Messes aside, we are now six months into our baby-led weaning endeavour, and it has gone every bit as well as we hoped it would. Oliver is a competent, confident and enthusiastic eater (for his age), and family mealtimes are an enjoyable experience for all of us.
Oliver currently eats two meals each day — brunch and supper — plus a recently-introduced afternoon snack.
He sits at the table for the duration of the family meal, which is usually 30 to 45 minutes. He babbles, gestures and laughs throughout, as if participating in adult conversation.
Oliver has begun to show preference towards specific foods. In particular, he loves bananas, strawberries, tomatoes, eggs and chicken. Although he likes and will eat just about anything we serve, he has recently become very specific about wanting to control the order in which he eats his food. In the past, we would simply place a few pieces of food (of our choosing) on the table in front of him, and he would eat them. Now, he will fuss, wave his hand back and forth, gesture at his plate (or cup), and push our hands away until we give him the specific food (or water) he wants. He is getting much better at indicating what he does want as opposed to what he doesn’t want.
Oliver is able to eat all the same foods we eat, providing they are served in age-appropriate shapes and sizes, or steamed to make them softer (as in the case of carrots). He no longer gags… unless of course he has shoved way too much food into his mouth at once :).
Oliver has good manual dexterity, and can pick up even the smallest and most slippery bits of food and get them into his mouth. We have begun to spoon and fork feed some soft foods (scrambled eggs, avocado mashed with pieces of meat/fish, mashed yams, soups) in order to develop his skill with utensils. If we pre-load a fork or spoon, he can usually get the food into his mouth without difficulty. He is quite adept at taking water from a cup, though we still need to hold the cup for him. Now that we are spending lots of time outdoors in the hot, sunny weather, I am trying to provide him with opportunities to practice drinking from a cup independently.
Oliver has a huge appetite, and has been known to eat portions of food that would rival those of an average adult! Two jumbo eggs and fruit for breakfast, an entire chicken leg (thigh plus drumstick) for supper…
We have been fortunate that Oliver has thus far shown no signs of allergy or sensitivity to any of the more than 60 foods he has tried, including eggs, nightshades (peppers, potatoes, tomatoes), shellfish, tree nuts (almond and pecan) and dairy (butter, heavy cream, and sheep/goat feta). We are still avoiding milk, grains, legumes and sugar, as per the Paleo diet, though we may start to offer some organic Greek yoghurt as a snack from time to time. I feel that the benefits (nutritionally, as well as from a convenience and food variety standpoint) outweigh the drawbacks, providing that Oliver does not start to exhibit digestive or skin problems as a result.
The only food he repeatedly rejected outright was blueberries (I know — blueberries?!), but we continued to offer them a couple of times each week, with no pressure or expectations. Several weeks later, he was eating a few pieces here and there. Now, he absolutely loves them, which just goes to show that it is supremely worthwhile to persist, as sometimes children just take more time to accept new foods.
On the weaning front, Oliver is still breastfeeding four times per day: first thing in the morning, two times during the afternoon, and at bedtime. His total feeding time is about half of what it was prior to the introduction of solids. The two mid-afternoon feeds are usually quite short — under 10 minutes each — and I suspect that he will drop one of them in the very near future, now that we have added an afternoon snack to his schedule.
I guess at this point, it’s no longer “baby-led weaning” as much as it is simply “family mealtime.” He eats what we eat, when we eat it, and mostly without assistance. As for the mess, Oliver’s eating is getting tidier every week, and when I’m down on my hands and knees wiping up the detritus of a meal, I just keep reminding myself to be thankful that our dining room isn’t carpeted. 🙂