Being a mum is an adventure with a steep learning curve! I am here to share to my thoughts and experience.
What Is Baby-Led Weaning?
This is, of course, the big question Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett address in a lot of detail in their book, Baby-Led Weaning. Here's the gist of it: Rather than spoon-feeding a baby, parents and caretakers let the baby explore food in their own time and on their own terms.
When I first heard about this approach at an NCT course in England, I was surprised. Growing up, every baby I had ever encountered had been spoon-fed. I had even fed my younger siblings myself from time to time (a task that had made me feel incredibly grown up and responsible). I left the course thinking this concept sounded so interesting and since I am a researcher at heart, both Baby-led Weaning and The Baby-led Weaning Cookbook immediately found their way into my Amazon basket.
In case you are a bit like me but not as trigger happy when it comes to online shopping, read on because I have a little review prepared for you as well as an honest breakdown of our personal experience.
A Review of Baby-Led Weaning
One thing I found really impressive was how easy and enjoyable it was to read the book. The topic can, of course, be summed up in a few sentences, and I'm sure many advocates could also make a convincing case for this approach in a few sentences.
Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett cover the topic in great detail (almost 250 pages) and yet, I did not find the book tedious to read. Their style is light-hearted without lacking science-based facts and throughout the book, you will find anecdotes that might just answer any questions or concerns you have.
The book's structure is logical, but it is also possible to skip forward and then get back to other topics at a later point. Don't feel you have to read it cover to cover; working with the contents and the index will answer all the questions you might have even if you are not yet familiar with the rest of the chapter.
Here's what's covered in the book:
- An introduction to the approach
- A chapter on how baby-led weaning (BLW) works
- Everything you need to know to get started
- What makes good first foods
- An overview of what happens after the early days
- How it fits in with family life
- How it's a healthy diet for everyone
- A troubleshooting chapter before the conclusion
Now, at times (but just at times) certain facts will be repeated—that is a bit of a downer when you are reading it cover to cover—but if you are dipping in and out of the book or just need to look something up, I didn't find it too irritating.
Any questions and little niggles that I, as a first-time mum, had were answered entirely by reading this book. Things like, "How do I know he's ready for solid food?", "What if he doesn't actually want to eat any food?" or "Wouldn't the risk of choking be higher?" stopped being concerns altogether. In that sense, I'd recommend the book to anyone without a moment's hesitation.
A Review of The Baby-led Weaning Cookbook
This is also a very informative book written in the same easy-going style as its companion but giving the reader actual recipes to make at home for their little ones.
Something that wasn't clear to me when I ordered both books, though, was that the cookbook actually starts with a short explanation of the approach with pages 7-48 covering the basics, a chapter on how babies learn to feed themselves, how to do baby-led weaning, what to eat and how to make mealtimes simple.
Now, if you have already finished reading Baby-Led Weaning, you don't really learn anything new here. For me, that was ok—I think I'm probably not the only first-time mum who'd rather have all the information on stand-by in case I needed it.
Honestly, I haven't cooked many recipes from the book. The ones that I did make worked out well—some were received better than others—but funnily enough, our little one agreed with us on which ones were good. The chunky chili con carne, meatballs in tomato sauce and Thai curry paste went down quite well in our household, and the home-made tomato ketchup recipe without any sugar in at all (shocker) actually turned out to be the only way I like ketchup. The carrot muffins, on the other hand, weren't exactly to our taste, but most cookbooks have one or two odd recipes that just don't work out, so you can't criticise the book solely based on that.
My Final Thoughts on These Books
Looking back, would I say that everybody should go out and buy both books? No, not at all. I'd say if you are interested, go out and get the book that appeals to you more. If you are the type of person who wants to read about the approach because you haven't heard much about it before (welcome to my world as it was three years ago), then I whole-heartedly recommend Baby-Led Weaning.
On the other hand, if you know a bit about this concept already because you have done a course, have friends/family that have chosen this approach or have done research online, the cookbook might be the best purchase.
If I could go back in time, I would not purchase the cookbook. It's not because I have a problem with the book, though—I hope I made it clear that I have enjoyed both of them in their own ways. The only reason for that decision is that I'm a very confident cook, and I've found ways to adapt the dishes I made to fit in with baby-led weaning. All that's required is to leave vegetables in chunkier sizes, not break up minced meat as much as you normally would, leave out salt while cooking and go easy on the chili (though other spices were generally fine). In that sense, I don't regret buying the cookbook but in my house, it didn't get as much use as a cookbook deserves.
What do you think?
Our experience with Baby-Led Weaning
If you have read/are reading the books and are still dubious about the approach, I thought I'd share our experience with this concept.
The NCT course I completed took place when our little one was just four months old and based on the information I got from there and the book, babies tend to be ready to transition to solids around six months (provided certain criteria are met, like being able to sit unaided). If it hadn't been for baby-led weaning, I would have been a lot more cautious and would have delayed the transition. However, our little one actually took that decision out of my hand (literally) when he was two weeks shy of six months and stole my rich tea biscuit. Several pieces of fruit were also taken off me in that week, making it clear that he had made the decision to try out solids.
Our meals then became so convenient! No more holding a baby while rushing through dinner because he might become restless or, even worse, having to take turns with dinner. We'd adjusted our meals slightly as described above, kept a plate in the fridge so the little one's food would cool down quicker and sat around the table, just eating. It was blissful. Granted, it did get messy (sometimes more, sometimes less), but I'm not convinced spoon-feeding is mess-free.
Our little one loved eating. There was nothing he wouldn't try, and he experienced flavours you wouldn't get if you purchased puree in the shops (at least I don't think they make asparagus or fennel puree but admittedly I'm not an expert on that). Other than eating, his dexterity improved quickly and once he had managed a pincer grip, peas became his passion (dinners became a very drawn out affair from then on).
There is one thing, though, where my experience has not aligned with the book. One of the points the books make is that baby-led weaning means once the transformation into toddlerhood takes place, food isn't really an issue. This has not been our experience whatsoever. The baby who devoured everything became a toddler who is no longer happy to eat everything on his plate, who refuses vegetables (even ones he normally would eat, just because he might not fancy them then and there) and who rarely touches meat and fish at all. He does, however, have a passion for cookbooks and watching old Gordon Ramsay shows, so I'm somewhat confident that I have a young foodie in the making here.
Now that we are expecting number two and thinking back to everything I've learned, I will definitely stick with baby-led weaning when the time comes.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Sarah