Baby-Led Feeding….Really??

When The Baby was born, she was big.  I mean BIG.  She weighed 9lb 9oz, was 53cm long and had a head so big it would struggle to emerge from the Channel Tunnel, let alone my vagina.  OK, so it was 38cm, but still, 38cm.  She was in the 91st or 98th centile for each measurement.

So when, at eleven weeks, and again at twenty weeks, her weight had dropped into the 75th centile, I was a little relieved that she wasn’t attempting to maintain these barrelesque proportions.  At thirty weeks, she had dropped into the 50th centile, and this concerned me a little.  So last week, when I took her to be weighed, I asked for her to be measured too, to make sure she was still growing well.  She was, it looks like she will be tall and slim.  As her mother I am in no position to be jealous or resentful of this.

I spoke to the health visitor regarding The Baby’s eating.  I had started to feed her baby rice at around eighteen weeks in an attempt to fill her up and thus induce longer sleeping periods.  I managed to wait almost until she was the recommended six months before introducing other solid food.  I started with mashed potato; she loved it and wolfed it down.  I introduced other mashed vegetables, along with pureed fruit, porridge and yogurt (not all at the same time, but I doubt The Baby would have minded either way).  The Baby couldn’t get enough.  She ate whatever was offered.  A month or so after introducing solids, I started to leave more lumps in her food, encouraging her to bite and chew.  I gave her toast for breakfast and made sandwiches at lunch.  She never had a problem, she took to the whole eating thing like the proverbial duck to water.

Until a few weeks ago, that is, when she decided that veg was vile, fish was foul, and porridge was putrid.  In fact, the only thing she would entertain eating was Petit Filous yogurts.  She wouldn’t eat anything given to her at nursery (other than Angel Delight), and anything I or The Boyfriend tried to offer was met with a symphony of raspberry-blowing and melodramatics that would rival those of Greta Garbo.  What had happened to our good little eater?  What could we do, other than ensure an industrial-sized stock of fromage frais was always on hand?

I told the health visitor of the mealtime tantrums, of the refusal to eat anything containing even half a vitamin.  She asked me if we had followed baby-led weaning.  I told her we hadn’t due to the fact that on the occasion we had decided to let The Baby feed herself, her eyes, hair and the rest of the room were dressed in the food that was meant for her mouth.  It had never been successful, and surely the point of feeding is that feeding actually takes place, as opposed to redecoration.

This, the health visitor told me, was where I had gone wrong.  Gone wrong!  Thanks, lady, like I don’t feel crap as it is.  What we need to do, said the health visitor, is allow The Baby more independence when it comes to feeding.  What we need to do, said the health visitor, is let The Baby explore the different textures, different colours and tastes, all by herself.  What we need to do, I thought, is to buy several hundred metres of plastic floor and wall covering. 

Despite my cynicism, I decided to fully embrace this new approach, and we started that night with the baby-led feeding.  The Boyfriend peeled and chopped cucumber, tomato and avocado, and along with some grilled chicken, we put the food on the high-chair tray and allowed her to feed herself dinner.  By the end of the meal (which took ten times as long as it did when she was spoon-fed), the bowl we used to pick the bits of chucked-around food was fuller than the bowl we had taken in containing her dinner.  How could she possibly have had enough to eat when I was wearing more food than had hit her stomach?

We have persevered with it.  Occasionally she eats well and obviously enjoys it.  Other times, like today for instance, she derives more pleasure in picking the food up, squeezing it in her tiny paws until it oozes out the gaps between her fingers, and flinging it as far as she can see, than actually eating the stuff.  She very often adopts the A-list approach to food: put it in ones mouth, chew three times, spit it out.  All the taste, no calories.  Fine if you’re Ms Beckham, not so if you’re a growing ten month old baby.  I have to admit she is eating (well, chewing) more vegetables than she had in a long time.  She is also eating chicken, beef and she enjoys pasta, which she never used to.  I am convinced she doesn’t eat as much as she needs to, but I’ll never see her go hungry; the fridge is still stocked to the brim with Petit Filous.  I will make sure her tiny stomach is filled before bed, even if it is only with strawberry flavoured yogurt.

