Starting on your Baby-led weaning journey can be exciting and daunting at the same time —- both for you and your baby! But it is encouraging to know that BLW has so many benefits to your child’s development. You can learn more about BLW as a perfect opportunity for sensory experience here on my previous blog. Still, one thing BLW practitioners all agree on is the amount of mess feeding time entails as compared to traditional spoon-feeding. Challenging this may seem, it is all a healthy part of your child learning how to self-feed! Let me explain…
LEARNING HOW TO EAT
For us adults, we think eating is all about scooping food using our utensils, bringing it to our mouths, chewing, and then finally swallowing our food. But, for babies who have NEVER had any experience of having solid food before, eating is a skill they need to learn. And it is a step by step process of
Tolerating the presence of food (or certain types of food):
Not necessarily minding its presence, but just being ok having it around
Interacting with the food:
Looking at it, inspecting its features
Leaning forward to finally take a sniff of what is being offered
Touching the food:
See how actually touching the food falls on the 4th step? I certainly wouldn’t touch something I find gross or smells horrible to me!
Bring food to mouth and actually giving it a taste. The baby/child may spit it out after. And this is OK.
Actually chewing and then swallowing food
This is provided that your child is also showing other signs of readiness to start with solids. You can learn more about them in my previous article here.
BUT IT’S SO MESSY!
I couldn’t agree more! When I started with baby-led weaning, I knew I had to respect my child when he signals he has had enough. I needed to accept that sometimes, he really won’t like his food and I can’t force him to take it. Or, if he’s too excited with the food that was offered, he might play with them and have food flying all over the place, his high chair, his face, and HAIR! . What stressed me out the most was the clean up and wasted food! I had no helper at that time, and so cleaning up was a challenge. But, the benefits outweigh the mealtime disaster! So to help me contain the mess, I did the following:
- I stripped my son into just his diapers every mealtime. This way, I don’t have to worry about soiled clothes and needing to wash them after meals. (Imagine the shock of my very traditional Fil-chi mom-in-law when she saw my son eating with no clothes. haha!)
- We swapped my son’s old high chair for a newer, more basic one that’s easier to clean and allows my son to sit in a more upright manner. We also added an adjustable footrest so he is more stable while seated during his meals. Making sure that he is in a comfortable, secure, and upright seat allows him to have better stability of his trunk so he can more freely use his hands to self feed.
- My son used a waterproof bib / apron that allows me to cover the entire table with the bib and secure the upper part around my son’s neck. This is such a game-changer! This bib was able to catch food that my baby failed to bring to his mouth. It also has a zipper around the middle so I can insert a silicone plate and suction it on the table. Less food wasted! I got this bib from https://www.facebook.com/momsunlimitedph (not sponsored/affiliated). I’ll attach the Lazada link to this product at the latter part of this blog.
- I placed a big waterproof splash mat underneath his feeding chair to catch any additional food that his bib might miss. As my son grew, he eventually learned to throw food (*sigh*) and this mat saved a lot of his food from going directly to the floor.
- We still used the spoon! BLW does not mean totally abandoning the spoon and always using bare hands to self-feed. During mealtimes, I would give my son a pre-loaded spoon and he’d practice bringing this to his mouth to eat. This allowed him to have soups, purees, mashed food, rice, porridge, etc with less mess.
We are now on our 6th month of BLW, and I can say that my son has already come a loooong way from when he started. He is a more efficient eater now and can get food from his plate and bring it to his mouth with more precision. He has also learned to pick up smaller pieces of food rather than grasping (and squishing) everything he holds in his palm. He’s still super messy, but I love that most of his meals are similar to what my husband and I eat (only no salt and sugar for him). This makes meal prep so much easier for us as we don’t have to make a different meal just for him.
Starting and persevering through this journey requires a lot of preparation, research, and resources. So, here are the links to some of the items that greatly helped us contain the BLW mess!
- Adjustable footrest for Ikea Antilop highchair:
- Mum’s corner Splash mat:
- Waterproof bib/apron:
Aside from these tools, one good way to prepare your little one for mealtimes is to start them early with tummy time! In this post, I teach you how beneficial this is and list down ways you can incorporate it in your everyday routine. I also have an upcoming blog on sensory play and how it promotes motor, language, play, and feeding skills, so stay tuned for that!
If you have an older child and you want to help him achieve more mealtime fun and success, we at Fitness Bee have Play Academy classes that incorporate a lot of sensory and fine motor activities to promote better body awareness and coordination needed for less messy eating. You can also check out our Create workshop under our Coaching program if a more personalized program is what your child needs. Here, we do arts and crafts, science experiments, as well as sensory play exploration to help develop fine motor skills needed for everyday living.