A book called The Contented Little Baby Book of Weaning can be a great help to the unconfident mother moving her baby toward self-feeding.
Self-feeding is an important milestone in a baby's life and, aside from walking, is one of the biggest advancements in a child's growth. Teaching babies the art of getting food from bowl to mouth gives them independence and is a crucial part of their development. It's getting there that's the problem. The process is slow, laborious, even torturous at times and I have found that most of my days are spent perched in front of my son's high chair.
Weaning is tricky and time consuming, and from the moment that first spoonful of solid food passes a baby's lips it's a continuously evolving challenge. For an unconfident first-time mum like me, getting my son, Charlie, from spoon-fed to self-fed is a pretty daunting task. In desperate need of help, I turned to a book written by the well-known childcare author Gina Ford. Titled The Contented Little Baby Book of Weaning, it offers advice on how and what to feed a growing baby. It has fast become my well-thumbed essential guide.
The book breaks the weaning process into three stages. Stage one, which happens between four and six months of age, involves introducing the first tastes of solid food. Simple vegetable and fruit purées are used to lead a baby slowly away from a milk-only diet. At seven to nine months, as the child's taste buds begin to develop, meats can be introduced. At this second stage, Ford says that babies start to tolerate more textured food and will start to show an interest in feeding themselves by reaching for the spoon during mealtimes. During the third and final stage, between nine and 12 months, you can start offering coarser textures and stronger flavours. At this crucial time, Ford recommends that "babies should be encouraged to feed themselves and should also be offered a range of finger food at every meal". Simple. Or so I thought.
When I first read the book, prior to weaning Charlie, I had visions of my son picking up a steamed broccoli floret with an air of angelic curiousness. Then he would examine a delicious bowl of home-cooked casserole before smiling and graciously spooning some into his mouth. Of course, I expected a bit of spillage, maybe the odd pea on the floor. Instead though, I have mealtime madness. Nowhere in the book does it state that the entire interior of your house will be destroyed by your baby flicking a variety of culinary concoctions from his high chair. Charlie would be the champion if I entered him in a food-hurling contest. Nor does it say that the baby will have no idea which is the right end of the spoon despite numerous self-feeding demonstrations. He has resorted to putting his hand in the bowl in an attempt to scoop the food up instead. Funnily enough, his favourite finger food isn't the lightly cooked crudities as suggested in the book. Those are promptly discarded along with anything else remotely healthy. Unsurprisingly, Charlie's manual dexterity makes a miraculous recovery the minute he sees a biscuit coming his way. Not quite the idyllic scene I had imagined. My weaning skills are on the wane and I can't wait for that chapter of the book to be closed.
* Karen Franklin