This is the first post in the Nourishing With Food series. I have an open invitation to readers and other bloggers to share recipes and ideas about nourishing children with food, and lovely Sarah Grose from projectmumblog.com graciously accepted. Here are her adventures, weaning her boy and discovering baby-led weaning.
A learning curve as steep as the south face of Everest
I don’t know about other mums, but I found the weaning process extremely stressful and I was totally unprepared for the challenge of introducing solids. Admittedly, I was not able to breastfeed Seb and so had not gone through the stress of breastfeeding in the early months as a new mummy (and if my five days of trying to breastfeed are anything to go by, it definitely would have been a cause of great anxiety for me), so perhaps I was less prepared than most.
I started weaning Seb at 17 weeks on the advice of our pediatrician and, as Seb had such a good appetite, I expected him to devour whatever solid food I gave to him at the first opportunity. I was initially armed with Gina Ford’s ‘The Contented Little Baby Book of Weaning” and I methodically set about drawing up a weaning schedule for the first month based on her recommendations. I managed to pick up a combined steamer/food processor at my local Aldi for a fraction of the cost of some of the other brands I had seen, and I felt secretly confident that I was going to get through the weaning stage unscathed with my comprehensive array of equipment.
We started out with baby rice and gradually introduced pureed pear and apple. The problems started though when I tried feeding Seb pureed carrot and sweet potato as he simply refused to eat it….and preferring him to eat something rather than nothing, I reverted to pureed fruit at most meal times. I could sometimes disguise the pureed vegetables by mixing them together with a generous quantity of apple or pear puree, a trick used by Rafferty’s Garden and the other baby food manufacturers (which explains why Seb would happily eat the shop-bought food pouches).
Mr G would come home from work to a deflated wife who, after spending hours on the weekend preparing a variety of homemade purees, had been unsuccessful in getting Seb to eat anything other than his favourite baby rice with fruit puree or a baby yoghurt. Mr G never really understood why I got so stressed about Seb’s refusal to eat vegetables or meat and would roll his eyes at the sight of me surrounded by weaning books, pen and paper in hand, attempting to come up with new meal plans and feeding strategies. I tried to start each week with a positive outlook but I can’t deny that it was extremely disheartening when I failed to make any progress by the end of the week, especially when all of Seb’s peers were happily eating a variety of pureed fruits and vegetables with no issues (I know you shouldn’t compare to other babies, but sometimes it’s hard not to). I attended a two-hour solids workshop run by Tuckshop in an attempt to overcome my weaning woes and whilst it was a very informative session and provided a great introduction to weaning, I was still unsure how to get Seb’s feeding back on track after our bumpy start.
I built up a pretty comprehensive library of weaning books as a result of my weaning struggles. I kept hoping that the next book would be the one to solve all my weaning problems, and all that I really ended up doing was bombarding myself with masses of conflicting information. It felt as though I was missing essential pieces of the weaning jigsaw, and I had to take snippets of information from all of the different books in order to come up with the complete picture. It probably comes down to the fact that every child is so unique that there cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to weaning, but I still believe that there is a genuine lack of practical weaning information for new parents.
I am not sure of the exact moment when I decided to abandon pureed food, but I had heard of Baby-led Weaning (BLW) and dismissed it as being too “new-age” for a traditionalist like me. After doing some research on BLW and speaking to friends that had adopted this approach to weaning, I concluded that it was definitely worth a try and it would, at the very least, give me a temporary reprieve from my weaning anxiety. So I ordered a copy of the Gill Rapley’s Baby-led weaning book and bid farewell to my supply of homemade purees in the freezer.
The clean-freak inside of me was very anxious about the mess involved with BLW (especially given that we live in a rented apartment with cream carpets throughout) so I went out and bought a splash mat for underneath Seb’s high chair. We then started to experiment with carrot batons, broccoli florets and roasted sweet potato fingers. I was warned about the highly sensitive “gag reflex” in babies that is often mistaken for choking, and it was very distressing to watch Seb struggle to master the skill of chewing and swallowing. I should point out though, that it never bothered Seb when he gagged and he would simply carry on where he left off once the offending piece of food had been expelled. Just as I was starting to question whether BLW was the right thing for us, Sebastian gradually stopped gagging and instead started to spit out food when it was too big for him to swallow.
I am so glad that I stuck at BLW during those first couple of weeks as it would have been very easy to give up when my little man appeared to be struggling so much. But you do have to trust that gagging is a safety feature that prevents your baby from choking, and it is their means of learning how to handle food. You just have to keep reminding yourself of this when you are feeling at your weakest, and also remember that it will be over within a few weeks. Before you know it your baby will be confidently chewing and swallowing finger foods.
Seb seems to love the independence of feeding himself and it is so cute to see him squeezing and prodding new foods before having a taste. He really will try anything and surely it’s every parents’ dream to see their baby happily munching on a broccoli floret.
I still think that I will start out with homemade baby purees when I start weaning Baby #2 and I will be much more careful about introducing pureed fruit in the early stages of weaning. I have also learnt some important lessons from my weaning experience with Seb and I would hope to be much calmer second time around. I think this quote perfectly sums up my feelings about weaning now that I have come out the other side…”Gauge your child’s wellbeing by their happy demeanour, regular sleeping patterns and overall good health, not necessarily by the quantity of food that passes their lips”.
My name is Sarah and I live in Sydney, Australia with my wonderful husband and my gorgeous son Sebastian. I am expecting our second baby in May of this year and so life is going to be very hectic with two children under 2.
I am absolutely loving my new role as a stay-at-home mum but I will not deny that it has been a steep learning curve since Sebastian was born. I am keen to share my experiences of motherhood with you all and I hope to make lots of online friends along the way.
If you would also like to share your recipes or nourishing experiences, please contact me at theheartmama[@]gmail.com.
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