Leyton’s Mumma Says…
Weaning is a pretty huge topic. When Leyton was a few weeks old we came across details for a baby group that covered several things – baby first aid, fire safety, baby safing the house, weaning… to name a few. We were told it was fine to go when he was young so we had the information well in advance of needing it. This meant my first experience learning about weaning babies onto solids was when Leyton was around 15 weeks old/ 4 months old – and it was so overwhelming!! The NHS guidelines (correct in 2013/2014) are that you should wait until the baby is 6 months and then start on baby-led weaning – that is unless your health visitor or midwife has stated otherwise due to a premature baby, baby’s weight etc . The link I found useful was http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/solid-foods-weaning.aspx
Baby led weaning means that if your baby is showing signs they’re ready for finger foods – so can sit up fairly unsupported, coordinate hand to mouth (like picking up toys and chewing them!) and seems interested in what you are eating….. then you might be ready to try your baby with some solid food, super soft carrot sticks, broccoli florets, chopped up pear etc. So because I waited until the 6 month stage there was no need to start with spoon feeding purees, which was recommended years ago when the guidelines were to start at 3 months…. At 6 months their digestive systems are able to handle solids in the true meaning of the word, to explore, lick, smell, wear and smush real solid food. And even eat a little if you’re lucky.
Gagging vs choking
I have to be honest and say when we started it was a pretty heart-in-mouth experience because 6 month old babies have a pretty sensitive gag reflex. This means even the teensiest bit of food that gets near the back of their mouth starts them making horrible gagging sounds, which made me think ‘Oh no, he’s choking!’ when actually gagging is an important learning process of them pushing the food from the back to the front of their mouth to continue chewing. Leyton gagged really frequently in those first couple of months, but as he got used to solids it became less frequent and you become less panicky.
Gagging – generally caused when food gets near the back of their mouth and they retch as if trying to be sick, the baby tends to make horrible sounds (often thought of as ‘choking sounds’) whilst they cough up the food that was too far back, and tend to need you to talk in a calm manner and reassure the baby, then offer water once they have stopped.
Choking – caused when food obstructs the airways so they can’t catch a breath. This means it’s often soundless (not always) with them quite quickly turning an odd colour. This is the urgent action one. Leyton choked on a baby crisp early on and starting making panicked guppy fish mouth movements silently like he was trying to tell me he was choking, and starting turning very white which I’m sure would’ve followed by red then blue if I hadn’t whipped him out the bumbo and slapped his back until he cried (a sign he could breathe again!)
6 months on from weaning and I still feel the panic rise when he starts gagging, and prepare myself to whip him out incase it turns into a choke which it never does. The main thing is to do your research on this subject so you feel prepared and I’d really really recommend going to a baby first aid type class – St Johns Ambulance, Red Cross or your local Children’s centre should have one. This is one of the areas that still puts some parents off BLW but I really feel the pros out way the cons and Leyton has been brilliant at trying so many different foods, textures, and has a great appetite now which I do thank BLW for. As I was a very fussy child myself, I wanted Leyton to try everything and from early on we knew that BLW was an easier route for us as when eating at family’s houses or out and about there would always be some fruit, veg, potato, meat or bread that he could try.
This is a first aid clip on what to do in event of choking (useful to watch until you can get to a baby first aid class!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4uS5EmpeEs&noredirect=1
Be warned, your babies nappy consistency will change! I’m talking colour, smell, texture, frequency …. Over the first few weeks it definitely was a bit of a surprise what we would find in there! This is all normal apparently, as it is just the baby’s digestive system getting used to working on solid food. We often spoke to the health visitors about it at weigh-ins and was told its completely normal. It just paid to take a few spare nappies and outfits with us in case it was one of those not-so-pleasant-leaking surprises.
Eating and first foods
I naively thought that when Leyton turned 6 months the switch would turn and he would soon be ‘weaned’. How this would happen, I hadn’t really given much thought. At that first weaning class I went to, they explained it’s better to start when your baby is showing signs they are ready and that the milk feeds tend to stay exactly the same in those first few weeks of weaning because they don’t generally eat the food at first, they just explore it. With Leyton, he was having breastmilk at roughly 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 8pm, so we started by doing the milk feed a bit earlier and adding breakfast in at around 9am. BLW gurus tend to think it works better if the baby eats when you eat so they can watch and learn, so I’d make us both some breakfast at this time and allow an hour for him to play and explore his new food. For us, The Baby Led Weaning CookBook by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett was a godsend because it covered everything from how much salt your baby should have to recipes and what food your baby may like at each stage of their development. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!
