Introducing first foods to baby is an eye-opening learning experience, for both baby and parents. Little Gourmet was created to share everything I learned about baby-led weaning with parents who are beginning their own journeys, but some lessons can’t be taught from a site or a book. And the most valuable lessons are often the ones that our own children teach us. Baby-led weaning focuses on truly letting baby lead their own eating experience...if you watch closely, they will show you a thing or two!
I put the question to some mum bloggers I adore: What did your baby teach you about weaning? Read on for some baby-led wisdom!
Make your own rule book
Before I started weaning I had all these grand ideas about how and when I would introduce Harry to food. I was going to be the perfect Baby-Led Weaning parent, introducing food at 6 months. As with all areas of his development, Harry had his own ideas that conflicted with mine. He showed all of the signs that he was ready to wean at 5 months. Eventually, I gave in and let Harry try some food. He loved it! From day one he ate like a dream, trying most things that we offered him. We didn't do “proper” baby-led weaning. He was a hungry little boy and often wanted help with things like yoghurt...so we helped him. He fed himself for the most part though so we don't really fall into the traditional weaning category either. I quickly learned that following his lead was the best approach, whether that followed the textbook or not. Between us we ripped up the textbooks and came up with our own 'Harry led weaning' style.
Cooking with a baby on your hip or screaming in the high chair is hard and stressful. The main lesson I learned from Harry was that healthy food doesn't have to take a long time to prepare or cost a lot of money. Frozen vegetables, batch cooking and using leftovers creatively are all ways that have helped me to provide Harry with a healthy, balanced diet with minimal effort. We also meal plan. This helps me to plan a balance of healthy foods across the course of the week. It was difficult at first, but I quickly learned how to plan our meals for the week, meaning no food waste and spending less on our weekly shop. I share my meal plans and recipes on my blog; please feel free to check it out if it could be useful for you.
The main lesson that Harry taught me is to relax. We all have days where everything we cook for our little darlings ends up running down the walls whilst they eat 2 day old raisins off the floor. And it can be tough...really tough. But you are doing amazingly and remember that this is all temporary, before you know it your little foodie will be grown. So, enjoy the mess and the chaos because one day it will all just be happy memories.
Kayley is the mum behind FriendlyFirstFoods.co.uk, where she shares her favourite recipes and weaning tales. She lives in Stockport with Harry and her husband Alistair.
Learn to relax and go with the flow
Rachel from MummaHub.co.uk
I am about to embark on the weaning process with baby number 3. Having weaned two children already, I have reflected back over what I would/wouldn’t do again. I took two very different approaches (the first purees and spoon-fed, the second was baby-led) but I will share with you one of the things biggest things my children have taught me: in the early stages it’s all about exploring and tasting and not about how much or how often they’re eating. Until the age of 1 your baby will still be getting most of their nutrients from milk.
First time around I was an anxious mother, never quite confident enough to trust my instincts. There was constant Google searching of “Should my baby be doing this..?”, “Why does it mean if…” and “Why won’t my baby…” I am 100% sure that my anxieties of how much my baby should be eating rubbed off on my daughter. I would sneak extra spoonfuls in because the health visitor told me she wasn’t following her centile line. Gradually it became less about exploring and more about trying to calculate how much she’d eaten and whether that was enough and with that the types of food she would eat grew smaller and smaller. It wasn’t fun anymore, for either of us. Unfortunately exploring food is still something Isla doesn’t enjoy. She’s taught me that meal times are supposed to be a fun, social time. She taught me to relax about food and to remove any pressure related to it.
Second time around, I’d heard of baby-led weaning, and the idea made a lot of sense to me. It was kind of the trendy thing to be doing. Well, I jumped on the bandwagon a far more confident mother. We had set meal times as a family so baby just joined in with us. I never cooked special food just for her. After batting about cooked carrot sticks and broccoli florets with her hands for a few weeks, I think one of the first foods she actually ate was lasagne! I wasn’t worried whether the food ended up on the floor or pasted through her hair because I was far more aware of the fact that in the beginning it doesn’t matter! Evelyn has taught me to trust my instincts and that food can be fun (even if it does goes everywhere). She taught me that exploring food goes far beyond eating it. It’s so rewarding to hear her say, “Can I try some, mummy?” Even if it’s a spicy curry I will always say yes (with a warning obviously)! Evelyn loves trying new foods and even creates some questionable combinations. Carrots dipped in milk anyone?
Rachel is a blogging 28-year-old mum with three little darlings. Visit her at MummaHub.co.uk.
Every child has a unique relationship with food
Ciara from My Fussy Eater
I had completely different weaning experiences with both children so I guess from that I’ve learned that it’s best to take the baby’s lead when it comes to those early foods. My daughter took to weaning straight away. She gobbled down purees from about 5 months old and within a couple of months she was eating chicken curries and lentil stews!
My son was more difficult to wean. He just wasn’t very interested in food so I took more of a casual approach to it which let me experiment with baby-led weaning. When he became more interested in food, I started to spoon feed him more substantial foods.
What about your fussy eater vs your little boy?
It’s funny because although my daughter was a dream to wean, she became a really fussy eater at age 2. My son was difficult to wean but he eats really well now! It just goes to show that children and their eating habits change all the time!
Did you learn different lessons from each child?
Yes definitely, as I’ve had different feeding struggles with both of them. It’s also taught me not to be complacent when it comes to food and children. Just because my son now eats pretty well, I know that might not be the case forever. There may be a bout of picky eating just around the corner, so it’s important I still encourage him to try as many new foods as possible.
Ciara is a mum of two and founder of My Fussy Eater, an online resource packed full of family friendly recipes and tips and tricks for feeding children.
New flavours build adventurous taste buds
Nicola from MummyToDex.com
There are hardly any foods that are off limits.
Excluding honey and too much sodium, no food or meal is off limits when it comes to baby-led weaning. So many people worry that you cannot introduce XYZ until a certain age, but with baby-led weaning, as long as you wait until six months, anything goes. Dex has tried such a wide variety of foods and has never turned his nose up at anything. Everything I make is home cooked using fresh ingredients and I try to purchase a wide range of fruit and vegetables. Knowing that anything goes means I can purchase cheap produce that is on sale in the supermarket without having to worry that it’ll go to waste.
Dex eats whatever we are eating which means he has sampled a diverse selection of herbs and spices from cardamom to rosemary to turmeric. I like to think that this baby-led weaning journey will ensure Dex won’t be a fussy toddler who refuses to eat his greens and will continue to eat a healthy diet for the rest of his life.
Nicola is new mum to Dexter James, blogging from Liverpool about her parenting experience at MummyToDex.com.
Thanks to Nicola, Ciara, Rachel and Kayley for passing on their little one wisdom. Leave a comment to share what your babe has taught you!