“You’ll never get a full night’s sleep again and by Christmas your house will be filled with pink plastic”.
It’s those friends who also told me baby-led weaning is messy, destructive and tedious. Whilst I sat there listening to this ‘advice’ I frantically rubbed my seven month bump like a magic lamp- ready to release the genie who could both magically dissipate the heartburn rising up my throat and then offer two more wishes. At this point I wished for ‘a baby that arrives on your due date’ and ‘a baby that poos clouds of sparkles and pixie dust’ instead of leaking explosive mucus that only industrial strength cleaner can remove from the walls of the nursery.
It is a real sense of triumph when, by month five our beautiful milk guzzling baby slept through and only ever created an abominable stench when handed over to the grandparents. Lulled into a false sense of security, at month six baby led weaning commenced. Purée? Pfft? Why make things simple? I’ve come this far…. Let’s see what this small person can really do
OK so you read the books, you heard your friends say this could be a challenge, but you believe you will have the cleanest, neatest eater on the planet who will never reject a single lovingly made meal you eat.
Hmmmmm….Within weeks I discovered new talents I never knew I had- like Mr Miyagi I can pluck flying rice cakes from the air without so much as a flinch. By month two I was convinced we created the next Olympian javelin thrower with her ability to jettison strands of carefully spiralised courgetti-spaghetti from one end of the dining room to the next, or perhaps she’s the next abstract artist destined for the Tate gallery by the way she can enthusiastically smear an eclectic mix of steamed pumpkin and sweet potato across not only the tray table, but past the curled edges of the now orange bib, carefully massaged into her earlobes. Perhaps it is the fact that on first glance I’m thrilled to think she did actually eat that inch of banana, only to discover that she has instead used it as some sort of fruit-carpet upon which she sits and wriggles and moulds into the crevices of the high chair. Either way, my newly acquired Ninja moves and obsession with antibacterial surface wipes was not what I had in mind.
In a relatively short time however, when she finally realised that a spoon works well as a vehicle for shovelling porridge into her mouth rather than catapulting it into outer space, I started to feel rewarded. A fork is more than a hairbrush; it works wonders as a stabbing implement for grilled chicken and even the very rounded, very blunt knife can slide through scrambled eggs.
The end is nigh… at nearly two years old she might manage to consume a yoghurt without looking like it’s the next best organic face mask.
Of course, the whole journey of empowering your child to feed themselves comes with huge advantages. Through the mess they learn textures, tastes and temperatures that may otherwise have been missed from puréed jars. At their own pace they decide if they can handle lumps, up to being able to use cutlery. This trial and error method can be frustrating in the early days but long term it is very rewarding.
I was blessed with one of each, girl and boy. At three years old Amber’s favourite breakfast is black pudding, scrambled eggs and mushrooms. Edward, 12 months, will eat pretty much anything he can get his 6 teeth around as long as it includes a daily intake of at least one sausage and a banana.
Both were born with suspected lactose intolerances and looking back, it was the laborious task of reading every food label which spurred me on to baby led wean. It wasn’t long before I gave up buying the latest ready-pouch and decided cooking from scratch was a good swap for spending 3 hours in Sainsbury’s sat on the floor of aisle 7 comparing one soya sugar-laden yoghurt to the next.
‘Clean Eating’ as it’s now called, means a majority of what they eat is now organic, gluten free and refined sugar free. They enjoy a variety of tastes and flavours and each plate is colourful and packed full of nutrition, there are no Turkey Twizzlers here (although Amber is partial to an almond flour coated ‘fish finger’).
They have learnt what they love because they can see and experience each individual element of a meal. Clean Eating proves itself when you wean, you control what goes into each meal and you know what your baby is eating. It becomes normalised, in fact it means that both parent and child can eat the same meal, using the same ingredients- as a family.
For clean eating recipes- spaghetti without pasta, cakes without sugar and other healthy tips on baby led weaning please visit www.whatwouldsophiesay.com/withkids and follow Amber and Edward’s journey through culinary life. In the meantime, invest in some stain remover… I never have managed to get that sweet potato out.