Monday 16 April 2012

Baby Led Weaning

The wonder of Spag-Bol

There was a time when babies just started eating pretty much what they wanted, when they felt like it. Sadly science and society got involved during the Victorian era and all sorts of odd notions have sprang up ever since, notions that seem to be based on little or no common sense. The most dramatic result of this was babies eating mushy nonsense as early as 4 months old, a time when their digestive system was still geared to milk but when the baby food manufacturers felt that kids needed to start pulling their weight economically and consuming pureed pear for the sake of their shareholders. To be honest I wouldn’t mind all this profiteering and scientific mumbo jumbo if the end result was well nourished adults with a sound relationship with food but, sadly, that has not been the outcome.

Fortunately there is an alternative – baby led weaning. This is really just a common sense approach that works on the fact that for millennia babies have known when they want to make the change from milk to solids and are more than capable of achieving this with little more than a little guidance and care from their parents.

For me the advantages seemed clear. Firstly, you don’t have to spend months force feeding the poor little buggers, a process that is as distressing for the parents as it is for the baby. With baby led weaning you just start off giving them food they can pick up easily and letting them get on with it. Yes, most of the food ends up on the floor but they have fun, improve their dexterity and learn to enjoy their food.

Secondly, you’re feeding them proper food. I can’t imagine that anyone in their right mind would opt for baby food. It’s not so much the ingredients as the fact that they seem to feel the need to convert everything into a mush. I like steak and chips but not once the chef’s ran it through the blender and poured it onto my plate!

Thirdly, was the idea of starting my kid off on processed food from day one. Ok, most of the manufacturers these days try to be at least vaguely responsible with their ingredients but you’re still never absolutely sure what your child is eating. Just look at Cow & Gate’s “4 month mango surprise”. The surprise turns out to be that it’s mainly apple!

Ok, there’s nothing wrong with apple but at the end of the day you are putting the health of your baby into the hands of large multinational companies that put profit ahead of everything else. For example, many manufacturers make food specifically aimed at 4 month old children despite all the evidence showing that this is too young and can be bad for the child’s health. Sadly, because it’s also bad for profits, this scientific evidence is routinely ignored!

Baby led weaning seems much more natural. Marty largely eats the same food as we do – which has improved our diet as well as his. He learns to handle solids when he’s at an age when his gag reflex is much closer to the front of his mouth and, because he’s in control, he learns at the very beginning to listen to his own body and stop eating when he feels full and not when the jar or the bowl is empty.

As a fortunate aside it’s also a much cheaper approach to feeding your baby... unless you have an expensive shag pile carpet in your dining room, in which case it’s going to cost you a fortune. We have wooden floors and a dog, which has made it a wholly painless experience.

If you want to find out more about it there are umpteen websites, just enter “baby led weaning” into Google. Alternatively, we bought the book cunningly entitled “Baby-led weaning” by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett.