Before my first daughter arrived I had very little experience of children. Even less of babies. Not through a particular desire to avoid them, if one was handed to me I’d fuss over it, but more through a lack of desire to seek them out. Other people’s children make me anxious.
Because of this, I really wasn’t sure what to do most of the time and tended to make it up as I went along. Through trial and error I’d come to conclusions about how to do things in a way I felt most comfortable with and seemed to be most successful. This was true of bedtimes, routines, co-sleeping, and weaning.
The arrival of Baby B has given me a more solid base to know what I’m doing. I’m more confident and when it was time to start weaning I felt like I knew what I was doing. But I wasn’t sure it would work this time.
Miss Rose is a foodie and loves to eat, always has done. I loved weaning Rose; it was so much fun and it was something she loved so it was easy, and her enjoyment in food has continued. My step son Z is really the only other child I’ve experienced eating and it’s a completely different matter. He doesn’t like food, and often seems distressed by the idea of eating. Whilst my methods worked brilliantly for Rose, perhaps they wouldn’t work at all for Baby B, and then it’d be like learning from scratch all over again. What would I do if she hated it?!
After all, the way I weaned Rose was completely different to how children used to be weaned. Indeed, my mother finds my methods very, very stressful.
When weaning my brother and I the process was clean and simple. She pureed foods, carefully spooned them into our mouths, and wiped up any mess as it happened. As we got bigger she started introducing lumps and textures until we were eventually eating solids.
I have a more… artistic approach.
I just give them food. I remember the look of horror on my mother’s face when I handed the seven month old Rose a banana. How that little girl loved it, she smushed it in her hands, she crushed it in her gums, she smeared it in her hair and over her face, she licked the banana slime off her fingers and burbled with glee,
“But it’s such a mess!” howled my poor mother. “She’s not even eating it!”
“No, but she’s EXPERIENCING it,” I explained.
Because that’s what food is. It’s an experience. It’s not just about survival and getting the right calories, vitamins and proteins into yourself to get through the day. It’s about the flavours, the textures, the smells. It’s about socialising and enjoying one another’s enjoyment. Food is fun and interesting, and I want them to learn that.
So I hand them the banana and let them experience it in whatever way gives them that pleasure and excitement. The actual real eating they will learn over time.
Baby B is going the same way. Watching her with spaghetti O’s is a thing of glory. Her love of naan bread is spectacular. Her desire to shovel yogurt into her face as she merrily misses and coats her eyebrows in it is fantastic. When she smushes cucumber into a watery pulb she’s thrilled. I’ll be giving her a banana soon, but not until my mum is there… because her horror is part of the experience too.
It’s messy but my goodness this child is having fun. She loves it. She gets excited by food. She experiences it.
Poor Z finds this completely bizarre and I feel so sad for him because he’s missing out. Because food is such a fantastic experience if you enjoy it.
If you’re considering baby led weaning I would highly recommend it. You just have to prepare for the mess. Sure it’s easier in some ways to do the purees, and you’re almost certain they’ll get a belly full of food more effectively, and that’s likely they’ll sleep better because they’re full. There are many advantages to puree feeding that can’t be knocked. But if you have the stomach for it, and a good steam cleaner, baby led is absolutely brilliant fun.
I’m planning on taking her to an Indian restaurant soon. Miss Rose’s devotion to chick pea curry comes from an early exposure to authentic Indian cuisine, and sure makes our own curry addiction easier.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!