Thursday 26 January 2012

Baby led weaning?

So after my recent blogging about how successfully I was weaning Mia with the purees it happened - she began to refuse the spoon, at almost exactly the same age that Harry did. There is an interesting difference though. Harry not only refused to be spoon-fed, he was just entirely disinterested in food. Dinner became a running buffet - puree, yogurt, cheese, breadsticks, rice cakes, vegetable sticks, pieces of fruit...only for him to just watch each item fall as he dropped it over the side of his highchair. A health visitor marvelled that she had never seen a baby so interested in food, yet refuse to actually eat anything. Of course, with hindsight he was obviously eating all that he needed, but when it's your first you can't help but worry.

Mia is different. Although she refused a spoonful of puree from me, when I dropped some onto her highchair tray by accident, she stuck her fingers in to it, and then stuffed them into her mouth. With some trepidation, I put some more down on the tray, and watched in amazement as she gobbled down the puree that she had refused moments before. A loaded spoon put down on her tray was grabbed and stuffed into her mouth. I couldn't believe it.

I remember with Harry finding a baby led weaning website, a great site, with loads of info. But on the front page there was this summary "You just hand them the food in a suitably-sized piece and if they like it they eat it and if they don’t they won’t. (But they do, really they do… check out the baby with the pork chop)." The problem that I had with Harry was that he really didn't, and this meant that I never felt comfortable with it, because it felt to me as though he was eating nothing. Now I know that all babies are different, and having seen Mia going for it I can appreciate that it was just that Harry hadn't read the website.

So it looks as though Mia feeding herself is the way forward. There are a couple of huge advantages. I can plop (literally) her dinner down in front of her, and then get on with eating my own dinner. Also, very often she can eat the same as Harry, if not all of us. I'm having a lot of success with macaroni pasta in different sauces, which is Harry's favourite food, and then little pieces of fruit for pudding. She has even shared bowls of (cut) grapes with him. It's amazing, considering that she doesn't even have any teeth yet.

Of course there is one disadvantage:

Baby led weaning tips

There is a wealth of information out there on baby led weaning, but here are a few tips of my own:

  • There will be mess. You need a washable cloth (like an old tablecloth) underneath the highchair, and keep everything (surfaces, walls, tabletops) out of reach of those sticky fingers.
  • Buy a highchair which is simple and easily cleaned. We have the Ikea Antilop which is really good and very easy to keep clean (please note, there was a recall on this product in 2012 so do check for information if you have purchased or been given a second hand model). The tray is easy to remove for cleaning once you have the knack, and although it doesn't fold up it has quite a small footprint. It can also be easily taken apart for travel or storage.
  • We usually use bibs with long sleeves and elasticated wrists. On smaller babies they also cover a lot of the lap so you can recycle food.
  • A lot of websites recommend cutting the food up into stick shapes that the baby can grasp. I've found it works (once baby is about 7-8 months old and developing the pincer grip) to cut the food into small pieces, about 1cm square. Then they can put the whole piece into their mouth to chew.
  • Know what to do if baby begins to choke. It can be scary, but don't panic, usually they will dislodge the food themself anyway (or be sick...)
  • Do the messiest meal at dinnertime, or just before you usually bath the baby.
  • Remember that they do get better at eating and aiming the food towards their mouths. The very messy stage doesn't last forever!
  • Baby led weaning is often presented as a total, and possibly controversial, alternative to spoonfeeding. Of course, all babies are going to be eating finger foods, and most people are doing a combination of the two anyway. Just do whatever you and your baby are happiest with, and remember that babies do vary hugely in the actual amounts that they eat!


  1. Little Miss was the same in our household except it was a shock after having a good eating boy, happy to be spoon fed. We had been having a week of spoon refusal when I accidentally put Mr T's food in front of Little Miss and turned around to find her tucking into it silently contented!
    For all worried about choking; we had 3 incidents in total - 2 she dealt with herself and one I heaved her out of her chair and dealt with as I panicked. But they learn about choking far earlier if they self-feed and it rarely happens - just keep an eye on them all the time!

  2. You're right, it is very rare that they do choke, mostly they manage to dislodge the food themselves, although it can be quite scary. We've only had one proper choking incident with my son when he was almost three, my husband was playing him a funny video while he was eating some apple and made him laugh, sending it down the wrong way! Luckily a quick (panicky) slap on the back and all was fine, but he still remembers it and talks about it!

  3. Milly, my first, followed all the rules with spoon feeding, but Mac and BBZ quickly refused to take food from a spoon which I put down to them wanting to copy their siblings.

    Interestingly Mac, my second, at 3 is now the cleanest eater in our family (BBZ is excused at only 18 months) and I put this down to him having learnt control more quickly because he participated in the eating process at an earlier age. What do you think? Buy that for tuppence?

    Great post by the way. Thanks for linking to Parentonomy.

    1. Well they do learn quite quickly how to use a spoon if you just let them get on with it, so it could well explain why Mac is the tidiest eater. I've had friends with spoon fed babies that refused to feed themselves because they were hungry babies that knew they would be fed quicker with a spoon!


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