Don’t lose heart if weaning is a nightmare

weaning
Joanna Cates with her daughter

Now you might be one of those parents whose baby inhaled food off the spoon from the very first time it was presented.

If so, you probably aren’t going to be interested in this article. In fact I wouldn’t bother reading any further.

If however your baby hasn’t done this and you’ve found weaning your baby harder than expected then read on!

I’m currently weaning my third daughter and, though it is easier in many ways this time, it’s still challenging.

Only after two months of offering food, so at the age of around 8 months, has she finally shown some interest in eating. Now two months may not sound like a long time, but it sure as hell feels like it when all around you babies a month younger are scoffing down whole bananas, draining jars of baby purée like there is no tomorrow and posing for photos on facebook whilst devouring little florets of broccoli.

Two months is 8 weeks of her clamping her mouth shut and turning her face away every time I sit her in the high chair. It’s 60 days of blowing raspberries at me lest I dare to even touch her lips with food (and in so doing, plastering my face with a mixture of puréed sweet potato and dribble). It’s 180 mealtimes of me scraping her lovingly prepared baby food into the dog bowl before making her up what she really wants – the bottle.

weaning
Weaning was still difficult for Joanna Cates with baby #3

But after two months, on a couple of occasions, she did actually look like she might be starting to enjoy food. Or maybe she was just entertained by the fact that every time she opened her mouth to eat I was jumping round the kitchen like we’d just won the Euromillions.

Either way, it wasn’t to last. Sometimes she will eat, often she won’t, and increasingly I am just passing her suitable morsels of food so she can feed herself. The pattern has been remarkably similar for all three of my daughters – I have started out with the intention of spoon feeding, only to move to a more baby-led approach a couple of months down the line.

Now in many ways, baby-led weaning (BLW) is a great solution for parents who are having a tough time with spoon-feeding. There is something wonderful about watching her pick up fistfuls of food from the table, hold it up for a quick visual inspection and then cram it into her tiny toothless mouth – before going back for more.

But third time round I really wanted the spoon-feeding to work out. Because while BLW is great in some ways, there are many things that are not so great about it – it can be really messy, it can take a long time, you are never really sure exactly how much they are eating, and there can be a lot of wastage. Reading this you may gasp at my use of the c-word, but in terms of convenience – spoon-feeding wins, every time.

It’s not my intention to advocate one approach over the other. Both have their advantages and only a parent can know what works best for their child. Perhaps using a combination of both approaches might be the best option.

Rather I simply want to acknowledge how hard weaning can be. (Actually hard is probably the wrong word because babies are incredibly resilient and they know what they need. If you can truly allow yourself to be led by them it’s actually very easy.)

For parents who are doing this for the first time, if you are finding it tricky, just hang in there. How many five year olds do you see just drinking milk? None, anywhere, ever.

So your baby will get there, and just because they may not be the most straightforward baby to wean absolutely does not mean they will be a fussy eater.

Things to bear in mind if you are finding weaning a bit of a challenge:

  • Some babies take to solids very quickly and others take longer to get the hang of it. And to be fair there is quite a lot to get the hang of. Firstly, they have to get used to the feel of a spoon in their mouth. Also they have to master the art of moving food from the front of their mouth to the back (this alone took each of my daughters about a month to do). Then there’s the swallowing – gulp! And all the new tastes and textures are a lot to take on board when until now they’ve been on a fairly bland all-milk diet.
  • “Food’s for fun until they’re one” (and then hopefully it still continues to be fun, but you know what I mean). Let this phrase be your mantra and chill out because it really doesn’t matter how much solid food they are eating. Until they are one, milk, whether breast or formula, will provide almost all their nutritional needs.
  • If you are frustrated by throwing away food, just make tiny amounts. It’s 100% better to throw it away and start again tomorrow than risk getting either yourself or your baby upset.
  • If you are finding spoon-feeding isn’t going down too well, so to speak, do look into the BLW approach. You can find out more at www.babyledweaning.com. If you are getting at all stressed by spoon-feeding, BLW is an immediate antidote.

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