I love getting other mummy perspectives on feeding their kids here on the blog… especially when you throw in Cristin’s humorous tale of putting all her faith in one parenting strategy, baby led weaning. I love baby led weaning AND I love purees – I talk all about why it’s not a mutually exclusive decision here. And deep dive into how to continue solids with babies in the online babies and food master class.
There wasn’t much in the early days of parenting that got me particularly hot and bothered. On topics like breast vs bottle, cloth vs disposable, co-sleeping vs you-may-as-well-let-your-baby-sleep-with-knives, I selected a little from Column A and a little from Column B, and figured, hey, she can sort it all out in therapy when she’s 25, like the rest of us. My parenting style in the early days would best be described as the “Just Too Tired to Be Bothered Method.” There was, however, one topic on which I hung all my hopes and dreams – I was going to feed my baby solids using the Baby Led Weaning method. And this, I reasoned, was the magical move that would guarantee my daughter’s future success, stability, and happiness.
Baby Led Weaning (“BLW,” if you’re doing the rounds in mum’s groups) basically means that you start your baby out on family food, foregoing purees. This may be hard to believe, but there are entire actual books written on this topic. I know this because I read them. Nay – I devoured them. No other topic in parenting captured my imagination like the idea of my wee one gumming down a salmon steak or polishing off a head of broccoli. The purported benefits of BLW are many, in particular that children who begin solids this way become less picky eaters, exhibit better portion control, and would never even dream of selecting chicken nuggets over the hummus platter on the kid’s menu. These were things that I wanted to be part of.
For most of my life, I’ve struggled with issues around food and weight. I’ve worn clothes in a range of sizes from 6 to 20, and I’ve hated that I felt like a better person in a smaller piece of clothing. Food has been my friend and enemy, and I surely could have solved at least a minor world crisis with the mental space I’ve devoted to it. It’s been the biggest bugbear of my life, and I had this feeling that if I could save my daughter from that kind of anguish, then nothing would stop her from being Batgirl, cape flying in the wind or Moanna on the sea, no telling how far she’ll go.
So, baby led wean that child, we did. And, it was great! I loved having my little person share meals with us, watching her try new foods, and grow her motor skills. Our baby would eat almost anything. I got my #humblebrag on when she happily ate a feta, roasted pepper and kalamata olive sandwich. My Facebook was full of pictures of my Baby Bourdain covered in sushi, and daal, and pad thai. I watched this all with a cocky little side grin, secure that I’d been right, and telling myself,” job well done, Mama.” Nothing is stopping this kid now!
And then, doo-bee-doo-bee-doo, she turned two.
In a blaze of toddler glory, my tiny foodie suddenly took the wheel of control in her high chair, and the word of year was “NO!” No broccoli. No chicken. No beans. No avocado. Definitely no kalamata olives. We weren’t visiting any culinary parts unknown. We were hardly making it past the post box. I didn’t understand where I’d gone wrong. I’d been so sure that baby led weaning was the one thing I needed to do to ensure healthy, adventurous eating in my kid. What did she mean, “no”?!? Can she not see that oven roasted cauliflower is delicious? Where do I go from here?
My strong-willed, clever, funny little lady is 4 now, and I’ll tell you where we went – straight into the unknown, which, as it turns out, is exactly like every single other aspect of parenting. I’d love to report that we’ve found our dinnertime zen, that I’m regularly serving up stir fries that are greeted with glee, and casseroles that don’t get a side eye and fork poke of suspicion. But, that’s just not what things look like around here. Honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing! Just like with my other parenting greatest hits, including toilet training, manners, and not losing my mind about craft messes, instilling good eating habits has and continues to be a process with wins, losses, and a continual feeling of uncertainty. I read what I can. I ask questions to people I think might know. I try new things. I let my girl have plenty of wins. I try not to blow my top at the dinner table (and apologise and seek to do better next time when I do). I try more new things. I celebrate the small victories, and work on keeping the faith that they’re all part of the bigger picture of food positivity that I want to achieve. I’m playing the long game.
It turns out that there is no bullet train from birth to Batgirl, and that’s no dig on Baby Led Weaning. My second daughter is now approaching the starting solids age, and I’m so excited to go through the messy, joyous BLW adventure with her. I hope she, too, will love gnawing on a pork chop like a cavebaby and getting covered head to toe in sushi rice. But, this time I’ll know that it’s just one choice among many, many, many that I’ll make for and with her. My family has a lot of meals together to look forward to, and maybe the best superpower we’ll all bring to the table is to just enjoy each other, and not sweat the small stuff.
For more information on starting and continuing solids, including some advice on avoiding fussy 2-year-olds, check out my Babies and Food Online Master Class. Perfect for boosting your confidence when it comes to feeding kids (0-2yrs).