When little Bear was four months old he started to show signs that he was ready for weaning: he was great at supporting his head; beginning to sit upright with a little bit of support; he would watch me eating with a longing look in his eyes as if to say ‘Why won’t you let me have a nibble of your cake?’; and then one day when he was four and a half months old he started to try and grab my food and drinks (as you can see Little Bear clearly thought my incredibly healthy sausage and baked bean melt from Gregs was fair game to).
Then came the trip to Chester Zoo, one of our favourite places to go as a family. Papa Bear and I had packed a picnic and just like the cheeky penguins we were sat near, when I let my guard down, for the briefest of seconds, little Bear seized this as an opportunity to grab a piece of my sandwich and put it in his mouth. Decision made: it was time to embark on our weaning adventure. By this stage he was five months old, and whilst official NHS guidelines recommend waiting until babies are six months old, we started to wean little Bear – it wasn’t until a month later, when we met without dietitian, that we found out that early weaning is actually recommended for preemies like little Bear who are slow weight gainers.
Little Bear took to solids pretty quickly, chomping down his mashed or pureed foods like there was no tomorrow. We opted to go for a veggies first approach for two reasons:
- I wanted to make sure that little Bear would be an avid veggies eater and getting him used to the more bitter flavours (in comparison to my breastmilk which is very sweet) was essential if we were going to establish good eating habits with vegetables. Also, research by Grimm et. al. (2014) has shown that babies who don’t eat much fruit and veg in their first year are less likely to eat enough of them at the age of six.
- When I attended a weaning talk held at my local doctors surgery, the Nutritionist delivering the talk advised us that baby rice, which according to her lots of people use to start weaning, has no real nutritional value. Therefore considering the fact that little Bear was a slow weight gainer I wanted to make sure that whatever we gave him would be nutritional.
The thing we could not do to start off with, because little Bear was under 6 months when we started weaning, was a mixed baby-led and pureed foods approach to weaning which is what I had originally intended. Add into the mix both of little Bear’s grandmother’s, who had me worried about him choking and found it hilarious that I was giving him vegetables to hold when he was four and a half months old so he could start to explore the feel and texture of them and suddenly, before I knew it, all thoughts of baby-led weaning went out of the window for the first couple of months of our weaning journey. So purees and mashed food became the norm, but to help little Bear to learn how to feed himself we would give little Bear a spoon of his own to hold and very quickly he started to get the hang of using it – today he often steals the spoon from me when I am feeding him and independently feeds himself (and often covers the rest of his face in the process).
After successfully introducing little Bear to his fruit and vegetables, and getting him to enjoy his porridge (his favourite breakfast option), over the last few weeks we have started to introduce him to some bigger flavours, and among his favourites are: lentil dhal, fish curry, Moroccan lamb or chicken. I was amazed that he really seemed to love curry flavours, although Grandpa’s Jambalaya may have been a taste adventure too far, but all I can say is he certainly seems to take after his Mama Bear when it comes to liking his food.
We’ve also started to introduce some more finger food at every meal instead of just giving little Bear a spoon to hold, and he really seems to have got the hang of feeding himself independently. He has really enjoyed eating carrot puffs by Organix and Aldi’s mamia tomato wheels. This weekend he had his first Sunday Roast, and I was so pleased to see him grab and devour his roast potatoes, carrots and butternut squash, as over the last few days he has started to spit out the food I’ve been mashing up for him as I’ve started to make them more textured. So, perhaps now is the time to start taking on a more baby-led approach to little Bear’s meal times?
Mama Bear x