Sunday, 4 May 2014

Baby Led Weaning - Week 1

Our second Baby Led Weaning journey has begun. M had her first solids experience at 23 weeks. That's three weeks before her 6 month birthday, which just goes to show one of the beauties of weaning in this way. We didn't have to rely upon an arbitrary age to reach, but had measurable abilities to watch for.

Baby led weaning means allowing your baby to lead the way on their journey to full time solid food. It's not - as many seem to think - the introduction of finger foods to a baby already fed on purées, but rather putting food in front of your baby and letting them explore and feed themselves. If you're feeding your baby some of their food, they're not leading the way, so there is no such thing as 'part traditional, part baby led weaning,' though a baby can feed themselves with purée if given a loaded spoon. 

There are many great reasons to follow this style of weaning, but one of my favourites is that after weeks of having to eat meals one handed, I can finally use my knife and fork again while M entertains herself with the food on her tray. It's also a great deal easier than preparing purées, as I just prepare the one meal for the whole family. M eats bits and pieces of what the rest of us are eating. It means we all eat much healthier too - less salt, a lot less sugar, more veg, etc.

The guidelines for gut readiness say that solids can be introduced at about 6 months, but that it's more important that babies can sit unaided or with only a little support, have lost the tongue thrust reflex that will push food out of their mouths, and are able to grab things and bring them straight to their mouths, rather than hitting themselves in the face. Seeming extra hungry and sleeping less at night are not signs of readiness for solids, but of growth spurts.  

M has been grabbing things and putting them in her mouth for weeks now - my teething ring necklace in particular. And she's had great neck control and enjoyed sitting upright on my knee since she was very young, so I should have expected her to sit quite soon. From about 21 weeks I started to notice she was paying a lot of attention to us at meal times, but I hadn't seen all the signs of readiness, so I put it down to her becoming more interested in the world around her. We got the highchair down though and started to pop her in it when we were eating, giving her a plate or a spoon to play with, just to get her used to it. I was still aiming for 6 months though, despite B having been ready at 23 weeks & 5 days. 

Then she started being able to sit up unaided for a few seconds at a time. Then long enough to get a photo!

So, after checking for the tongue thrust reflex and finding it gone, we decided to offer her a slice of pear. It wasn't a juicy one, so I wasn't too worried if she wasn't ready - she wouldn't be gumming a chunk off or anything. She loved it!

It went straight to her mouth and she "chewed" on it like she'd been doing it all her life. Must have been nice on those poor teething gums too. 

And so her journey on to solids had begun. So far she's tried carrots, broccoli, banana, roast potatoes, roast chicken, roast squash, courgettes, pear, strawberries, red pepper, cucumber, boiled egg and toast. By far her favourites have been roast chicken, which she also enjoyed rubbing around her face, and the strawberry, which she latched on to perfectly and sucked the life out of, leaving only seeds and fibres! I didn't have my camera to hand though, unfortunately. I mean, that latch was perfect! She has definitely swallowed some banana and a roast potato, because I couldn't find the remnants anywhere. I shall be looking for the evidence at the other end, if you know what I mean!

It's quite different his time around. B had two teeth by the time she started solids, so I wasn't sure how M would manage, but it's amazing what baby gums can reduce to mush. I feel a lot more relaxed too. I'm not so worried about the mess, because I know it gets better, and while we haven't had any gagging yet, I think when/if we do, I'll be able to sit and watch without panicking, because B had given me great confidence in the power of the gag reflex. 

Exciting times ahead!

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