A couple of months ago, we started to wean Theo. I always knew I would go straight to solids, for reasons I’ve explained below. I don’t think I quite appreciated just how messy it would be, but other than relentless high chair cleaning, it’s been pretty easy so far and really fun. Two months later, Theo will try whatever I put in front of him, and I’d say around 60% ends up in his belly, rather than on his face or on the floor. Breast milk is still his primary source of calories, and likely will be for another couple of months, but it’s so great watching him explore new foods and attack things with gusto. Just like mum and dad! He loves sweet potatoes and peaches, but has also eaten salmon, steak, sandwiches, and lots of other foods beginning with letters other than S.
If you are thinking about trying this with your little one, here are six essentials for baby-led weaning, which I think you should have stocked before you start.
1/ The book. I read this a few weeks before we started, and it was great. Full disclosure, I worked on the launch of this book when it was published in the UK. Fun! The concept sounded like a great idea, and the authors were SO LOVELY, so I knew I was going to try it out with Theo when we started weaning, and we have loved it. The book is full of useful information, and is also very reassuring about the thing that seems to worry most parents – choking. It’s very useful to help distinguish between choking, which is obviously very dangerous, and gagging, which is a natural reflex when they first start eating.
2/ Approximately one million muslins. (Or a pack of 12). I already had these from when Theo was little, so this was no skin off my back. I tie a muslin bib underneath his actual bib. A lot of people suggest just taking all of the baby’s clothing off before they start eating, but I’m too lazy for that, so I tie a muslin around his neck so that anything that is juicy and which stains (peaches, berries, tomato sauce etc) stains the muslin and not his clothing. We have a whole collection of ‘Do not take in public’ muslins as a result. They look disgusting even when they’ve been washed, but they do the trick.
3/ A good bib. We tried a few different ones – full sleeve ones from Ikea, floppy ones from Mothercare – but in the end, these rubbery bibs from Tommee Tippee were the best for us. The only thing is that you have to watch out, because if Theo runs out of food or stops wanting to eat, he does have a tendency to empty the ‘pocket’ out on to his lap. Luckily, the muslin is there as a back-up.
4/ The best (and cheapest) high chair. So, most other high chairs seem like a massive faff to clean. We looked at loads online, and this was definitely the best reviewed. It is also by far the cheapest, costing just £13. That is crazy cheap. It’s easy to clean (in fact it can go in the dishwasher), which is essential, because you’re going to be cleaning this thing a lot.
5/ An oilcloth. Embarrassing fact alert, but after our house, our dining table is the most expensive thing I own. I really love it. I really, really didn’t want Theo’s delightful, but grubby, fingers smearing food all over it three times a day. So we got a big bit of oilcloth, and cover half the table in this. He can grab the table to his heart’s content, but it doesn’t get stained. Plus it’s pretty. I couldn’t find a link to the actual pattern I have (you may see it crop up on Instagram), but there are loads of great options in store in John Lewis. Even if you don’t have a slightly obsessive compulsive urge to protect your dining table, it is still probably worth getting, as it’s really easy to clean, and you’re going to be cleaning a lot (see item 4).
6/ Lots and lots of tupperware. In our fridge at any time, you can now find loads and loads of tupperware boxes filled with half sandwiches, bits of sweet potato, sliced peaches, microwaved apples, leftover dinners… Theo eats a lot of the same food as us, but apart from breakfast, we don’t eat at the same time. Therefore the need for endless food storage.
Mentioned, but not itemised, is cleaning stuff. You’re going to need a lot of it. I clean everything down with a sponge to remove most of the food, then do a second wipe down with an antibacterial wipe. High chair, table, floor. It’s SO BORING. I cannot wait for him to actually keep most of his meal in his mouth, rather than throwing it overboard.
As well as that cleaning, Theo also manages to get food in the most remarkable places. Some people clean their baby with water wipes or similar after every meal, but unless we’re out of the house, I tend to just carry him over to the sink and wash him down. It’s quicker and cheaper.
Another thing not mentioned is a cup, because we haven’t quite found the right one. At the minute we’re testing out lots of different cups for Theo to drink a few sips of water from at each meal, but it’s still a work in progress. I’ve heard that the doidy cup is great, and my cousin is giving one to me, so we haven’t tried that yet. At the minute he sees his cup collection as really fun toys, but hasn’t quite understood that he can also get water from them…
Have you tried baby-led weaning? What have you found to be most useful? I’d love to hear any tips!