#Food, glorious food! Smushed into the carpet!#
Ok, so that might not be how the song goes, but it may as well do! If you’re going to follow baby-led weaning be prepared for some mess, but don’t let that put you off! They’ll have that “ooh, that looks like it’ll fly well” moment whether they get their hands on spaghetti at 6 months or later on in traditional weaning after they’ve worked their way up from purée.
So, what is baby-led weaning? It seems fairly unknown, a bit baffling to many, and draws attention in restaurants when your 7 month old is ploughing through a carvery when the server is expecting bottles and jars to be whipped out. Basically, the idea is that there is no need to mush everything up when you start giving solids, instead you offer pieces of food, generally the same food as you (with some small exceptions) at mealtimes, and let them figure it out for themselves. At 6 months, most of a baby’s nutritional needs are met by breastmilk or formula, and during these first few months they are merely experimenting with food so when most of it ends up on the floor rather than in their mouths, there’s no need to worry.
The main point of baby-led weaning is that there is no spoon feeding, or at least, you don’t feed them with a spoon yourself. Pre-loaded spoons are the only way that fit into BLW, which means you can start off by putting food onto the spoon (foods that stick onto the spoon first are good to try first, thick yoghurt, mashed potato etc) and then putting it down so baby can pick it up themselves and learn how to put it in their own mouth. It’s also worth noting that when it comes to BLW and Traditional Weaning there isn’t such a thing as “doing a bit of both”, i.e. some spoon-feeding and some finger foods, as this is just Traditional Weaning. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, up until recently it was the recommended way of weaning and I imagine will still be the most popular way for many years to come, but when weaning includes feeding them from a spoon yourself, it is no longer Baby-Led.
If your little squishes are at weaning age (6 months as per NHS guidelines) and showing the signs of being ready (able to sit without slumping, able to coordinate their hands to pick up food and able to swallow food, i.e. lost their tongue-thrust reflex) and you’re considering BLW, go for it! It’s honestly a lot of fun, you’ll be amazed at what your baby will eat and most importantly you won’t have your hands tied up feeding them so you can eat your own dinner while it’s hot! What a novelty!
If they’re still a bit young you can get them involved in the fun by sitting them at the dinner table when you eat, giving them a spoon and a bowl, letting them watch you and see how you eat. They will look at your food with interest, of course they will, but that doesn’t mean that you’re being cruel teasing them with food (how do they know what food is and what it will taste/feel like?) and it doesn’t mean that they are ready for food, I mean they’ll look at dog poo with interest and want to grab it but you’re not going to think “oh look at him reaching for the poo, I’ll just give him a little bit, it won’t hurt!”
Invest in a nice big mat if little one will be eating in a carpeted area. I’ve got a lovely big oilcloth tablecloth, only a few quid on eBay, and it’s nice and thick so when you’re wiping it it doesn’t crumple up underneath the sponge, I much prefer using a mat like this than a thin plastic sheet which I started out with. Use what works for you, if you’re on a wipe-clean floor then that is ideal but if like us you’re on carpet, the mat is a must-buy. I’ve heard of some people using shower curtains too, be creative!
So enjoy the mess, the laughter and spaghetti-filled grins, and throw the blender away! (or just put it in the cupboard to use for smoothies and whatnot)