We all know that, as parents, we are as subjected to trends and new fads as we would be at any other stage of life.
They can go from the pretty sensible to the downright ridiculous. And trends are funny old things because they often just enforce things we have always done, but just get glossed up and made to look like something terribly exciting (and often accompanied by Industry attempts to get us to part with our hard earned cash). Examples of these range from avocados (believe it or not these WERE around before 2016!), to the sudden renaissance of face masks (how many times have I seen #sundayfacial bandied around?!) and of course baby-led weaning.
Yes, I said it. Baby-led weaning is a TREND. It is pretty much all that is talked about in the weaning world because, lets face it, feeding a baby is not the most glamorous of occupations and there is always a gaping gap for someone to come and fill with a new buzz-word.
Of course, if you discuss baby-led weaning with purists they will tell you that there are all sorts of reasons why it is the best thing since sliced bread – you can even get cutlery tailored to BLW, along with specific recipe books. The #babyledweaning Instagram hashtag has 650k posts!
But essentially, baby-led weaning really is just a pimped up version of something that we have always done – it is getting a baby to eat food by themselves. That is it. Nothing complicated, nothing else required. I won’t write more about the benefits of BLW as there is a heap of information out there available about how to do it.
So why am I writing about it?
Because I feel passionately that trends should carry warnings and BLW is no exception.
Baby-led weaning is a fabulous concept and centres around a very basic principle. BUT:
- There is actually very little scientific evidence to prove that this type of weaning is more successful than other types of weaning at getting babies to have a varied diet
- You need to be certain that baby is getting enough nutrition from other sources (e.g. breastmilk) as true BLW means that they may sit through a whole meal and eat NOTHING
- You will have little control over the amount of food your baby is eating, or what they are actually getting a taste of
- Your baby will get used to seeing you picking up food and chucking it straight into the bin. Often food which has been lovingly cooked specifically for them
- There will be a serious amount of mess
The latter point I am not concerned about at all. I am on maternity leave for a reason and my child finds it hilarious to see me on my knees wiping up his mess!
But the other four points do concern me, and I am going to take a punt and suggest that if you are following BLW there will be times that you are ALSO thinking about them too.
The more I read, the more I see that nutrition-based baby cookery books do not favour one weaning strategy over the other. The majority of authors I have seen (including Annabel Karmel) have sections on baby-led weaning in their books, but in this they discuss the mixed use of BLW and spoon feeding rather than promote BLW in it’s own right.
I am very much in the flexi-weaning camp. I allow A to eat with his fingers as much as he wants, and he really likes doing it. But there are days when he is tired, or a bit fidgety, and just wants to be fed. He won’t pick up his yummy homemade fish finger, but if I put it out in front of his mouth his little face comes forward and he happily takes a bite. I am not forcing him, just making it easier for him. And it works – he often eats nearly the whole thing!
Just like breastfeeding, I see feeding my child as a lovely shared activity and I enjoy every moment. They are not babies for long so why not help them along, you’re hardly going to be holding out their fish fingers for them when they are 12?!
A is not a pouch man anymore, but I know plenty of babies who are given the odd pouch by parents who ironically feel guilty doing it. Why?! Yes there is a compromise on taste compared to homemade but at least you know that they have eaten a whole meal and won’t complain of being hungry like they might had they spent half an hour picking at one strawberry.
So my parting thoughts would be…
I know that there are BLW parents out there who have had an amazing journey and promote all the benefits.
But this post is for those who may have dabbled in BLW thinking that it is the right thing to do because everyone else is doing it, yet is finding it to be irritating/messy/hunger inducing. You do not have to just do one method, despite what anyone says, and you are the best possible person to know what is right for your family.
I chose to mix methods as I want to make sure A is eating as much variety as possible, and also so mealtimes become a bonding occasion -whether that is sharing a pizza or me spooning him a delicious bowl of homemade soup. To me WHAT the baby is eating is so much more important than the MECHANICS of how he eats it while he is so young.
And most importantly try to separate your own instincts from needing to jump on a bandwagon or follow books/whatever your friend or NCT group is doing. It is counter intuitive to worry about new trends rather than taking the time to truly understand your baby’s needs. So be brave in your choice to say yes to BLW, or no, or make your own version!
I am always keen to hear what works for you so please do share your experiences too. Variety is the spice of life and no two parents do the same thing. So wean happy…if you choose to BLW in a face mask while making avocado smoothies crack on! I will be the one doing an uncool dad dance in the corner while doing some avocado-based tequila shot….and you are VERY welcome to join me!