Finding the right way to wean your baby is like arguing about the existence of UFO’s. No-one knows anything for certain, but everyone has an opinion.
Apart from alien abductees. They think you should start by making simple fruit purees and build up to harvesting human flesh for when the inevitable invasion happens and you need to keep the bug-eyed Overlords on side.
The lack of a concrete answers extends all the way up to the so-called experts who will happily dispense well-researched and independently verified advice that you ABSOLUTELY MUST FOLLOW OR YOUR BABY WILL DIE, only to change their minds a nanosecond later.
We got our first hint of what was to come not long after the boy was born.
Me: I’m having trouble breastfeeding. Do you think it might be best to give him some formula to be going on with?
Midwife #1: And he will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy their babies with cartons of Aptamil.
Midwife #2: Ah away with you. Here, let’s give him some cake.
What The Experts Say
The global authority on baby feeding practises is the World Health Organisation, a UN body set up to ‘monitor the evolving global health situation.’ Think of them as a massive doctor cupping the Earth’s balls and asking it to cough.
In 2001 they threatened the Great British tradition of ‘poking a custard cream into a baby’s mouth to shut it up’ when they recommended infants be exclusively milk fed (preferably breast) for their first six months.
The UK agreed, and within days a mother-in-law chorus of but it didn’t do ‘em any harm in my day could be heard from space.
So far so clear. Ish. Even this advice is under scrutiny, with lots of research suggesting that delaying the introduction to solids can increase the risk of allergies, anaemia and multinational baby food companies getting all antsy with the government.
But assuming you’ve waited, your baby is now six months old, able to sit upright and it has a tongue. What happens now? Now you have a decision to make. And there’s no actual scientific research to help you. Just the anecdotal evidence of people who know as little as you do.
To Baby Led Wean or To Spoon Feed?
There is a school of thought that says feeding babies on purees means they grow up into slack-jawed fat toddlers, too lazy to chew and insisting their Fruit Pastels be blended into a mulchy mess of liquid e-numbers.
A second school of thought says that letting your baby decide what they stick in their gob will lead to a generation of mini AA Gills, imperiously demanding a tasting menu of morsels from which they may or may not deign to eat, and then filing a 2-star review in the Sunday Times due to their dinner tasting like the detritus swept up from a Rainforest Café’s floor.
Both are, of course, total bollocks. The only thing you need to take into account when deciding how to wean your child is this scientific decision chart I have developed for you.
See how easy that was? Congratulations. You are now ready to get started.
What You Will Need
If only weaning were as simple as throwing a cooked pig’s ear at your child and closing the kitchen door. But it isn’t. It requires infrastructure. Regardless of which route you are taking, here’s the bare minimum you should assemble before you attempt so much as a rice cake.
A High Chair: This serves two purposes. The first, to allow you easy access to your child’s mouth. The second, to allow food to fall from a greater height and reach a higher velocity, thus enabling a single dropped plate of food to warrant a household accident insurance claim.
A Floor Cover: See above. Something easily wipe cleanable that will catch the smatters. A Twister game mat is perfect. You may also choose to introduce a competitive element to help your baby’s motor co-ordination. “Half chewed broccoli floret, RED!”
A Seam Un-Picker: It is vital you remove all pockets and turn-ups from your baby’s clothing. They are magnets for food and have the potential to turn a simple pair of dungarees into a botulism time-bomb.
A Willingness To Let Your Hygiene Standards Slide: You’ll start by sterilising everything. Then you’ll introduce the 3 second-rule, provided you lick it clean. Before long you’ll be putting anything that looks like it may once have been organic matter into a bowl and hoping for the best.
A Cast-Iron Constitution: I used to gag like a cat with a hair ball if I so much as caught sight of a bit of wet bread. Now I make like a cat and simply lick the sticky, sicky, icky bits of half-gummed, saliva-ridden food scraps off Edgar’s face. It is far cheaper than baby wipes.
A Camera: There’s nothing like a picture of your sweet little angel with a carrot baton bindi and a face like a dirty protest to make all the effort worthwhile.
What Foods Should I Give My Child?
Sorry. I’m no expert in child nutrition. I am, as the title suggested, an idiot.
Besides, even if I could tell you what’s officially recommended and what isn’t, the moment I committed finger to keyboard, the authorities would only go and change their minds again. You may as well ask a Magic 8 Ball for advice.
However, if you absolutely must have a fool-proof rule of thumb, here’s something even an idiot can remember:
KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THEM: EITHER THEIR FACE OR THEIR SHIT WILL TELL YOU IF SOMETHING IS WRONG.
Oh, and for the record, since we’re officially a baby-led household (including baby-led whining, baby-led sleeping and baby-led acting like a moron to get a gummy smile) we’ve opted for the Baby Led Weaning route for the boy.