*NB we bought a nice plastic and padded highchair for him which turned out to be waaay too big, so the first couple of weeks he was sat on his splat-mat in his bumbo eating we me cross legged beside him! We then got the ikea basic ANTILOP one with padded insert which was brilliant and ended up being the one most our friends have bought too!
We started Leyton with thin slices of pear, porridge fingers, unsalted-buttered toast fingers, melon sticks and soon moved onto vegetable sticks and thin strips of chicken. Sometimes he would actually seem to enjoy eating it (juicy melon was an instant hit!) and other times he’d make no attempt to put it near his mouth, or even seem to hate the bits we were giving him! It took a lot of patience to keep persevering because every day is different, and what they fancy one day they might not the next! I read somewhere they don’t actually know if they like something until they’ve tried it 20 times, so that’s a lot of tries! We did also stick to the idea of 2-3 days of the same foods to start with (2 mornings of melon then changing etc), so that if he showed an allergy to anything we would know what it was quite quickly. When we’d tried a lot of variety we started introducing more than one item at a mealtime, so broccoli and carrot sticks, then adding a 3rd item (whilst not having too much on his try at a time because it can be a bit overwhelming for them). Again this is perhaps overkill, but it was the way we decided to do it and it worked for us. Within a few weeks he was trying Chilli con carne, spaghetti bolognase, pasta carbonara, Moroccan chicken…. all as finger foods on his tray, and all he made a valiant attempt at finishing. There’s been a couple of items he doesn’t like but we keep trying those intermittently.
But the best thing about baby-led weaning is we can cook one type of meal for us all to eat!!!
- Get a splat mat so you can Dettol it, put it under the highchair and return items to the baby, otherwise you’ll have a lot of wasted food!
- If you do brightly coloured food like Spaghetti Bolognese, clean the highchair/ bibs/ clothes ASAP as they stain!
- If you’re doing a home cooked meal, make enough for 1 more baby portion to freeze. It means you will have homecooked food you can microwave when you’re running late for dinner/lunch! (Make sure you defrost things thoroughly, stir lots, and check each mouthful for hot spots)
- Buy a new ice cube tray to store baby portions in the freezer (eg mash potato cubes)
- See if you can team up with other mums when cooking batches of things or buying lots of fruit, then swap them! That way your baby can try a bigger variety of meals, and fruit (if you’re buying a pack of 8 bananas you’re baby will never eat them all before they go off, you’re better swapping half with a mum who bought a pack of 6 pears, for example!!)
- Fill a large bottle with boiled water from the kettle each morn and leave to cool, then once this is kept in the fridge you can keep offering your baby water throughout the day.
- Buy a few bags of different baby ‘snacks’ (I like the Organix range or as theyre sugar and salt free) and empty into a large airtight tub – then transfer a few snacks into a smaller one for each time you nip out. Then you’ll always have something handy for you’re baby!
Recommended products for baby-led weaning
- Ikea ANTILOP highchair and tray £13.00 at www.ikea.com
- Tommee Tippe explora Feeding Kit (1 cup, 1 bib, 4 bowls, 5 spoons – 6 months of weaning and we still haven’t needed any other cutlery or bowls!) £10.00 from Amazon
- Tommee Tippee Explora Magic Mat (£7.99 at Amazon) Tommee Tippee Explora Magic Mat (Blue)
- Tommee Tippee Basics First Cup (£3.99 at Amazon) Tommee Tippee Essentials Basics First Cup 190ml (Blue)
- Small freezer pots
- Splat mat
- Highchair toy
- Coverall bib with arms (£5.99 at www.mothercare.com)
- Sterilizing wipes (£1.99 for 30 Tommee Tippee ones at www.toysrus.com handy for the changing bag too when you’re eating out
- Dettol spray
- Insulated lunch bag
- Booster seat (£17.99 from www.mothercare.com fits onto most seats when there’s no highchairs available)