckily I remembered a friend of mine, whose baby I’d seen eating a bowl of strawberries. The baby had been feeding herself. This friend put me onto information about weaning that can be found on the Australian Breastfeeding Association website. They call it starting with “family foods.” This type of weaning is also called baby-led weaning.

I have loved, loved, loved going on this baby-led weaning adventure with Eloise.

Why do I love it?

Well here are the best things about it.

Little Preparation

Since Eloise has started eating, I’ve hardly had to make any adjustments to my cooking. I’ve just given her what we’re having. My only change is I’ve started cooking with more vegetables – which has to be a good thing. She started off with cucumber sticks, roasted vegetables, avocado, mango, bread and strawberries. Now she can handle pretty much anything. She can suck up spaghetti covered in mince, scoop up rice, loves daintily picking up peas and kidney beans, chewing on steak and (to my husband’s horror) even loves her broccoli.

Food is a time for learning

For a while Eloise did more playing then eating at meals. But this didn’t matter. I would always give her a breastfeed before a meal so she wasn’t frustrated by hunger. Her skills in handling food have slowly increased and she has explored a variety of textures and colours.

I’m never worried about Eloise choking on her food. By letting the baby explore food at their own pace, they learn how to chew and swallow and how much to put in their mouth.

Food is family time

I loved how baby led weaning encourages parents to let babies eat at the family meal. It shows the baby that food is a social activity. It didn’t take long before Eloise was very excited to be put into the high chair. She knew the fun was about to start!

With this type of weaning, there is no need to give the toddler special food, like nuggets or chips. They are already accustomed to eating what the family eats.

Food is for eating

At first baby led weaning can be quite messy. What’s life without a bit of mess? You just need to take a few precautions to minimize the damage. However I’ve found that the mess has dramatically decreased lately. For a while, with Eloise, it was 50% play and 50% eating. These days she does a lot of eating!

My Mums brothers are both very tall men with huge appetites. They love their food. At one family gathering they were enjoying one of Mums meals, and at the same time watching Eloise eat. She must have been about ten months and was sitting up in her high chair feeding herself. In typical fashion, Eloise was eating with great gusto. My uncles looked shocked and I was worried that they didn’t approve for some reason.

“You know it’s quite appetizing watching her eat,” one of my Uncles said.  “She really enjoys her food.” Eloise continued to enjoy her meatloaf and vegetables and so did my Uncles.

And that’s food for you; food that we love, food that brings family together and food that is eaten because it simply makes us happy.

For more information on Baby Led Weaning you can visit the Australian Breast Feeding Association.

Pinky McKay also has a good article explaining the benefits of baby-led weaning.

If you’re really keen, you should buy the book. Baby-led Weaning, Gill Rapley and Thacey Murkett. The book answers every question or concern you could possibly raise. It’s extremely practical and gives excellent guidelines on how you can actually make baby-led weaning work. 

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Hayley
    Sep 24, 2013 @ 02:23:56

    This great. We’d been unknowingly doing blw with our now 12 month old almost since he started eating. I’m interested to hear how you offer your daughter the steak? How’s it cooked, cut etc? This is the only food I have trouble with. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Clare Horsfall
      Sep 24, 2013 @ 04:17:09

      How great you’ve been doing it without knowing. Just shows its pretty common sense. With the steak I just cut it into bits she can hold and she has a good suck. I’ve heard a lot of the goodness with meat is in the juices. I usually bbq when we have steak. Another way she loves meat is when it’s roasted. And mince its always a winner. She picks up the little clumps of mince.

      Reply

    • Elizabeth
      Sep 30, 2013 @ 03:32:45

      I put steak in the food processor and it shreds it into tiny pieces.

      Reply

  2. gallandria
    Sep 30, 2013 @ 01:01:17

    I’m doing BLW with my sixteen month old. I didn’t know about it with my oldest, and the difference in their pickiness is amazing. Where my sixteen month old eats everything, my six year old has a few things she likes and that’s it. Although her tastes are expanding, it could all have been avoided. But,when you know better, you do better 🙂

    Reply

  3. Georgina Inzunza
    Sep 30, 2013 @ 15:00:12

    hmmmm… I have been very interested on this “new” method of feeding your baby… and at first I was convinced that I was going to wait until my little one was one year old before introducing any type of solids. However I have been noticing that when we are on the table he is giving me all those signs your read about… baby looking at us eating… trying to get the food.. etc… Even though he is a bit too young to start at this moment.. (5months today) I am wondering when did you start feeding him solids… I am in no hurry but I also don’t want to be too adamant on thinking one way… i was thinking that his first food was going to be avocado.. I probably will be reading more on this subject but any more detailed tips you can give would be wonderful.

    I have a 20 year old and the 5mo old… now I feel wiser and would like to follow babys cue not society 🙂

    THANK YOU!!!!

    Reply

    • Clare Horsfall
      Sep 30, 2013 @ 21:14:46

      We started at around 6 months. The first thing I gave her was cucumber sticks and avocado. I sliced the avocado into sticks with the skin still on (so it wasn’t so slippery) and she would suck it off. She did well with anything cut into the shape of a thick chip. So steamed or roasted vegetable were great. Personally I found reading the book very helpful. Whenever I was losing confidence or had a question it always had the answer. It helped being very well informed so I could answer any shocked questions thrown at me. People do get shocked when they see a baby eat! The book has some good guidelines like always put baby in sitting up position when feeding to avoid choking. The book explains the difference between choking and gagging. My baby definitely gagged at the beginning. But this is natural and all part of learning. The trick is to not overreact. With blw you never stuff something in a baby’s mouth. It might be tempting at the beginning, as they struggle to handle foods, but it’s better they learn to handle food themselves and it would be a choking hazard force food in.
      Other first foods she loved were strawberries, mango, home made bread sticks and weet bix. I hope all the above helps and good luck with baby led weaning. It’s lots of fun!

      Reply

  4. Georgina Inzunza
    Sep 30, 2013 @ 21:25:25

    IT WAS A PERFECT ANSWER… to a rather complex question so thank you!!>. yes, I am looking for that book already!

    THANKS A BUNCH!!!

    Reply

  5. Trackback: What is Baby Led Weaning? | Sheridanigans
  6. Trackback: Weaning…….. | Three Peas in a Pod

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