Baby Weaning, Do You Need A Plan?
Happy babies, full tummies and food in your hair. The highs and lows of weaning your baby.
The Competition Between First Time Mums
I didn’t even know what a butternut squash was but because Annabel Karmel told me I should get one, cook it and serve it to my 5-month-old, I did and she loved it. It was the year 2000 and back-in-the-day when we started weaning at 16-20 weeks; and no-one had heard of baby-led weaning.
In my new circle of friends, all of us being first-time mummies, we talked endlessly about the boiling or steaming of carrots, the virtues of mashing up bananas with avocados and why none of the babies seemed to like broccoli. The competition was always there under the surface. Which baby was the best eater and whose little darling “absolutely devoured” exotic fruit? There was never any mention of baby food jars. Heaven forbid one of us should actually open a jar, stick in a spoon and feed its contents to our child!
All That Matters Is The End Result
Back in the day when I tried so hard to do it perfectly and felt so imperfect because all my child wanted was Ready-Brek, I soon learned that having a satisfied child was more important to me (it’s amazing what fruit and veggies you can hide in a big bowl of Ready-Brek). Fast forward 19 years and 4 babies later and I have resorted to many a baby food jar, many a microwaveable meal and have yet to purchase a vegetable or baby food steamer. I have silently stuck my fingers up to the Nigella’s of the kitchen. I mean, who has the time? Most of us work or are running around after other children and have loads of commitments and never-ending to-do lists. As long as your child is fed nutritious baby food, does it really matter how you get there?
I was always grateful to have a stack of supplies in the cupboard for the day when the top of the food-mixer lid blew off or I forgot to defrost the 3-5 ice cubes of lovingly prepared red pepper purée. Or, importantly, for that day when my screaming child threw my beautiful apple compote on the floor and refused my (non-steamed) carrots. I was always a little miffed, although honestly relieved, when the jar of baby Bolognese went down smoothly with no fuss what-so-ever. My very loose baby weaning plan all worked out in the end as child number one is now a healthy 19-year-old who eats all world foods, still loves Ready-Brek and berates me because I don’t like falafel!
What Is Baby Led Weaning Anyways?
I had a baby of weaning age in 2015 and I didn’t even know about baby-led weaning. I discovered it for the first time at the crèche, where I saw a child with mashed-up food and chunky bits spread all over the high chair tray. She was eating with her hands, was happy and smiling and… to me it looked like utter carnage. I remember feeling quite ancient and old-fashioned because I knew nothing of this new-fangled baby weaning system, although I did know not to try and shove baby rice in a 16-week-old as we now were advised to wait until they were 6-months-old. The childcare worker told me to “try it out” and that “everyone’s doing it.”
Whats All The Hype About?
I tried it out. I talked about it with my latest set of mummy friends. Everyone was, indeed ‘doing it’ and everyone did, indeed, love it. The dolloping of mixed veg, chicken and sauce all over my child’s high chair tray was enough to give me sweaty palms and a few extra grey hairs. Watching him handle chunky bits and not puréed food made me nervous and my baby, floor, clothes and sanity all took a hammering. I watched him sit in that high chair for ages, terrified he was going to choke (which he never did). I desperately wanted to follow what everyone else was doing, but it made me anxious.
It didn’t take more than three or four more baby-led weaning attempts for me to revert back to my year 2000 comfort zone. I did modernise, though, by giving him lots of finger foods in-between me spoon feeding him puréed and semi-puréed baby food. It was cleaner, less stressful and he still learnt to eat by himself. Now, aged 4, he’s a whizz with a knife and fork and is willing to try anything at least once.
In The Words Of Frank Sinatra, ‘I Did It My Way’
I followed my semi-modern method with my fourth baby. It was a good experience and at least there was a lot less mess to clear up. To boot, I was not spending each mealtime clutching a fistful of baby wipes and manically cleaning every little splash in sight like some possessed woman. By making meal times as pleasurable and stress free as I could, I believe that my kids have all gone on to take real pleasure in food.
I’ll have them all eating falafel before you know it.