Why we made the unpopular decision to give up on Baby Led Weaning and embrace spoon feeds.
Baby Led Weaning has become another way of saying “good parenting”. Baby’s who are weaned the BLW way are less fussy eaters, more independent and have better motor skills than babies who are are spoon fed. Allegedly. There are definitely pros and cons to BLW and spoon feeding, but for us the way if the spoon was the way to a happy, full baby!
I loved the idea of Baby Led Weaning because I love cooking, I’m fairly confident that the majorly of meals served on Cnoc na Gáire are healthy and tasty. (That’s sound you hear in the distance is me blowing my own trumpet.) Surely the best thing for Alfie was eating the same meals we did? Ehhh no!
Baby Led Weaning became an excercise in vanity for me. It’s what I ‘should’ be doing as opposed to what worked. While it was impressive to see a 6 month feeding himself and drinking from a glass, in practice it was infuriating for both of us and massively inefficient. We ran into several major stumbling blocks which I’ll explain below.
Lack of teeth
Despite several false starts with teething Alfie remained defiantly toothless until he was over eight months old, with the best will in the world and ALL the BLW strategies I could throw at him the child could not chew! This made eating anything other than steamed fruit and veg pretty impossible. He was starting to get very hungry and usually needed extra snacks throughout the day.
Lack of time
I very much believe in slow childhood and that time constraints are no reason to hinder a child developing a skill but OH MY WORD! There’s slow and then there’s watching your baby suck the same piece of poached pear for 35 minutes (true story). There’s also the fact that preparing and refrigerating steamed/poached finger food takes time that I just didn’t have on a regular basis! By the time Alfie was finished with one piece of finger food he was usually starving and be forced to mash up whatever was on the menu while he wailed.
Another time issue we ran into was our different eating schedules. In order for us to embrace BLW fully we needed to eat as a family, Alfie has dinner at 5:30 and is in bed for 7. This really didn’t work for us as we usually don’t eat until after 9! Getting Fred home from work and dinner prepped for that time was impossible and Alfie’s bedtime was getting pushed later and later.
Lack of choice
Lots of foods are suitable to being turned into finger food, the vast majority are not (casseroles, scrambled egg, soup, beans)! If Fred and I wanted to eat a meal I had to set aside a small portion for Alfie and cook it seperately so it wouldn’t be contaminated by spices or sauces etc (see time issues already mentioned). Trying to find healthy recipes that all of us could eat was stressing me out! Fact is babies need lots of carbs and whole fats which I tend to avoid eating in the evening!
Lack of certainty
There’s no way of knowing how much a baby has eaten after a BLW meal as most of it seems to be squashed into tiny little pieces or dropped.
In summary BLW caused Alfie and I vast amounts of wasted time, afternoon hunger pangs and stressful compromises!
I really struggled when giving it up as I really wanted to offer Alfie the freedom to choose his food and the chance to be independent, was Montessori compatible with spoon feeds? I think so.
We’ve met in the middle, Alfie will feed himself part of his meal by hand himself (toast, pasta, crudités, fistfuls of mashed potatoes etc) and I will shovel as much mushy food into him as I can! He has no problem letting us know when he doesn’t want to eat something or when he wants more of something else, it’s a relief to keep the choice element of weaning alive! We have much calmer meal times, he gets a much wider range of foods and lots of different tastes and textures. And he’s virtually never hungry.
As for independence Alfie has learnt to feed himself, I fill up the spoon and pass it to him and he pops it in his mouth. One of the core beliefs of Montessori is allowing the child to do as much as he can for himself, by bridging the gap between what he can and can’t do you allow a child to develop at their own pace and with a sense of pride and achievement.
We’ve been using a weaning cup since Alfie was about 5 months old. After LOTS of spills and dribbles Alfie has learnt to drink from an open glass and a small bottle. We introduced by, well, introducing it! For the first few days I helped him hold it and now I just watch him carefully!
(Apologies for the poor quality of photos, I didn’t plan on using them for a post!)