Toby is now almost one and it’s been just over six months since we first introduced him to solid food. Before we started weaning I’d read a couple of books ‘Weaning Made Easy‘ and ‘Baby-Led Weaning‘. Baby-led weaning made total sense to me – by bypassing purées and giving Toby the same things we ate, and letting him feed himself, he would be in control of what he ate and hopefully would develop a healthy appetite and relationship with food.
The reality, however, turned out a little differently…
In the very beginning Toby simply wasn’t interested in putting anything in his mouth. I know I could have left him to figure it out on his own but if I held something to his mouth then he would happily eat it so it seemed like it was more the putting it in his mouth himself than actually eating that was a problem. I wrote about this at the time in a guest post over on Redhead Babyled which you can read here.
Examining a rice cake at six months old
We carried on putting finger foods (veg sticks, toast, breadsticks etc) on Toby’s highchair tray as well as feeding him other bits and pieces off our plates and eventually he did figure out how to pick things up and eat them himself. We also carried on feeding him as well – either with a spoon or just by popping something in his mouth or holding it for him to take a bite.
I really wanted to embrace baby-led weaning and let Toby feed himself but there was one major stumbling block…
I just couldn’t handle the mess! I don’t know if this makes me a terrible person for letting my own feelings get in the way of something which perhaps would have been better for Toby but every meal was getting me so worked up that I couldn’t carry on. I tried loaded spoons a couple of times but so little food got into Toby’s mouth (and so much food got everywhere else) that I went back to feeding him things like porridge and yogurt myself.
Porridge face (before we gave up loaded spoons!) at seven months
If Toby is having something he can pick up himself without making too much mess (things like breadsticks, sandwiches, fruit and veg, dry cereal, chicken) then I put it on his tray and he feeds himself. He did go through a bit of a phase of just squashing anything we gave him but he seems to be getting over that now. Up until recently if I gave Toby more than one thing, or a big piece of something, he would just try and shove the lot in his mouth in one go – which led to our only proper, out of the highchair, choking incident when he shoved a massive broccoli floret in his mouth in one go (he was fine though!). However, in the last week or so I have been trying to get Toby used to choosing what he wants to eat so I put a few different things on his tray so he can choose what he wants and then I just keep adding more. He usually eats everything eventually but at least he is gaining some control over what he eats when. He’s got much better a picking something up, taking a bite out of it, eating that bite and then having some more. I am also trying to introduce taking things off a plate or out of a bowl, which is going OK as long as I keep a hold of the plate or bowl too!
Getting his own Shreddies out of the bowl at twelve months
I do still spoon feed Toby the messy things like yogurt or spaghetti bolognese and for the moment he seems quite happy to eat these things from a spoon. I am definitely not force feeding him – which is the criticism sometimes levelled at this method of feeding. If Toby doesn’t want something then he will let you know, and there’s no chance of getting him to open his mouth to eat it! We don’t do aeroplanes or play games. Mostly Toby will have his mouth wide open for the next spoonful before I’ve got back to the bowl and when he’s done that’s that.
I’ve read quite a lot of blog posts and articles about weaning and there seems to be a misconception from some proponents of baby-led weaning that if you aren’t following baby-led weaning methods to the letter then you must be spoon feeding your baby purées or mashed food and you are somehow doing something detrimental to your baby’s health and well-being. But that simply isn’t the case. We have found our own way with weaning. Toby eats almost exactly what we eat. He has his meals with us and we all have the same things on our plates. The only purées he has ever had are fruit purée in his porridge or Weetabix, or as a snack when we’re out somewhere. Feeding Toby the way we do means we have happily been able to take him to restaurants and cafés knowing he can share our meals and do so without me having a meltdown about the mess.
I’m sure in the next few months Toby will get even better at feeding himself. We’ll start using plates and cutlery more and I’m sure he’ll get the hang of those too. Weaning seems to be such an emotive subject at the moment but to be honest I don’t think it really matters how you choose to feed your child – as long as you are feeding them and they’re happy (and you’re happy) then I’m sure they’ll be just fine. By they time they’re five no-one is going to care whether they were spoon fed or put every morsel they ever ate in their mouth on their own. As with so many things in the last year, we found a way that works for us and I’m happy with that.
I’d love to hear about your weaning experiences, especially if you did a bit of a combination like us – I’m sure we’re not the only ones who have made it up as we went along!