When we discovered we were pregnant I didn’t really think about feeding M, over and above breastfeeding. If you’d have asked me, I’d have said I’d be making puree, and in fact I borrowed a puree-recipe cookbook complete with freezer tray from a friend. In my family, we don’t have any serious food allergies, but there are a lot of intolerance; to lactose, to dairy, to gluten and caffeine. this in mind, I started out researching how best to introduce these foods to M’s diet to prevent any intolerance for him. It was while researching this that I stumbled on the concept of baby-led weaning. Sounds fancy, huh? It’s not, really – in fact it couldn’t be simpler.
The concept of baby-led weaning is that baby feeds themselves from day one once they’re ready for solids, obviously choosing which foods to eat, and how much to eat. Both G and I loved this idea from the moment we stumbled on it and the more we read the more it made sense.
The concept of feeding baby pureed food is, in my opinion, a hang-up from the days when breastfed babies would be supplemented from 3 months on with ‘baby rice’ and such like. Babies of that age have no concept of the gag reflex and so there is no alternative but to feed baby food that will simply slide down. Now though, with babies being fed exclusively milk (breast/formula) until 6 months(ish) as recommended by the WHO, there is no need for puree. By 6 months, babies have figured out the motion needed to chew, and are aware enough of their own bodies to respond to the gag reflex. In fact, the gag reflex on a baby is almost at the front of their mouths, making it far less likely that they’ll choke now than they would at a year old when the natural reflex has moved further toward their throat.
For the past month, since about 4 1/2 months, M has been studying the way we eat. He’s always sat at the table with us if he was awake – either on my lap, in the ring-sling or in recent weeks in a highchair. Over the past month, G and I had noticed M watching the food move from plate to fork, to mouth and looking a bit bewildered when the fork came out empty! Two weeks ago, he began mimicking the chewing motion when we were eating too and that was what gave us the clue he was ready for food: he was clearly demonstrating he understood the concept.
So, the first day of Eid, when both G and I had time for a leisurely breakfast – and it was a celebration, after all! – we allowed M to join in! Cucumbers! After an unsure start, he chowed on down and though he didn’t actually swallow any, M enjoyed himself and demonstrated that he was ready to learn.
Since then, he’s eaten melon, figs and numerous cucumbers. We’re starting to notice that more is being digested (you know you’re parents when you ring your hubby in work, utterly ecstatic to announce that baby’s’ poo has cucumber seeds in it!) and M’s really having fun! For now, we’re sticking with fruit and veg, with every new piece being introduced two days after the latter to check for reactions. I can’t wait to see where this adventure will take us!