This week has mostly been about teething! Lots of chewing of fists, red cheeks, grumpy moods (that’s both of us), interrupted nights and drool everywhere! But by Wednesday we had our first tooth! It feels like such an achievement!
This has taken the focus away from eating as a lot of the time my daughter has just wanted the comfort of a feed over the effort of a meal. And that’s absolutely fine. At this age breastmilk will provide everything she needs nutritionally and the food is just about tastes and learning. There’s no pressure to be providing a certain number of meals each day, we just sit down and have a go when we have some time, or when she wants to join in with a meal she can see the family eating.
Parsnip remains a firm favourite but this week we have also trialled plums, weetabix, Moroccan Hummus, sweet potato, mackerel, plain natural yogurt and courgette. The stronger tastes seem to be a hit. The porridge went down a treat this time with a bit of added cinnamon and the morrocan hummus had a definite kick to it when we shared it for lunch.
On Monday I attended the Gill Rapley talk on ‘Baby-Led Weaning’. Gill has many years of experience working as a midwife, health visitor and breastfeeding counsellor and clearly knows babies and parents very well. There must have been around 80 babies in the room and she didn’t falter as the chorus of shrieks, cries and screams ebbed and flowed, simply raising her voice to talk over them. We undertook this method ‘by the book’ with my elder daughter with great success and I very much like the key principles behind the approach. Having spent a lot of my career supporting adults with eating disorders I know how important a healthy relationship with food is and how this is established from a young age.
Baby-led weaning encourages shared family meals where infants learn from adult role models. It encourages autonomy and positive self-esteem as the baby learns and gains confidence through her own actions. It allows a child to develop and display their own food likes and dislikes without pressure. And perhaps most importantly it trusts a child’s ability to regulate their own appetite (which infants have been doing very successfully with milk up until this point). It does not prescribe a certain number of teaspoons at each meal or suggest that the infant should ‘just finish the last few spoonfuls’ of a bowl. It allows more of a food on occasions when the infant is particularly hungry and less when they are not. Important foundations for preventing obesity in later life where people have often lost touch with their internal hunger and satiety cues.
Although we are not strictly taking the baby-led weaning approach with our daughter this time, I will continue to keep these principles at the heart of our interactions at mealtimes, giving her as much autonomy as her current abilities allow. She often snatches the spoon off us so that she can feed herself and can clearly communicate whether she wants a break, is finished or wants another spoonful, even at 5 and half months old. I have no doubt that that assertiveness will filter into other aspects of her life and I’m pleased that I can reinforce her belief that she is an important little person whose needs should be listened to and respected……and that I’ll never be found playing aeroplane games with spoons!
This post was originally written and published in April 2017