At least the floor is now well-acquainted with veg


Filed under Breastfeeding, The Girl

11 Responses to Baby-Led Feeding….Really??

  1. emma benson

    Oh bless you hun it is a messy business isn’t it. I too worry my almost 9month old has enough. I have started doing a bit of both blw and spoon feeding. I give her bits of veg or cheese etc but spoon bits of mush in while she is distracted then let her play with her food as much as she likes. Actually she is getting better at feeding herself now. Even used a spoon today (may have been wishful thinking!) Good luck x x x

    • Yeah I’ve been doing a bit of a mixture as well – like I was going to let her feed herself cottage pie?? I think not! Good to know I’m not the only one worrying about it all and hopefully they will soon learn that food is for eating, not wearing x Thanks for your kind words

  2. I’m BLW my now 14 month old, and it is getting messier if anything- there’s a crucial moment when his tummy gets full, and he stops eating and starts hurling stuff like he’s training for the food-chucking olympics! If I miss that moment, it’s disaster all round!

    Seriously though, I think the huge benefit of BLW is that any sense of of stress about food is taken away from the child- there isn’t anyone telling the baby what to eat, how much to eat, and how to eat it, and so the baby really does just take what he/she wants and needs, and also gets to do whatever exploring they need to do to make sense of these new tastes and textures. It’s great for giving babies a sense of independence and control.

    Though there are pics in the Gill Rapley BLW book about babies finger feeding porridge. I’m not THAT brave! 😀

    You’re doing a brilliant thing, it’s natural to worry about how much they are taking but she looks very happy and healthy indeed!

    • Thanks for that it is good to know it’s the right thing to do. I think I know it deep down, it’s just difficult to comprehend how she can possibly be full when most of her food is all over the room. I don’t like the sound of it getting messier though! And as for spoon-feeding herself….I really think that may have to wait until she is five x

  3. Mummy dichotomy

    Gone wrong! Did she really say that? What a cheek. In my experience with both my two they Go through phases of eating everything put in sight and sometimes nothing and getting really fussy. I figure they eat if they are really hungry and try to be disciplined with snack times etc. With my 2 yo I did a mix of baby led and spoon fed depending on the meal as you say. Despite this he’s currently being a little so and so and refusing all sorts of things he used to eat happily. So I don’t think it makes a whole lot of difference which method you follow in the long run despite the current ‘advice’!

  4. Trudles

    Hi Anna,
    My advice to you?
    Never get advice from the Health Visitor!!!!!
    I agree with Mummy dichotomy-babies eat when they are hungry, she will be getting what she needs even if the floor and wall look like they got more than their fair share!

  5. Ah, the “squeeze food through the fingers” trick. I know it well.

    We didn’t ever get as far as a spoon – Frog hated the sight of it and refused to be tempted with purees, so it’s been BLW all the way for us. It’s worked for us, although you really have to be trusting that they know what they’re doing. That said, I read the other day that “food is just for fun until they’re 1” and as long as they’re getting milk still then they won’t go hungry. Stick with it – and invest in a splash mat. Or give up on your house looking nice (which is what I’ve done). Have you got the Gill Rapley book? x

  6. Hi Anna
    Health Visitors really need lessons in tactfulness sometimes! It sounds like you’re doing great despite The Baby’s change in attitude. Persevere and hopefully things will improve 🙂

    I’m doing a mixture of baby led and spoon feeding and its working pretty well. J has a huge appetite and loves feeding himself. I have let him eat things like porridge or cottage pie himself when he’s being awkward with spoon feeding. It’s really cute the way he grabs fistfuls of it and shovels it into his mouth!

    My big tip – put an old or cheap shower curtain under the high chair to protect the floor! Not had any food flinging at the walls yet but plenty of raspberry blowing with food in his mouth, so I’ve taken to wearing an apron at mealtimes, makes me feel like a housewife from the 50’s, LOL!

    • Yes, need to get some kind of floor protector down, definitely! And I quite like the idea of wearing an apron, make me feel like a proper domestic goddess, even tho the reality is rather far removed. Thanks for your comment. It’s been a little while now and she’s definitely getting better at eating as opposed to throwing! x

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