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Gagging Not Choking

I survey the carnage.

I have been cooking. With three cupboards, an oven that doesn’t work properly and one work surface measuring less than half a metre wide, preparing food becomes a complicated dance of pirouetting, rearranging and balancing, with a few swear words thrown in for good measure, and giving everything at least 10 minutes longer to cook than it should.

The dishes are piled high in the sink, with me somehow managing to use every utensil I own just to cook chicken and rice. I have spilled sauce on the hob and on me and may have inadvertently ‘lost’ some onion down the side of the cooker. You know nothing ok? We’ll just pretend that didn’t happen (or that I dropped some pasta down there yesterday).

But, I’m done. And nothing is burnt. Bonus.

I stick my head round the door of the front room where Kai and his dad are zoned out in front of Gigglebiz – ‘Little Britain for toddlers’ my hubby has described it as. Spot on. “Kai, do you want some food?” I ask while doing our ‘food’ sign that Kai’s just beginning to start to copy “It’s time for tea!”. “Yeah Yeah!” shouts Kai jumping up.

Wrestled into his highchair Kai is soon tucking in with gusto to his rice and chicken. He grabs his fork for good measure and gives a few half-hearted stabs but it is soon forgotten in favour for great big fist-fulls alternated with delicate pincer-grip motions, picking up tiny grains one by one and examining them before down they go with a enthusiastic lip smack. Big bits of chicken are chewed and quickly devoured. Water is quaffed and waved about and dripped onto the high chair tray to make patterns with. When interest starts to wane, daddy steps in with the forgotten fork and I watch as they share their special mealtime game of ‘one for me one for you’, amazed that Kai is finally letting us near him with utensils after months of refusing to eat anything off a fork or spoon except Kai ambrosia (yoghurt) and that only because hands just don’t get enough in quick enough.

I love mealtimes.

They are my favourite part of the day. Ant is home from work, bedtime is fast approaching and ensconced in his highchair with a big plate of food before him Kai is (usually!) at his most charming and entertaining. Mouthfuls for him are usually alternated with tidbits offered to daddy and me, and sometimes the cat for good measure. He sings, he chews his way through enough food to feed a small army, he pulls glorious and comical faces as he tries and assesses new tastes and at least half the offered food ends up on his lap, in his hair or on the floor.

It is glorious.

At not-quite fifteen months old I have to say that I think eating is one of Kai’s party pieces. The way he gets through a meal is usually enough to stop most people in their tracks, and make them smile and comment especially when they realise how old he is – an age when a lot of his peers are still only just being weaned of mush and onto ‘grown-up’ food.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am far from proud or sure of many things I have done as a mother. But Kai’s weaning is one thing I think I’ve done rather well. In fact, both Ant and I are in complete agreement – weaning Kai the way we did was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made as parents. I talked a little about it previously, but the long and short of it is this:

First Tastes

We held off weaning until Kai turned six months old, despite everyone’s abject horror and insistence that we were starving the poor child. And then we did something that everyone thought was completely mad (and by everyone I mean my mother – come on mum I know you’ll admit it). We didn’t give him pureed baby food, we just gave him big chunks of proper food to pick up and gnaw on himself. He could choose what to eat or not to eat and how much. And if he didn’t want anything at all that was fine too. It’s known as ‘Baby-Led Weaning’ but personally I think it should just be called ‘common sense weaning’.

DSCF2200“But he’ll choke!!” was the first objection. Well actually, no. He didn’t choke. He did gag a lot to start with which everyone PRESUMED was choking, but look – he’s just coughing and learning to move food around in his mouth and not bite off quite such a big bit next time. And he’s already tucking into the next piece. It upset everyone else far more than it upset Kai… Gagging is a natural and pretty essential reflex if you’re going to learn how to eat safely.

DSCF2482“But he’s not really eating anything!!” was the next concern. OK – granted, not an awful lot got ‘consumed’ as it were in the first few weeks of weaning (although the first time it did the resulting nappy was a shocker I can tell you!) In fact, not really till Kai hit about 10 months old did he start eating consistently. But look again. This boy is hovering above the 75% percentile on his growth charts and I’d done my research – milk, breast milk especially will meet up to something stupid like 98% of his nutritional needs for the first year, and still provide the vast majority well into his second year. So there was no rush. Exploring tastes and textures were always the priority to start with – if in doubt I just kept repeating the mantra “Food under 1 is just for fun”. It worked – just look at him now.

