The first food that our paediatrician advised when Prabir completed 6 months was Cerelac. I didn't find anything wrong with that either as that's what I've seen most babies in the family eat.
We went to the store and bought a flavour that we thought our son would like. And the first day, I held the spoon near his mouth, he rejected it outright. I kept at it and tried for 3 days until I kept the box of Cerelac away for good.
I then started with suji (semolina) porridge, and dal and rice, and introduced fruits and veggies gradually. When he didn't eat as much as I would have liked him to, which happened almost every time, I fretted and worried. When he demanded to breastfeed soon after having some solids, I blamed myself for not giving him enough to eat as he was clearly hungry.
Nothing and no one helped either. I was told to let him watch the television to make him eat. Or may be distract him with toys, which I confess I have done. There would be a whole lot of toys with us as we started a meal and each one was a mission. After all, mumma had to ensure that the sonny eats as much as 'she' would like him to.
It was in his 8th month that I bumped into a group on Facebook. How that happened I barely remember, but it was no less than a miracle. I read all about baby led weaning (blw) and was determined that it was the right approach for my baby and me.
The first thing I needed to do here was to unlearn all that I had known about feeding babies all this while.
- Breastmilk or formula is the primary source of nutrition for the first year - And there I would make myself sick worrying when my son demanded breastfeed after a meal.
- Stop feeding mashed or pureed food - While I never really did either, I used to overcook to make the food easy to swallow. BLW made me realise that the baby can chew and needs to start now, whether or not he has teeth as their gums are hard enough. The consistency of the food needed to be such that it is firm to hold and yet easy on the gums to chew. I've seen grown up kids in my family swallow food with water till date and that's not what I wanted for my son.
- The mother decides what and when, and the baby decides how much - This required the control freak in me to take a backseat and let my son decide how much he wanted to eat and not how much I'd like him to.
- No forcefeeding or distraction - The toys had to go and the child should have a proper place to have their meals. We were already using a highchair for meals, so this wasn't as difficult.
- Encourage self feeding - Now, here is what required most patience. With a never ending to do list, it was difficult to let the baby be and sit through while he explored, tasted, threw, poured and massaged it all over himself. Even more difficult is to see the mess with the baby throwing food all around. Every post meal wash became a mini bath with complete change of clothes. Yes, that's how messy it can get!
- The baby eats what the family eats - This meant that no separate meals needed to be made, just the salt had to go and the spices had to checked.
- The whole idea is to let my baby explore food, feel different textures and get to know their own taste and system better.
As I read all about BLW, I ordered a book 'My Child won't Eat'. Reading it changed my thoughts and views about feeding my son completely. No longer was I a worried mumma thinking about what my son ate or didn't eat. Meal times became more enjoyable and we started having our food together.
At 19 months, here's where we stand-
- We eat our meals together.
- Prabir knows how much he wants or needs to eat.
- He knows that he won't be forced to eat anything that he doesn't want or like.
- He's eager to try different food.
- He's getting better at eating with a spoon all by himself and knows how to use a fork too.
- He doesn't need water to swallow food and knows that he needs to finish what's in his mouth and then drink water, if he needs to.
- He knows his 'no' to something will be respected.
Even today, there are days when he would barely take a spoonful or two or completely skip a meal. I'll be honest to say that the mother in me still frets at times, but I'm not worried anymore. As my son can decide for himself when it comes to eating.
This post, in no way, is to endorse Blw as the only or the best way to introduce solids to a child. This is an approach that has worked beautifully for us and that's why this mumma swears by it.
While it's given a sense of control to my son and is a major step for him towards getting independent, it has given a sense of relief to this mumma. All I do is follow my baby's cues and ensure that I offer him balanced and nutrition meals. For the rest, he's the boss :)