The ups and downs of baby led weaning

Our weaning journey began what feels like a million years ago, but it was actually only 10 months ago.

My experience of weaning Olivia may have been very different to others' experiences, but I think that some of the worries and concerns would be the same as any other mum starting to wean their little monster!

At four and a half months old, Olivia was so interested in everyone's food. She was rolling and pulling herself along the floor, and could sit up all by herself. She also had a habit of putting EVERYTHING in her mouth, and trying ever so hard to pinch my food and eat it, so her hand eye coordination was good enough for weaning too. But I didn't feel ready.

My baby was giving me all of the signs to say that she was ready to wean, and so the day before she was 5 months old, she had her first rusk. I watched her like a hawk, terrified that she would choke on a bit of it, but she was absolutely fine and she loved it.

That was the beginning, and it started relatively well. I began giving her finger foods like cucumber sticks and avocado wedges to munch on, but every time she coughed I was convinced she was choking. My partner must have been sick of my overreacting, but I didn't see it as that at the time. There was nothing melodramatic, I really thought she wasn't breathing when she clearly was.

She was fast approaching six months old, the recommended age for weaning babies, and so pressure from my health visitor was increasing to let her try a variety of foods herself, and I said yes and went along with it. Every mealtime was emotionally traumatic for me. Every mealtime I ended up in tears and snatched the food away from Olivia, throwing it out and replacing it with milk. It was so hard to be sure that she wasn't choking and that she was fine. Around that time I was re-diagnosed with depression and anxiety having spent two months thinking everything had gone away by itself, and that explained my irrational fear of the little one coughing at mealtimes, but it's also a common feeling for new, first time mums to feel so worried about choking. I attended all of the save a baby's life and baby weaning workshops at the local health centres, but it didn't prepare me for how hard it would be not to assume the worst and overreact at the slightest spluttering.

It didn't help being told that it was normal and that every new mum gets paranoid, because personally I don't believe that it's true. Why are people on the outside so quick to paint as wide a brushstroke as possible to say what is normal? What is normal for me isn't normal for somebody else. My obsessive anxiety over feeding my daughter was not normal for me, and once I stopped trying to be normal and follow the advice of other mums, my own maternal instinct was allowed to kick in.

I convinced the health visitor that baby led weaning was too hard for me, listening to my partner who didn't want to see me and our baby crying our eyes out at every meal. I was able to finally speak for myself and access support, not unhelpful advice that clearly wasn't working for me. She helped me work out a proper feeding schedule, phasing in a ready-brek breakfast, a pureed lunch and a pureed dinner, healthy vegetarian options incorporating different flavours and textures. Choosing not to continue with baby led weaning didn't mean that Olivia wasn't going to experience different foods, or that she wasn't going to learn how to eat (as my partner kept reminding me).

As my confidence grew and my anxiety lessened, we fell back into baby led weaning as if she'd been doing it all along. She took food off my plate, she had fruit and vegetable finger foods, and we switched to toast for breakfast for her to feed herself.

She's now 15 months old, loves her food, and has absolutely no problems navigating lumps and bumps in her meals. Most foods she feeds herself, some are still semi-mashed up and spoon-fed. Looking back on the first 2/3 months of weaning, it seems silly and unnecessary that I worried so much. I desperately wanted to be able to do something right, after having a ton of trouble breastfeeding I think I wanted to compensate.


There was nothing to compensate for. She was fed, happy, healthy, loved and looked after. Who cares how we do it, as long that's what we do?

It may take time to find your groove, but it's there, and everything does click into place in the end.

Comments

  1. I'm glad that you managed to find a way that works for you and your daughter. Anxiety and depression are sometimes topics, that don't get the attention they should.
    My daughter is only 4 months old, so we still have some time before we start with solids. Right now, I'm glad we managed combi-feeding. We had a rough start, but everything just needs time. For now, we feed her organic formula from this online shop, which works great for her sensitive stomach. I'm excited to introduce solids in a few weeks.
    All the best,
    Mariella

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mariella, thanks for your comment! I found feeding issues were almost completely linked to my PND and anxiety, but the good thing is that it does get better! Don't get me wrong you still have the odd minor heart attack when you think they're not chewing something properly but it's definitely a lot easier now that she's a bit older!

      Good luck with it all, and let us know how she gets on with her first foods... Be sure to check out some of the baby and family friendly recipes we have on our blog too :)

      Sarah

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  2. Wow that really sounds terrible! No, I dont think this was normal. It really sounds like a compulsive anxiety disorder.I hope it went all good for you and your daughter and you can enjoy the meals together some day. :) For me and my little son it went very easy all the way. He was a formula fed child (but I fed organic formula)an began with weaning in the 5th month. And yes, sometimes I was scared, that he could choke on the new food. That that wasnt the feeling you describe here. I whish you all the best to handle it in the future and hope you will have a lovely time with your little family! :)

    Leia

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    Replies
    1. Hi there, thank you for commenting.

      It was a really hard time for me personally and for our family, and thankfully the root of my problem was eliminated and then the problems and anxiety were resolved.

      I was never diagnosed with any compulsive anxiety disorder, but to be honest it took a while to even get a diagnosis of PND despite having pre-natal depression and long term depression in my childhood. For me I found that there was very little support from medical professionals for something that was affecting me so badly.

      I'm glad to say that we are through the other side, but the point of this post was just to let other parents know that it can be hard, even without any extra anxiety problems going on. And of course, to just go with what you can handle and try to forget outside pressures if you're not ready for it.

      :)

      Sarah

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