I did a little experiment this week.
There is a lot of information out there about how baby’s eating environment influences how they eat. It makes sense really – any breastfeeding mum will have experienced the excruciating pain when there is a loud noise on TV mid-nurse and baby shoots his head around…taking your nipple with it. Ouch. Quiet and undistracted is definitely best, however dull!
I believe that weaning is also about setting and situation as much as it is about the actual eating, and I have been on a mission to find out what works best for us and produces the cleanest plate and most content baby.
Baby led weaners will be familiar with the advice that mealtimes should be taken as a family, with baby left to discover their meals by themselves, undisturbed, as much as possible. At the other end of the scale Ellas Kitchen advocate devoted one-to-one attention for spoon feeding until 12 months…potentially with foodie music playlists to accentuate the whole experience!
As a ‘common sense weaner’ I do not feel I need to align to any particular principles, giving me freedom to experiment with lots of different methods.
So what have I tried?
- Parent/baby focussed time, completely one to one and me sitting directly in front of A. Making encouraging noises, whooping, clapping, a few choo choo trains and no other distractions
- Family mealtimes where we have all eaten together and just carried on a normal conversation, paying minimal attention to baby’s actual eating but included him in the group chat
- High chair mealtimes where I have deliberately paid very little attention to baby and gotten on with other tasks e.g. washing up, tidying kitchen etc
- High chair mealtimes with me sitting on a chair next to him, paying a some attention by having a little chat about our day, eating a piece of toast or reading a magazine and talking about what I’m seeing. Similar to 2. but just not at the table or with the rest of family.
Here is what I found:
1 was actually the least successful of the lot. Fair enough, he did start out eating plenty off the spoon. But after a few spoonfuls he started trying to grab the spoon and then began spitting his food out. I resorted to holding the spoon up high, making noises that made him smile then shovelling the spoon in his mouth when he basically wasn’t expecting it. It didn’t feel very satisfying and we were both a yogurty mess by the end of it.
3 was also not particularly successful. A was so distracted by what I was doing he hardly ate a thing.
2 and 4 were much more productive. He seemed to eat more when we gave him little attention but were engaging in eating too. It’s hard to tell how much he actually ate as there was the usual mess on the floor and in the bib, but he definitely seemed to be spending more time chewing and studying his food when left to do it by himself.
The slight negative observation to 2 and 4 was that it made our mealtime last FOREVER! I did resort to spooning a little food in at the end just because I felt like the meal would never finish. I kept thinking he had finished then he would fish a bit of mangled bread from his scoop bib and start chewing it again. He was much more receptive to a little spoon feeding to finish his meal rather than being spoon fed from the start, just so we could continue with our day!
A couple of my NCT buddies have found similar results to the above. They also mentioned that nursery can also have a big impact on how well babies eat – munching together seemed to make them all eat better. A is not at nursery yet but I can imagine that it is probably another family-meal dynamic which means that babies eat better in groups. They are sociable little creatures!
I think it’s important to note that age is a really important factor here. When I first started weaning A at four months he was a big fan of spoon feeding, and only really became less bothered about it as he grew independent in other ways. Additionally he also resorts back to wanting to be spoon fed if he is tired or unwell. I guess this is unsurprising – everyone likes a little TLC when they are not feeling 100%.
As you will know by now I am a massive advocate of using instinct rather than the Industry to dictate how you should feed your baby. The lesson I have found here is not to get too stuck in one way of feeding as it will probably change as he gets older. My priority will always be for A to get maximum satisfaction from a wide variety of food so if I need to do a few shovels at the end of meal I will not be considering that to be a regression.
So from now on I will be treating A like a person on the table next to me in Carluccios. I will pretend I have food envy and take an interest in what he is eating (because let’s face it, everyone always has better food than your own plate!), but I will also give him space to get on with it.
Would love to know what feeding setting works well for you too…..!