DSCF2213“But he’ll be a picky eater if you let him choose what to eat – he won’t eat the right things!!” I never really got this argument. He has tastes, of course he does, and preferences same as anyone else. He still thinks broccoli is the devil’s fare no matter how many times I offer it him. He loves sweet things, but will choose fruit over a biscuit any day. Strawberries don’t even touch the sides. Some things (like potato) he took a long time to warm too but now are his favourites. Other things, like carrot, he seems to go through phases of liking. One thing I have noticed that if offered a good variety of foods, over the course of a week Kai will usually eat a good balance of protein, carbs, diary and fruit and veg. DSCF3389But not all in one meal – sometimes all he’ll want to eat is pasta, or cucumber. But the next day you can guarantee will be a ‘chicken day’. I’m working on the assumption that somehow, intrinsically, he knows what he’s doing.

“But you’re encouraging him to play with his food – what about table manners?!”. That’s for next year. At the moment we’re all about the fun. Babies wash. Floors wash. We wash. It’s not a big deal. Flinging didn’t last long and once Kai learnt what ‘no’ meant it got short shrift from us. But if you want to draw patterns in your spaghetti and smear Shepherd’s Pie in your hair? We’re ok with that.

Now, 8 months after starting on our weaning adventures, not one person questions our decision. The results speak for themselves. My dad is evangelising baby-led weaning to the girls in his office, my mum is humbly proclaiming that she has ‘learnt a lot’, and the mother-in-law is glowing with pride.

So there we go. One big success story. Nice to share one of them for a change!

DSCF3586

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This post was written for the Carnival of Eating over at Tired Mummy’s Blog – please pop over and lend it your support.

And If you want to learn more about Baby-Led Weaning as an option when weaning your babies I would really recommend this blog and forum for tips, recipes, and much needed reassurance when you’re getting started. Or talk to me!

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21 Comments

  1. I’ve introduced solids in much the same way with my second child as you have with Kai. I can only say I wish I’d done the same thing with my first. It’s much, much less stressful and there are fewer struggles. Everyone is happier. It’s totally the way to go.

    The mess I could live without, I’ll be honest. But I’ll take happy and messy over cranky and tidy ANY day. :)
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..Things I Learned in September 2009 =-.

  2. Wish I’d known about baby led weaning with my two. I might have 2 less fussy eaters if I had.

    So my eldest – sleeps like an angel (and did from about 4 weeks) but eats nothing and causes me total stress on that front. Total opposite to Kai. Just goes to show, they all have something that will get you.

    Love the pictures of Kai. There’s a boy who loves his food. x
    .-= Brit in Bosnia´s last blog ..A little on the chilly side =-.

    • @Brit in Bosnia, My friend told me that babies seem to either sleep or eat but not both. She has babies that sleep – mine eats. So I guess I shouldn’t complain really.

      And he DOES love his food. In fact I’ve recently found out ‘Kai’ means ‘food’ in Mauri. I prophetic proclamation if ever I heard one…

  3. ClaireB

    I did BLW with my son and at a year old he eats pretty much anything. Such a great way to wean. I think the main point that I pushed was that as a breastfed baby he determined when and how much he wanted to eat. It would have been silly to take that away from him by spoonfeeding him…and then teaching him to self feed in any case. Far better for him to remain in control, especially as he knows his requirement far more than I.

    • @ClaireB, I felt EXACTLY the same about the control thing. Kai had been regulating his feeding for six months, it seemed a huge backward step to interupt that process. I think BLW acts as a perfect progression from breastfeeding for that reason.

  4. Gem and Izzy

    Oh Josie, I just love Kai’s pictures!

    And I can say I just love watching Kai eat and I will definatly be doing BLW with the next one!

    Fab post

  5. Can I be smug and take loads of credit for this?!!! Or would you have done it anyway, without my hideously long rambling emails about everything Jamie had ever eaten, ever …! (I found these the other day!) xxx
    .-= Kathryn´s last blog ..Roll over, Jane Asher =-.

