Feeding my eldest used to be such hard work. He didn’t take to breastfeeding that well. I was very weak for a long time after a major postpartum haemorrhage and this seemed to affect my milk supply. As a newborn, Jack lost loads of weight and struggled to put it back on.
We tried supplementing with bottles and while it helped him gain weight, he started to struggle with those, too. He’d cry during feeds, cry after them, gag on milk, tug and pull at the teat. He did exactly the same when breastfeeding too. His stomach would gurgle with wind and now amount of Colief or Infacol would make a blind bit of difference. I tried cutting out dairy, but the improvement was barely noticeable.
After months of over-analysing his feeding schedule and the strange contents of his nappies (yuck!), Jack was eventually referred to a paediatrician. She advised that we wean him early as she suspected he had a mild allergy to dairy and sometimes early weaning helps.
As he was only 5 months old, we started with a cube of pureed fruit each day. He took to it really well and put on weight and to our amazement, no longer had an issue with his milk. However, the rest of the weaning journey was not so straightforward.
Frightened of Choking
He really struggled with lumps and would often gag easily on food with texture. I made him separate meals, fed him soups and easy to chew foods as I was concerned he would lose weight again.
I was terrified of giving him anything that didn’t instantly melt in his mount. We had one little incident where he struggled with his gag reflex, yet it was enough for me from that moment, to view every food as a potential choking risk. I soon came to dread meal times and would become anxious whenever I watched Jack eat.
He started to reject most of what I offered him. Meal times ended in tears, with me furiously Googling for the answers. I wanted my child to eat. He was hungry, he should want to eat. Why was it so hard?
I realised he had simply hit the fussy eater phase, exacerbated by the fact that his introduction to food had been fraught with worry and not a shared family experience.
We knew we couldn’t go on the way things were and longed for us all to enjoy mealtimes as a family.
When Jack turned 2-years-old we made an effort to feed him whatever we were having for dinner. If he didn’t eat it, I’d feed him bread and fruit for tea instead so he didn’t go to bed hungry. There was no coaxing him to eat, no bribery, no telling off.
We made meal times calm and happy, all negative associations removed so it could be a time for us to gather as a family.
After a couple of weeks, Jack slowly started to take an interest in food and eat whatever we ate. Whenever he tried something new there was only muted positivity as we found over-the-top praise made the process feel like a less normal and natural part of the day.
While Jack is still a little fussy, he is much more inclined to try new things. Meal times are no stressful at all as we know that overall, the children have a balanced and healthy diet.
Giving Baby Led Weaning a Second Try
George was easier to feed. He took to breastfeed straight away and had no problems with weight loss.
We weaned him a lot later than Jack, at around 6.5 months. From the started, we wanted to be sure he was ready to start joining us for meal times and eat whatever we had. He’s had the occasional puree, but usually as a pudding and mixed with something else like oats.
Initial foods included anything that was hard enough to grab, but soft enough to melt in his mouth:
- Buttered toast
- Sweet potato sticks (cooked)
- Carrot sticks (cooked)
- Steamed apple sticks
- Steamed broccoli
There are so many things you can try and George absolutely loves his food now. He has his moments when he is fussy and chucks his food over the floor, but the experience has been much more relaxed and enjoyable. The best thing is that when we are out and about, we don’t worry about what’s on the menu as he gives most things a go.
Right now, the kids’ like eating vegetable curry and trying foods from around the world. Jack has also started to enjoy eating stir fry and the ‘noodle spaghetti’. His favourite is always a roast dinner followed by apple pie and ice cream. George loves beef – which I find surprising as I know a lot of young children struggle with meat.
There are so many dos and don’ts to baby led weaning that it’s hard to know what information to listen to and ignore.
So here’s my advice: Go with whatever is right for your baby.
Some babies prefer purees straight away and slowly start to self-feeding as they discover new flavours and textures. Whatever you do, enforce positive associations with food and let your child lead the process.