Littlest has just turned 6 months old and so begins a new baby-led weaning adventure.
If you didn’t already know, baby led weaning is essentially giving a baby ‘real’ food, sliced into sticks (or similar shapes which are easy to hold) and allowing them to explore the food and feed themselves.
The NHS recommends that finger foods are introduced from 6 months old, which is in line with the WHO recommendation of providing nothing but breastmilk for the first 6 months of life, so the best time for starting baby led weaning is around 6 months old, with additional recommendations that a baby should be able to sit unaided and bring an object to their mouths by themselves.
There are a number of benefits to baby led weaning:
- You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen preparing purees
- You can feed yourself with two hands!
- Baby learns to chew first and swallow later, rather than the other way around with starting on purees
- Baby experiences real food textures and tastes from the beginning
- Encourages Baby to listen to their body and stop eating when they have had enough
This time around I’m much more relaxed heading into it and it’s easy to forget how utterly anxiety-inducing it was first time round.
With that in mind I came up with 6 tips, things I found useful to draw upon as a second-time mum.
1) Go to a class
I (somewhat impulsively) booked onto an NCT Introducing Solids Workshop when Biggest was around 3 or 4 months old and can say in hindsight that I don’t think our BLW journey would have been quite so successful had I not. Some great content on first foods, store-bought foods and safety, it was exactly the calm advice I needed as a postnatal anxiety sufferer.
2) Know what gag reflex looks like
Another brilliant takeaway from the NCT Introducing Solids Workshop was learning the difference between choking and natural gag reflex. We watched a great video of a 6-month-old trying some new foods and her gag reflex safely rejecting them out of her mouth when she was done exploring them. I know for sure I would have thought Biggest was choking and yanked her out of her seat every time that happened had I not known. You can find similar videos, like this one, on YouTube.
This is a great graphic from Ask A Coroner, giving an easy way to remember what to be looking out for with gagging vs choking:
I remember the NCT teacher saying that choking would be silent, with mouth wide open and bulging eyes…thankfully we have never experienced a choking incident with Biggest, but I wanted to be sure I was definitely ready, not just for food-related incidents, but any choking, so I brushed up on my skills by downloading the Baby and Child First Aid App by British Red Cross. If you had time, you could also book a baby and child first aid training course with them. I will do this in the coming months, I think, to make sure I’m completely up to date.
3) Offer milk first
When Baby first starts to explore finger food they may get a little frustrated with how little of it they are able to successfully swallow which could make mealtimes a little more stressful than they need to be. By offering a quick milk feed first it ensures Baby is not too hungry to enjoy their food adventure.
I also tend to offer Littlest some milk afterwards too, for the same reasons really, particularly if she has really enjoyed the taste of what she’s been mouthing and was a bit sad it was all gone (or, rather, smooshed).
4) Do a mixture
From Biggest’s baby led weaning journey I learnt I didn’t have to get so worked up about it being ALL finger foods. It’s perfectly fine to offer a mixture of finger foods and purees if you want to.
I quite often make up batches of soup for our weekday lunches and fully intend for Littlest to have some too.
5) Give family the heads up
Coming from a generation who were advised to add baby rice to formula to thicken it and begin weaning onto purees before 4 months old, it was quite a shock to my mum’s system with Biggest to see that a) I had ‘waited so long’ to begin and b) had started off giving her lightly steamed broccoli florets and carrot sticks.
She eventually came around to the idea (not that she had much choice) and completely sees the benefits 3 years down the line, but if I were to do it all again for the first time I’d probably have discussed our plans and reasonings behind them in a little more detail to save us all the headache and anxiety rather than rocking up to her house with my lunchbox full of crudites!
6) Get a dog
…or just be prepared for some mess!
Honestly, though, our dog has been a saviour with this whole parenting lark. I am so grateful for what must be thousands of hours he has saved me in cleaning up discarded and abandoned baby and toddler meals. Even though he adjusted to having children in the house really easily, I think this is probably the stage which won him round completely.
…or you could get a big tablecloth or shower curtain or something for the floor under the high chair.
Important: If you are planning to treat your dog to some baby leftovers, always remember that raisins, grapes, chocolate, onions, garlic, chives and avocado are poisonous to dogs. You should also avoid giving them cow’s dairy, corn on the cob and things containing the sweetener xylitol (not an exhaustive list).
Where are you on your weaning journey? Have you done BLW or do you plan to?