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I have recently listened to a really great podcast interview with Tracey Murkett, co-author of Baby Led Weaning – Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food.  One thing which really struck me was how stressed we, as mums can get about the whole weaning process.  She strongly recommends taking a very relaxed approach to weaning in the first few months, following your baby’s lead and just accepting that they will eat when they’re hungry. Getting stressed and putting too much pressure on them to eat will only lead to mealtime battles.   I can vividly remember feeling so frustrated at times when my children refused to eat the meals I’d painstakingly prepared for them with a range of delicious, and often expensive organic ingredients!  I cringe thinking of the times I tried to force food into their mouths, believing they really did need the food, they just didn’t realise it.  Mealtimes would have been so much more relaxing and fun, had I realised that they just weren’t hungry – it wasn’t about my food, they just didn’t feel like eating much on that particular occasion.

baby led weaning

baby led weaning

For Tracey, the first couple of months of weaning are all about letting your child learn about food, experiment with how the food feels and smells as well as how it tastes.   I think this is a really lovely way to think about the first few months of weaning.  Your baby will still be getting the majority of their nutritional needs from milk, so we should just let them play and experiment with food and not worry about how  much actually goes into their mouths at this stage.  I love this approach and wish I’d learnt about it before I started weaning Sam nearly 12 years ago.  We followed a plan in an Annabel Karmel book and I worried a lot about whether he was getting the right nutrients when he needed them, which led to mealtime battles and high stress levels in an exhausted, anxious first time mum who just wanted to do everything right!

With baby led weaning, a mix of different healthy foods is cut into small manageable pieces and the plate is put in front of the baby.  They can choose what and how much they eat, there is no encouragement to eat everything on their plate and no bribery – if you eat xxx, you can have some pudding (oh no, I remember saying that line of various occasions – whoops!) .   The baby should be allowed to eat what they want from the food offered and at their own pace.    Baby led weaning experts recommend including the baby in your mealtimes and sitting them as close to the table as possible so they feel involved in the mealtime and can watch and learn from you.

The benefits of baby led weaning are well documented.  Research has shown babies weaned through baby led weaning are likely to make healthier food choices and are less likely to suffer from obesity as they grow up.   Often their hand – eye coordination is better as they had more opportunities to try out these skills at an earlier age.  The benefits for mum are clear – no need to spend hours making purees which may or may not get eaten and mealtimes which are more relaxed and enjoyable.  

The key disadvantage of baby led weaning is the mess created at mealtimes.  There is no getting away from it, your baby will make a mess when given free rein with a plate of food!  Having weaned Florence using baby led weaning, I think it’s a price worth paying – a few months of mess in exchange for a child who has a good appetite, enjoys a wide range of healthy foods and is happy to try new meals rather than turning her nose up at any new recipe ideas!  Our range of products will help keep this mess under control – our splashmats help catch bits dropped on the floor, our oilcloth by the metre helps protect your table and our tunic bibs let babies more fairly freely whilst helping keep clothes a little bit cleaner.

There was so much useful and reassuring advice in the podcast but for me, the key learning was we need to be more relaxed in the early months of weaning – letting your child set the pace and learn in their own time.  I wish so much this advice had been more widespread when I was weaning my first two children….

The full podcast interview is available at Babytoddlerme.com