Weaning is obviously a major milestone for any baby but is just one of the many decisions you are constantly faced with when you have a baby – whether you should breast or bottle feed, what nappy cream to use, whether to go for cloth or disposable nappies, whether you should introduce a dummy… the list is endless.
With that list also comes worry – have I made the right decision? Am I doing it right? What if… what if…?
Perhaps it’s because weaning is currently top of my list of concerns, but it strikes me that weaning is a pretty big decision. It’s about how to get food into your child – essential for them to flourish and grow – not getting that ‘right’ seems pretty major to me!
At first glance weaning is pretty straight forward – surely you just spoon stuff into the babies mouth? But in reality when you start looking into all the ‘advice’ available things seem much more complicated! There are so many products available that declare themselves the ‘thing’ for 4 months, 6 months, 10 months plus… other people pour scorn on all traditional products declaring ‘my baby will eat what I do’ – but is it really that straight forward? What if my food is too salty? Spicy? Oily? As I said, the list of questions and worry just seems to be endless.
I thought I was a complete pro at baby weaning – after all I’ve done it once! But in reality, as Thomas approaches the six month mark, I wasn’t feeling so confident.
Katie has a lot of health and allergy problems so weaning with her had a completely different aim – she was weaned at four months in the hope that she’d actually keep food down! I think milk had made her feel so poorly that she was just ecstatic to chomp through food that made her feel good. Feeding her was akin to feeding a little bird – she just kept opening her mouth for more! By the time she was Thomas’ age she was eating three to four meals a day in addition to her milk.
Whilst Thomas has not had any of Katie’s health problems he’s been trickier in other ways. He has completed rejected taking a bottle – expressed milk and formula – despite trying every brand under the sun! Although he has looked at food and people eating (he’s at the table with us every mealtime) – I haven’t had a huge inclination to rush into things with him. In fact, I’ve wanted to avoid the weaning ‘thing’ for as long as possible, feeling a little lost where to start.
When Tricia Murray of NurtureMe got in touch, I leapt at the chance to attend one of her weaning classes. I had heard many positive things about baby-led weaning from my friend Francesca, but I had many questions about how it would work in comparison with the ‘puree approach’ that I had used with Katie.
Whilst I had attended an NHS weaning class with Katie, no such invitation had been forthcoming with Thomas! I was particularly attracted to Tricia’s class as I knew it would there would be fewer participants. In addition, the
informal setting would make it easier to ask questions.
I was not disappointed: Tricia began by explaining that classes generally work best when the participants ask the questions they have to ensure that they are all answered. We were also asked what we wanted to get out of the class so that Tricia could ensure that these aims were met, and for the class to be adapted appropriately.
However what struck me most was Tricia’s reassurance that her place was not to judge what we were doing but to give support.
I could go through all the helpful advice that I learnt through the class – food ideas, feeding pattern suggestions, countless practical tips… but for me, the overall benefit at the end of the class was feeling a LOT better about everything than when it began.
I was very impressed seeing the same journey occur for the other members of the class too. It was obvious that I was far from being alone in my uncertainty about things relating to weaning – particularly with the ‘new’ baby-led method. The reassurance that they were ‘doing it right’ was invaluable. The time and space to freely ask questions without judgement was just brilliant.
I know in theory, that health visitors are meant to give this advice but despite the ‘guidelines’ they’re given, I’ve heard so much conflicting advice that friends have received across Edinburgh. I haven’t seen my actual health visitor since Thomas was around 6 weeks and know that the team is stretched very thinly with lots of people being off etc. After seeking their help via phone or at baby weigh in, I often have felt either more confused or guilty that I’ve taken up their time!
With Tricia, you know that she’s been through it all but has also supported countless other families – recent, current experience. There was not a question that threw her or anything that phased her. Her approach to weaning really appealed to me as it just seemed to confirm what was common sense – nothing was too complicated, convoluted or scary. It was just about teaching your child to enjoy real food in a family setting.
Whilst the class I attended did focus more on baby-led weaning, this came about because that was what the participants wanted to learn more about. However having talked to Tricia and from reading through the class notes, she is equally well versed in the puree route too – or actually, a combination of both!
I really wanted to learn more about baby-led so that I could make an informed decision about what was best for Thomas. As it turns out – he rather enjoys feeding himself from a loaded spoon but isn’t a massive fan of holding on to food and gumming on it yet. For now, I plan to keep going with a bit of both – I can whizz up whatever we’re cooking for him to eat from a spoon and he can also have the option of the food being ‘whole’ on his plate.
More than anything else, I know that if I have any questions I don’t need to turn to Google, as I’m certain Tricia would be happy to help.
Tricia is a Newborn Consultant, Birth and Breastfeeding Supporter, EFT Practitioner and Mum to three gorgeous boys. She offers a range of support from Pregnancy, through Birth and for life with a New Baby, ranging from Preparing for Parenting classes, 1-2-1 Bump, Birth and Baby Support, weaning classes and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) therapy specifically for the perinatal period.