ABC of Weaning:
The general point of baby-led weaning is to avoid spoon-feeding whilst creating super-agile ninja babies with flawless hand-eye coordination, self regulating healthy appetites, and a glorious acceptance of whatever marvellous well-balanced foodstuffs you pop in front of them.
(Cue hollow laughter.)
Well that’s the idea, anyway…
How to: You eat with your babies; you share the same meals, though theirs may be cut up into smaller bits first, and yours might feature extra condiments. They mostly eat with their hands, though you can give them pre-loaded spoons too, and gradually they learn to use them rather than simply fling the contents across the room/into their laps/at the dog.
The benefits: promotes hand-eye coordination; promotes food inquisitiveness; exposes their palate to a wide range of tastes and textures; teaches you to trust their appetite and not overfeed them. Eating together helps foster a positive attitude to mealtimes. Cooking for your babies probably makes you cook more nutritious meals for yourself, too. You get to eat with two hands (the overriding MASSIVE benefit in my opinion) instead of spending every meal spoon feeding two babies.
1. it can be scary because babies’ gag reflexes are quite far forwards in their mouths (actually an evolutionary advantage to avoid choking!) so you have to be able to cope with them gagging occasionally and be alert to the possibility of them choking. This takes some mental adjustment!
This lady @kidfriendly.meals summarises it nicely here:
For what it’s worth, we had very little trouble with this – maybe once a month a little spluttering? Nothing too scary. But obviously every baby is different!
2. it’s super messy, because you don’t control where the food goes after you’ve served it; that’s up to the baby. There are various oversized bibs you can buy to minimise the mess… you still have to clean the bibs themselves though!
Also, it requires an extra boost of mental effort to cook every day rather than buy readymade babyfood (of course you can give this too, but the idea is that you’re all eating the same thing, so it makes more sense to cook from scratch unless you yourself are partial to mush…?)
This book Young Gums is my number one recommendation if you’re thinking about cooking for your babies yourself but aren’t totally confident about what they can have. It’s full of tasty actively-inspiring recipes for one-handed cooking (baby on hip, natch) that make you feel like a kitchen wizard, as well as plenty of nutritional advice to soothe even the most worried parent’s fears re vitamin intakes and omega 3s…
(My only criticisms are that buckwheat flour tastes like sweaty boot leather, and that no one has ever yet served me a sugar-free cake that didn’t make me sad.)
But there are a million books out there devoted to refined sugar; this book gives you loads of ways to avoid it and still eat really well. Even if you don’t actually make any of Bentley’s recipes, I think it makes you realise what’s possible for even very young babies to enjoy, and thus increases your confidence in serving favourites from your own culinary repertoire (with minor modifications).
Baby bento bowls 😍🍱
Via baby led weaning, we hit our vegetarian “100 foods before they are 1” target easily. Did they enjoy them all? Nah. Did at least one of them enjoy a surprising proportion of them? Absolutely.
And now that they’re toddlers, do they have a wide and varied diet that does not revolve around simple carbs, eggs and baked beans…?
(Cue hollow laughter once more!)
… best not answer that. But it’s been a really fun journey!