We started baby led weaning almost three months ago and as I feel I have pretty much got to grips with it I thought I would be able to give some tips to anyone thinking about trying it, or to somebody just starting out. Because it is a relatively new idea to a lot of people, there are many different concerns that you could have. You might be panicking about them choking on something you give them or you might be put off by inevitable mess that comes with allowing a 6 month old baby to be let loose on cheesy spaghetti or natural yoghurt. I’m not going to sugar coat it, there are moments my heart has stopped at the size of food that Darcie has in her mouth and it will be messy, so messy. But it is also amazing, and so incredible to cook something that your baby enjoys and to know that they are getting a full range of textures and flavours.
One piece of advice I would give to anyone worrying about their baby choking is to either take a first aid course or look online at videos of how to help a baby in that situation. That’s what I did and it really put my mind at rest knowing that I knew how to handle it if it happened. Baby Led Weaning is ultimately supposed to lower the risk of choking as your baby will learn to chew before they start to swallow food meaning that they can handle lumps and different textures before a baby that is weaning traditionally, but it is hard to remember this fact when your baby has a mouthful of toast and you have to fight the urge to fish it out for them. For the record, never do that, it is much more dangerous than letting them deal with it themselves. But anyway, this isn’t a post on baby health and safety so here are my tips on how to handle (and enjoy!) Baby Led Weaning:
Firstly, embrace the mess! It will get messy; there will be yoghurt on the floor, potato up the walls and spaghetti stuck to the ceiling. Try not to worry about all the mess, if your baby is anything like mine they will be having such a great time trying bits and then flinging the rest of it around either in disgust or excitement. This phase won’t last for long (so I’ve been told) so just embrace it, accept it, get out the mop and move on.
Two ways to handle all this mess are to make sure meal times don’t happen over carpet and also dress your baby in as little as possible to eat. It’s pretty cold at the moment so Darcie wears a vest to eat but once it is warmer she will be dining in her nappy. Most of her vests are stained at this point but they are only worn under nicer clothes so it’s not the end of the world, but I do try to make sure she is just in the vest to eat so nothing else gets ruined. If your whole house is carpeted you could put down a shower curtain underneath the highchair to protect the floor.
Still on the subject of mess, you’re going to want a highchair that is easy to clean and a good bib that catches food. You will feel like you are constantly cleaning both highchair and child so anything that makes those tasks quicker and easier is a must-have in my book. I do try to clean as I go whilst Darcie is eating, picking bits of the floor as they land means that the post meal clean up is less painful but I don’t clean her during the meal. I don’t want to discourage her from enjoying her food and upset her by attacking her with a baby wipe mid weetabix.
When we first started weaning I naively thought that “pre-loaded spoons” would be a cleaner way for her to enjoy her yoghurt or porridge. Wow, was I wrong! Maybe this is just Darcie because I still see people recommend this method, but to her a pre-loaded spoon is a soggy catapult and full permission to fire at will. So this is my tip – don’t do pre-loaded spoons unless you like yoghurt rain.
When it comes to what foods to try with your baby, my number one tip is to just give them foods you are comfortable with. They will be able to sense if you are stressed and we don’t want meal times to become a stressful time for anyone. In order for your baby to see food as fun and a positive thing to try, you need to make it this way. So, if you aren’t comfortable giving them a food, then don’t. Of course it is important to give them as much variety as possible but within a month or two you will probably feel much more at ease with your child eating and then you can start to introduce those foods that worried you at first.
Have a few easy go to meals, one of the advantages of Baby Led Weaning is that it can be easier than doing purees so don’t make it any harder than it needs to be. Not every meal needs to be Pinterest worthy, find a few easy foods that your baby likes and make sure you always have stock of them. I tend to do a similar breakfast and lunch every day and then something different for dinner. It’s fun to have a go at a new recipe every so often, it can be so satisfying to create something new that your baby loves. But equally, don’t feel bad if you are making potato wedges or pasta for the fourth time this week!
The most important thing is just to enjoy this experience with your baby. It’s so good for us to encourage our children to grow up trying a wide range of food and to have a healthy relationship with food, and for me Baby Led Weaning has been a great first step for this. Trust your instincts with it, there will be some people that don’t understand Baby Led Weaning or can’t think why you would want to do it, but if it works for you then and your baby enjoys it then that’s all that matters.