I have touched briefly on baby led weaning (BLW) before. I have had a few queries about it and what Emilia eats. So let’s talk about it here.
Put very simply, Emilia eats what we eat. There’s no separate meal times for her. There’s no purees or supermarket bought baby food. Don’t get me wrong, these foods have a time and a place. I’m all for whatever works best for your family. This is just what works for us.
In order to follow a BLW lifestyle, we have had to adapt our routine to suit Emilia’s. For example, we now eat dinner at 5.30pm. But we eat as a family. It’s lonely eating on your own. It’s so much more enjoyable when you can eat the food you’ve prepared as a family. Alex works odd shifts so often it is just Emilia and I at the dining table. I think this makes it even more important that we share our meal times together.
You can read more about the benefits of getting your children involved in the kitchen in my post over at FarmGate Online. There’s a wealth of research available discussing the benefits of not only eating with your children but showing them how to prepare food. It’s so important. This is where their innate food behaviours and underlying health beliefs are shaped. At home. In the kitchen. Around the dining table.
I am so passionate about creating a positive environment around food at home. I want our child(ren) to know where food comes from. How it benefits us emotionally, mentally and physically i.e. to grow, to learn, to play. I want them to gain enjoyment from family meals. I would love for mealtimes to be a place of discussion and a place to create lifelong memories. I cannot wait for our growing family to develop a love for food and a passion for cooking like we have.
From day one, Emilia has been watching my every move and listening to what I say. I love having her help me unpack my FarmGate order.
We I talk about where the food comes from, how it got here and what we are going to do with it. I love seeing her explore all of our different produce. There’s nothing quite like the wonder and imagination of an (almost) one year old.
But back to BLW. You can see from the above why this would be so appealing to me. It doesn’t work for everyone and that’s ok. It’s what has worked for us. Emilia has always been very communicative in what she likes, what she needs, what she doesn’t like and she doesn’t need (her teenage years are going to be TOUGH). I knew BLW would be just right for her. I get to choose what we eat but she choses how much she wants to eat. It goes back to trusting our babe’s intuition. Like with milk (be that breast or formula), our babes tell us exactly when they are hungry and when they are full. Why all of a sudden should we take that control away from them when they start solids? If you’re interested in this principle, have a read into the work Ellyn Satter has done. She’s a dietitian who has developed the concept of the ‘divisions of responsibility’ when it comes to feeding our children. Fascinating area of work (if you ask me!).
One common concern when it comes to BLW is choking. I admit it, sometimes I still have my worries. But again it comes down to trusting our babies instincts. They have an inbuilt gag reflex for this purpose. Plus it’s up to you as a parent to make sure the food you are giving your child is appropriate. For example, I give Emilia food which she can easily hold with her hands such as toast, pasta, cucumber sticks and banana. Foods to be wary of include grapes, sultanas, blueberries and nuts. It depends on your child as to foods which they find difficulty with. Emilia has had difficulty with mango and has scared us once before. But again, we trusted her and she politely (!!!) spat the piece out which she couldn’t swallow.
Another common query with BLW is how much are they actually eating? It’s a really good question because it is VERY messy business. There is a lot of food which ends up on the floor. But mess is all part of the fun and learning. If Emilia is enjoying a certain food, there is no way it will end up on the floor. It will vanish before our very eyes. Her favourites include banana, yoghurt, cucumber, pasta, spanakopita, cakes and muffins, roast potatoes, roast pumpkin, strawberries, custard and sweets of any kind. Some days it seems Emilia eats more food than me (ok that’s a slight exaggeration) and other days she isn’t interested. That is ok. It is completely normal. Like us, some days we have hungry days and other days we almost forget to eat. It’s human nature and our physiology. Again, its learning to trust in our children’s instincts.
A note on the mess: it never gets easier to sit with. But when you see the enjoyment on your child’s face and how well their fine motor skills are developing. You forget. Plus there’s nothing a bath can’t fix. Having a dog also helps.
So now to the benefits: I’ve seen mums on social media spend hours per week preparing their babies food. This is time they could have spent catching up on some much needed sleep or ‘me time’. With BLW there is none of this. I can take Emilia to my friends and families house without packing any food, without worry. Because she will eat whatever is available. In saying this, when we go out to lunch I do pack a few staples such as vegetables, fruit, yoghurt and bread. This is mainly due to the disappointing children’s menus. Sometimes I order Emilia food from the sides section or I give her some of my food. It just depends on the day.
One of the greatest benefits I have seen with BLW is the enjoyment it brings our whole family. Sometimes it is the simplest of moments from sharing an apple picked freshly from the farm, to sharing a lemon cake that is still warm from the oven to devouring Nonni’s pasta in brodo or Yiayia’s spanakopita. There’s nothing more special than sharing food with the ones you love.
It’s these moments which make my heart so full and I look back with such fondness. It’s these moments that I think of the enjoyment Emilia had with her food and I realise the mess was all worth it. It’s these moments which are helping to shape Emilia’s attitude and beliefs towards food. And for that? I couldn’t be more proud.
Love Tessie xx