My daughter Molly’s first day of weaning did not go well. I was looking forward to it for weeks, I had read the books, decided on my plan and selected her first taste: pureed sweet potato.
When the day arrived, however, we had a nappy of epic proportions, a steamer mishap and, as a result, a very delayed lunch.
By the time she was in the highchair she was exhausted and nearly asleep, crying through the new strange experience. Safe to say, I did not win mother of the year that day.
I have high hopes to raise a fellow little foodie
This week’s food page is different to most. Instead of writing about other people’s food journeys, I am talking about the one that Molly and I are currently navigating: the honest highs and lows of weaning. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a chef. I am writing as a mam. I have high hopes to raise a fellow little foodie but the reality is the household menu swings a wide pendulum from beans on toast to beef bourguignon.
Spoon feeding versus baby-led weaning
For anyone starting the weaning journey, my advice is to get reading. Nowadays, there are two main approaches to weaning: the traditional spoon-feeding method and the more modern baby-led weaning.
Spoon feeding does what it says on the tin, with the focus on pureeing and mashing foods. Baby-led weaning doesn’t involve any pureeing. You put food of an appropriate size and consistency in front of your baby and leave them to figure it out.
There are pros and cons to both. With spoon feeding, you have more control over the situation, you know the food is going in your baby’s mouth and they’re getting the nutrients they need.
Some benefits of baby-led weaning include better hand coordination, exposure to different consistencies and, as the baby essentially leads the process, they stop when they are full. It’s said it can lead to less fussy eaters over time.
It’s worth reading about both and the first chapter in many baby recipe books give some good advice. My favourites that led me through those first few weeks include:
So what method did I choose? I didn’t abide by the rule that you have to do one or the other, I opted for a mix of both. As excited as I was about the weaning process, it’s also a nerve-wracking experience. I was (and still am) petrified of her choking and she was a hungry little baby. So for the first two weeks, I puréed a different vegetable every day and offered it to her on a spoon.
However, I also put the spoon in her hand and put some extra food in a bowl, allowing her to play and figure things out herself. It was a total mess, there was carrot in her hair and broccoli on the walls but she was enjoying herself – her little way of learning.
Now she is 15 months and she is completely independent when it comes to meal times
As the weeks went by, I started to challenge Molly and myself. Some meals – breakfast for example – I spoon fed her porridge, but for dinner, I started to introduce finger food. Sticks of soft carrot, a slice of avocado and, later, pieces of shredded chicken or a finger of mushy salmon fishcake.
Now she is 15 months and she is completely independent when it comes to meal times. We simply put the plate in front of her and she feeds herself (soup is comical). We took our time and eased ourselves into it with the spoon feeding but we also let her lead the way.
You do you
In my opinion, there is no right or wrong way. You do you! No one knows your baby like you do and you also have to be comfortable with the whole experience.
What I would say from my experience is to try challenging yourself and your baby. Even if you’re extremely nervous, as I was, your baby could be far more capable than you give them credit for. My husband led the way in this regard. When Molly first started eating toast, I cut off all the crusts, afraid the texture would be too much for her. One morning, I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the soldiers lined up. “She can’t have crusts,” I exclaimed hysterically.
My husband replied: “Sure I’ve been giving her crusts for two weeks, she loves them, they’re her favourite part.”
As if to prove his point, she turned around to me with a gummy grin holding up her crusts triumphantly.
So when you feel ready, put a slice of carrot into your baby’s hand or a piece of banana. Watch them try to figure it out and have fun, and together your confidence will grow.
Molly also exceeded my expectations when it came to flavours. I presumed her diet for the first few months would be a merry-go-round of meat and two veg but research shows the more food, flavours and textures you expose babies to, the more their palette will develop and they are less likely to be fussy eaters. Of course, there are certain foods that babies can’t have but mostly the culinary world is their oyster.
Lasagne, fish pies, curries, spicy soups, cheesy courgette bakes, even mild chilli; if we were having it for dinner then Molly was eating it as well, albeit a somewhat adapted version for babies. Now she will happily try her hand at everything. I’ve been warned the toddler years might throw that all on its head but at least, for the moment, the menu is very open.
Highchair with a footrest
We got the Tripp Trapp because it grows with the child and the investment will be worth it over time but read about the importance of a footrest for a child while eating-this should be the guiding factor in your highchair purchase.
Starts at €200 and is available from baby shops nationwide
A good blender
I use the Kenwood Multipro every few days. In the early days, it was handy for purees but I use it to make fishcakes, pasta sauces, smoothies, cauliflower bites, the list is endless.
€189.99 but currently on offer at €149.99
Long sleeve bibs and silicone bibs. Yes we double bib and it saves getting her clothes messy.
The bib pictured is €16.99 from Byggebo.com
Any leftovers that I can freeze go into small containers. That way on the days that we are busy or disorganised (or decide to have a cheeky takeaway), there is always an easy meal on hand for Molly.