We’ve been letting M eat along with us for a couple of weeks now. He’s moved through cucumbers, melons and figs, to peaches, bananas and fish. He’s enjoying it, and so are we, but I’ve realised that we’ve had to alter our approach.
Baby-led weaning is essentially a method of helping baby learn to eat by choosing what and when he wants to eat. It’s against pushing to eat certain foods and against making baby eat a certain amount, and it’s all about real food. But it’s not, as I’ve realised the last few days, about making – or allowing – baby to eat in adult ways until he’s ready to do so.
M’s got two front teeth (you’ve seen them, right?). And he’s teething. Badly. Everything which can go in his mouth, at the moment, makes its way in. And once its in, whatever ‘it’ is, will be bitten. We’re finding this makes approaching baby-led weaning in the way we intended – the way Gill Rapley describes in her book – to be slightly more complicated and not quite right for us.
Initially, M would suck at cucumbers, and melon and he devoured that fig. But now he bites down straight away and this means before he’s had chance to get used to food being in his mouth properly he’s got chunks to deal with and while he’s finding his chewing mojo, this a bit tough going. We feel on edge watching him gag hard – not choking, he’s never once come close to choking, but gagging’s hard enough to watch. And he himself isn’t getting pleasure from it, because once he stops gagging, he spits out the chunk and gets upset. Yes, he’s learning to control the food in his mouth and prevents himself choking, but learning is not what eating is about. Eating’s about enjoying food and having fun.
M likes food, really likes food – the pleasure he gets from sucking grapes and gnawing on peaches is immense; the problem is he’s not quite as big as he thinks he is yet, and it’s our job to manage that. so, we’re moving away from foods he can bite big chunks from and going to foods which will dissolve easily. Steamed apples, soft roasted carrots, courgette. Foods which if he bites a chunk off could likely slide down without causing an obstruction, because all mealtimes should look like this:
(NB: if you’re interested in baby-led weaning, this multi-Mama baby-led weaning blog is a fantastic resource)