I love co-sleeping with my daughter, Ameli. She was born at 4.40am, and by 6am we were asleep in our bed, her cradled in my arm. She used her Moses basket for a while and uses a travel cot nowÂ for daytime naps and in the early evening, but once I go to bed she is there with me.*
As with so many things baby-related, I knew nothing about weaning and first foods a year ago. I had seen people spoon-feeding babies purÃ©e, and accepted that as how the process of learning to eat starts. In my journey into parenthood, however, I came across the term â€œBaby Led Weaningâ€, which really intrigued me. So much of my parenting style involves Ameli, my daughter, guiding us to knowing what’s right for her that this seemed a strange exception to make.
About a month and a half after beginning baby led weaning (BLW) I began reading the book of the same title by Gill Rapley and Tracy Murkett.Â One of the first things that really stood out for me was the definition given for spoon-feeding: â€œto provide (someone) with so much help or information that they do not need to think for themselvesâ€ and â€œto treat another in a way that discourages independent thought or actionâ€.
(Something to note about weaning: weaning a baby doesn’t mean that they no longer have their milk feeds. Especially with BLW, the first solids are so little that continuing milk is essential. I met a very upset mother recently who kept crying as she was desperate to breastfeed her baby, but had â€œstarted weaningâ€ and kept trying to feed her baby purÃ©ed food, no matter how much he (or she) herself longed to breastfeed!)
Some of the great things I love about the concept behind BLW are that:
- There is no additional cooking needed, i.e. no separate meals
- Babies are involved in the experience from the start
- As there is no force-feeding occurring, eating doesn’t have a negative connotation (so no here comes a train, open the tunnel, the aeroplane wants to land!)
- They can eat till they are full and then stop.
- We can eat as a family together. No separate mealtimes required (according to Sue Palmer in her book â€œToxic Childhood â€“ what the modern world is doing to your children and what you can do about itâ€, all children in a merit class she was involved in, without exception, had one thing in common â€“ they all had dedicated family meal times at the dinner table).
- BLW babies are more adventurous eaters as they’ve learned to explore new textures and flavours. At seven months old my daughter has a definite favourite: smoked salmon. She will actually try to get into my mouth to take it out if I haven’t given her any.
Admittedly, I am not a purist. There are times when a pre-packaged puree, whether bought or home made, can be a life saver. I was happy, then, to read Ms Rapley say that the odd spoon feeding or soft food isn’t harmful, but never allowing a child to roll lumpy food around their mouths, or having them always sucking the food off the spoon to the back of the mouth could delay chewing.
She goes on to explain that babies have never needed purÃ©es, but because they were being weaned on to solids before they were ready (i.e. 3 or 4 months) it was assumed to be the only way. Since we now know that babies shouldn’t really have solids until about 6 months, it becomes easier to understand why they don’t really need solids â€“ by six months they are able, if given the opportunity, to feed themselves.
A few other bonuses of BLW mentioned in the book that I had not thought about before are:
- Long term health. If a baby is breastfed and BLW, they still have breast milk for much longer than a baby weaned on to purees (as they are fuller and require less milk)
- No stressful meal times
- Fewer food phobias etc
- Less need for games or tricks
- Eating out is easier as baby can eat something off your plate, making it also…
The only downside to BLW is the mess. And boy, can it be messy.
When we started in March, I made this video of our first solids attempt for our far off family. Watch how she devours those courgettes.
There’ll be more soon. Watch this space!
I grew up with plenty of aunts and uncles. In fact, every man or woman in our church, our school, my parents’ friendship circle and parents of my friends were by default either ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’. Even a total stranger was referred to as such.
In fact, as a child, anyone more than about ten years older was ‘Aunty So-and-So’ or ‘Uncle So-and-So’. As I grew older and into a teenager that gap became larger. Someone ten years older could be called by their first name, but anyone old enough to be my parents or grandparents were still respectfully addressed as ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’. As an adult there are bitterly few people I now address in that way, but I still understand respecting my ‘elders’, and someone who isn’t my ‘chum’ would be ‘Mr X’, ‘Mrs X’, or even, perhaps still, ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’.
I find it strange then, to be raising my child in a culture where people smile and tell me how old fashioned I am when I refer to them as ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’. I understand that she doesn’t yet understand the title, but starting as I mean to go on, I feel it is so important for her to learn from the beginning how to be respectful.
I know I say this every month, but I cannot believe that it’s been seven months.
I sat you in your Bumbo this morning while I was hanging the washing and I was telling you about your birth and about that exact time seven months earlier, when you couldn’t sit in a Bumbo, or eat a biscuit or any of that. It’s phenomenal. It’s miraculous, this whole growth thing.
A month ago I thought you were mobile. Thinking back, I had no idea. I think you’ll be walking soon. You pull yourself up on everything: tables, your cot, my trouser legs. In fact, you’re pretty much incapable of sitting still. It’s a neverending squirm with you. You have so much energy, I am surprised you don’t eat more.
Speaking of eating, you are doing really well with your baby-led weaning. Your favourite food so far is smoked salmon, but apart from grapefruit, there’s really not much you don’t like. I can’t blame you on the grapefruit, though, it had no sugar or honey on it!
You had your first flight this month. We flew to Norway to visit your aunty Deshaine, and you were great on the flight. You breastfed for take-off and landing and slept for the rest of it. There was this huge volcanic eruption in Iceland the day we flew out and it caused a bit of panic, but we got home on schedule and had a fantastic time.
You’ve definitely reached the clingy phase. I can’t really leave you for too long and you start crying for me. It makes me feel special, but also a little bit tired sometimes.
On the plus side, you have stopped screeching so much, which is a major improvement, and you laugh a lot more. Especially when we hang you upside down or play aeroplanes with you. Or sing ‘Open and closed, open and closed, don’t get in a muddle, open and closed, open and closed, give yourself a cuddle’ â€“ that does seem to be your favourite.
On the other hand, you’ve started clawing at my breasts when you feed, a little like a cat on a scratching post when it’s been removed from its mother too soon. As a result they are currently various shades of green from the bruises.
We’ve had a reprise from your teething pains for a while, but that came to an end recently, and I suspect you’ll have a whole bunch of new teeth to show off soon. At least your sleep has improved, even though you still wake two or three times a night for a feed.
Well, honey, mommy will be going to sleep shortly, and I’ll curl up next to you and hold you close to my heart. I’ll watch you in the moonlight and hold on to these moments, knowing that they pass all too quickly. I’ll wake up in the night and listen for you, for your breathing, just to make sure you’re okay. When you stir I’ll pull you to me, and I’ll drink in your baby smell, holding my breath in an attempt to capture your scent forever in my memory. When you suckle at my breast and make little ‘hmmmm’ sounds, and after when you nuzzle in to me, those are the moments that I know your whole being is an extension of my heart.
You are more precious than I ever thought possible.
I love you for always.