What you will need…
1) A baby aged approximately six months.
2) Appropriately sized pieces of food, raw (avocado, banana,) or cooked (steamed carrots, chicken etc).
3) A rake load of kitchen roll.
4) A daycent pair of knees on ye.
And that’s about it. Deliberate flippancy aside, that is all you need. It’s so simple that some of you are probably using this technique without even realising it, like I did with child no. 2.
That’s kind of a lie. The term Baby-Led Weaning was familiar, but was automatically written off with child no. 1 because A) it sounded very messy, B) if I put any food in front of the now four-year-old with a view to her feeding herself, she would have launched it with gusto. She had zero interest in food (still does. Well, any food containing reasonable nutritional content), therefore we found ourselves distracting her with books and – dare I say it – TV in a bid to shovel spoonfuls of mush into her face.
While we did manage to get the food in, longterm it probably wasn’t the best practice. But, Jaysis, you do what you’ve got to do if it means getting sustenance into them… So that was the upside; the child got fed. The downside is, she’s not the best when it comes to eating fruit and veg. As in she eats three forms of fruit and veg. They are in order of her preference…
1) Peeled and chopped apple (it must be a red apple, despite it not having the skin while she consumes it, and only with a fork. “Too sticky, Mammy…”)
2) Raspberries (but only if they’re bone dry, not overripe, and come accompanied with a pool of honey for dipping)
3) Raw julienned carrots (they must be raw – any other variation makes her gag relentlessly – “Too slimy, Mammy…”)
And that’s it. She used to wolf the broccoli when she was a baby, but she got over that when – one evening – I lurried so much into her she spewed. Regan style. And that, as they say, was the end of that.
Therefore, to this day, we’ve had to smuggle the veg into her anyway possible. Therefore, while the baby is eating (but really chewing, spitting out, and generally throwing about) “appropriately sized pieces” of stew…
… her older sister is eating pureed stew. In her defence, there are large bits of potato and beef in there, but the celery, carrots, broccoli, spinach and kale are all mushed to f*ck. But she eats it. Only when accompanied with bread and butter. Hey, whatever works.
If you’re at a loss as to whether you should spoon feed your baby, or let them feed themselves, it’ll all boil down to the child. If they start reaching for your food around the 5 – 6 month mark, maybe consider letting them have a bash themselves.
What would you rather be doing; trying to wrestle spoonfuls of mush into your child’s mouth while distracting them with puppets/books/imaginary modes of transport, or getting on with something more productive while you observe them get to grips with the food around them? Especially before they hit two years of age and start rejecting pretty much any source of veg. There’s a scientific reason for that… more on that another time.
Obviously there are downsides to baby-led weaning, and they are twofold – A) you never know just how much they’ve eaten, as they’ve invariably squirrelled two thirds of the food offered either under their chin or under their arse, and B) the MESS. Lordy, THE MESS. That’s why you need a ready supply of kitchen roll and a good pair of knees – ’cause you’re going to be spending a lot of time on them…