Baby-Led Weaning: How To Satisfy Hungry Babies

18/11/2009 09:09 | Updated 22 May 2015

I took my 24-week-old son to the baby clinic to be weighed the other day.

For some reason, I was expecting a little drop in his weight progression. He had seemed fussy for the past two weeks, kind of like he just wasn't getting enough sustenance from breastmilk alone.

My instincts were right, his weight progression had dipped. The health visitor suggested I start weaning him.

My first son was born in 1996. At that time the advice was to start weaning at around 4 months old. I started out with spoon-feeding him a bit of baby rice mixed with breast milk, then progressed onto cooking and mashing-up individual vegetables and fruits. Then moved onto making whole mashed up meals which I then put into ice cube trays in the freezer. The better he became at eating, the 'lumpier' I made his food until he was eating 'normal' food.

I enjoyed the whole experience and never found it a chore to make and mash-up meals for him. Also, he was (and is) a very good and adventurous eater, so I never had any problems with mealtimes at all.

13 years on and, well, I'm not sure I have the time, energy or patience for all of that.

Thank goodness for the Baby-Led Weaning movement!

In the years between my first and second children, parents have been urged to continue breastfeeding their babies exclusively until they are 6 months old before starting to wean them. At this age they are not only able to sit up themselves, but they are also able to grasp things and put them in their mouths. Some, like my son, even have a couple teeth just pushing through.

Baby-led weaning does away with mashed up foods and instead allows the baby to feed themselves by giving them finger food from the start. Initially, it's more about experimenting than actual eating - experimenting with tastes, textures, holding food, chewing- but eventually they start to swallow bits and pieces.

You are encouraged to give your baby a little bit of what you are having for dinner - so cooked broccoli spears, carrot batons, sweet peppers, anything 'fist sized'. Not only does it cut out the need to specially prepare baby foods, but it also encouraged them to take part in family meal times.

As my son had been seeming like he was hungrier than normal and because his weight progression dipped a bit, I have started a combination of 'old fashioned' mush-feeding and baby-led weaning. I have been feeding him a tablespoon of baby rice mixed with breastmilk in the evenings as well as giving him big bits of avocado or cooked carrot to chew on as he wants. This has worked a treat.

All of his fussy hungriness has disappeared - he must have just wanted a little bit of rice to fill him up a bit- and he's incredibly excited about 'feeding' himself. So far he seems to be a fan of avocado, but not terribly keen on carrots. Next food: broccoli.

For more information about baby led weaning, start with Gil Rapley's website. She came up with the method and is one of the authors of the book Baby-led Weaning: Helping your baby to love good food.

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