    • @Kathryn, I think you can. We would have done it anyway but having you to ask lots of questions of was very helpful!! Thank you BLW Queen Kathryn… xxxx

      • @Josie, I am so demanding of praise!! Nah, if you were going to do it anyway then I can take absolutely no credit whatsoever! But I agree, it absolutely rocks. The world of purees is an utter mystery to me xx
        .-= Kathryn´s last blog ..Roll over, Jane Asher =-.

  6. Brilliant :) Something very similar was done with my 2nd and he eats SO well now.
    Also wish i’d done same with first.
    Kai is BEAUTIFUL :)

  7. I only heard about BLW when my second was 8 months, so we had already started to puree. I read the Gill Rapley book and thought it made complete sense. From then on we did a mixture of spoon feeding and BLW. It’s great to be able to offer your baby a variety of foods early on, not just mashed carrot.
    Excellent post.
    .-= SandyCalico´s last blog ..Cancer, Fashion and Rings =-.

    • @SandyCalico, Yes BLW certainly isn’t an all or nothing thing. Self-feeding and finger foods are really positive thing to encourage however you choose to wean – it doesn’t mean you can’t combine it with spoon feeding too.

  8. I heard about BLW when I was part way into weaning Big E in 2007. My friend Abbie had no choice but to do it as her daughter blank refused puree but would steal chunks of food from her plate happily.

    We started weaning at 20 -21 weeks and he loved his puree which we’d often let him eat with his hands. When he was 7 months I started giving him chunks of food too. We let him attempt to feed himself from early on as it just made meal times easier.

    I guess you could say mine was a mix and match approach. I’ll probably try the same with Little E but we’re waiting until at least 24 weeks this time.

    I think BLW has been much maligned and unneccessarily so. Your child, your way. Both methods are good in my eyes.
    :)
    .-= Insomniac Mummy´s last blog ..Hot or not? =-.

  9. I had honestly never heard of this kind of approach. It’s fascinating. I may look into it if I produce any more offspring. Thank you for sharing that!
    .-= Mwa´s last blog ..In awe of the flower =-.

  10. I was the complete paranoid mum when it came to weaning. I listened to everyone else (including my sister in law who was weaning at 11 weeks) and started giving Sam baby rice at 17 weeks. We were lucky that he’s been fine with his eating but looking back I think we could have easily sent him the wrong way by weaning too early.

    Thanks to you though we did introduce chunky food for him to feed himself with but by then it was too late to fully do BLW. At least now Sam can shovel it in with the best of them!

    I’ll know for the next one! They say your first baby’s just a practice run anyway don’t they?
    .-= Emma´s last blog ..Should we stay or should we go? =-.

  11. Will star this post and come back to it in a few months, weaning is still a way off for us!

    I have tagged you over at mine if you have the inclination or time!
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..The Name Game =-.

  12. This sounds like what we did (although we began a bit earlier when dear daughter showed signs of wanting food), she loved everything and ate everything with extreme gusto, she piled on weight and was the perfect chubby lovely poster child for healthy happy eating by 2 years old.

    She is now 9 and three quarters (:-)) and is the fussiest most finicky eater known to man. she weighs next to nothing. she ‘dislikes’ (she says ‘hates’) practically all food…..

    I’m looking forward to following your story with Kai to see if it’s just her!

    my friend’s child that started food later than her and was fussy fussy, only eating about two things (sweet potato and custard – not mixed) is now not at all fussy, likes everything….

    despairing…….
    .-= Tattooed_mummy´s last blog ..Books and Reading, a silly thingy =-.

  13. After a few half hearted attempts at puree-ing we too discovered BLW, it is just so much easier and meal times with the whole family eating the same thing makes so much more sense.
    so far S eats anything and everything (except she’s gone off uncooked cheese)but at 2 I guess it’s too early to say whether BLW had stopped her becoming a fussy eater. time will tell.
    .-= carolb´s last blog ..socks =-.

  14. Fantastic! We used ‘Baby led weaning’ with our third and he’s the best eater ever! It seems obvious now and I can’t believe I used to make my other two eat pureed foods?!

  15. We’ve just started out on the baby led weaning road so its fab to know how well it can work. It has given us some of the proudest moments yet as we watch our little girl tucking in with gusto. Thanks for writing the post

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