Weaning // Finding our own way

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

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 aswell – 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

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!

picking from the bowl

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!

9 thoughts on “Weaning // Finding our own way

  1. Oh look how big he’s got form your first picture to the last one?! So cute 🙂 You’re not alone with the “too much mess” either, I couldn’t do baby led weaning for that reason, though to be honest I never even thought about it, we just went the traditional route. Luke is very much the same as Toby, ahppily takes the messier food from a spoon off of me has his mouth wide open for each spoonful but once hes had enough that’s it, he just won’t entertain it anymore and I’ll stop there. Most of his breakfasts and lunches he feeds himself because they are things like toast, sandwiches, crackers, cheese and sausages, oh lord he would eat sausages for every meal! We began weaning at 4 months so he did have a lot of puree at that age but the majority of it was homemade and he loved it all.
    It really is whatever works best for you and your baby 🙂

  2. We’ve just started weaning Dexter, we’re doing a bit of a mixture to be honest. He turned 6 months yesterday and he will quite happily sit in his chair and pick things from his tray. He’s had things like toast, melon, banana, raspberries (very messy!!) but he’s also been trying a couple of the Ella’s Kitchen puree’s. He will just sit there and open his mouth letting me know when he wants some, I never force feed him which I have seen some parents do. I don’t like the whole “you must do it this way” idea, we are following our own path with Dex and it’s at his pace. We’re all very happy and content so must be doing something right.

  3. We did BLW but weren’t purists, if it was hard to eat with your fingers I held out loaded spoons. And my goodness it was messy, saag paneer being particularly gruesome, and I banned quinoa for a while! My cousin also did BLW with her twins and decided the time you save not pureeing is spent on cleaning up, she may have a point! I was shocked to discover how divisive weaning can be, although we did BLW I never really engaged with it on online forums as the derogatory way the phrase ‘spoon feeder’ was used put me off, but I’m sure there are more positive places to discuss it than I found. I have no idea if it made him a better eater, I think it’s more down to the child rather than weaning method, and his cutlery skills aren’t great at 27 months (not sure anyone’s are at that age). But he’s not that fussy so that’s fine. Good on you for finding your own way that worked. Toby looks very happy with things.

  4. I did a bit off both with my third, it suits him fine he eats everything i eat weather its mashed or whole. Quite frankly feeding them a mashed up dinner or from a pouch is so much more quicker and cleaner than BLW. My daughter (2nd child) we did BLW just because she would happily eat food from the tray and we didnt have to feed her she was very chubby and slept so well at night I wasn’t fussed. She eats so well now though she can eat the same amount as me sometimes and she is only 2, I saw on that secret life of babies that was on that babies that are aloud to be messy when eating become better eaters apparently. My third though I was desperate for him to sleep through the night so fed him anything purees and blw he wouldnt eat it! only things that tasted like apples now a few months later he eats or tries to eat anything he can get his hands on! including a slice of pizza which he stole of a boy at a party he doesnt even have teeth!

    Sorry I have rambled on!!

  5. It sounds like you’ve done fine! I love baby led weaning, as you know, but it’s all down to what works for each family and it sounds like you and Toby are happy and have a routine that works for you – That’s all that matters! x

  6. I love this post as it sounds so very familiar, in the sense that we definitely didn’t find that things progressed as the textbooks said either! Does it ever though?!

    We let M feed himself as much as possible from the moment he was able to grab food and put it into his mouth, which was quite early (5 months I think), but loaded spoons were a disaster. Until he learned to dip and then scoop well, I always fed him runny things too. And in restaurants there was no way I was going to let him make a massive mess!

    At 18 months he eats totally by himself, but is clearly entering the “fussy phase” – which the BLW militants will have you believe won’t happen! I think it’s developmental and inevitable, but we are sticking to lots of BLW tips for dealing with it: don’t make a fuss, no power games, lots of healthy food to choose from.

    So in the end I think you have to be pragmatic. Every baby and family is different and you have to do what you feel comfortable with. They do all learn to eat eventually!

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