At Mini First Aid we will be talking lots about Baby Weaning this autumn and are particularly excited to be working with the Chiappas on the launch of their new 'Baby at the Table' book.
One of our franchisee's Ruth shares her own experience of baby-led weaning and the talks about the fears that parents have of a baby choking.
Yesterday I was making soup for myself, my parents and my two small children (4 and 1), and my lovely Mum, now in her 70s, was helping. It was chicken and noodle soup, and Mum was tasked with chopping the pre-cooked chicken breast. I looked over, and was surprised by how small she was chopping it up;
“That’s great Mum, it doesn’t need to be any smaller, thanks!”
Then I got the classic response from a woman of her generation, who raised children in the 70s and 80s:
“Oh but it needs to be small for the children to manage; I don’t want them choking on it!”
The fear of choking, as demonstrated by my own Mum, and by many of the parents I saw when I was working as a health visitor and now as a Mini First Aid trainer, is a big one. A BIG ONE. It’s that big. It needs saying in capitals! A common misconception is that weaning a baby onto solid foods is a really risky time for choking to happen, so I want to reassure you about that. Of course there are always some risks of choking when eating; but personally I would think a riskier time is when a baby is first on the move, and finds things that are just perfect to pop into their mouths when your back is turned for a second!
Babies are ready to wean onto solid foods at about 6 months; they can sit well, with a little support in a high chair and have good hand/eye coordination to manage putting the food into their own mouths. This means that we can sit at a table with them; they can watch us as we eat. Baby’s a GREAT at watching and learning. So be a good example to them! Sit and take your time with your food, take sensible-sized mouthfuls and chew properly! It is common sense that you aren’t going to hand them a sandwich and walk out the door; stay with them, watching carefully and checking they are being safe, while having fun enjoying their food. (Fun is important, let them touch, smell, and see the food as well as taste it!)
There are two main schools of thought about which foods to wean your baby on; purees (which are thought of as traditional but actually are a relatively recent idea), and what is now known as ‘Baby-led weaning’. Baby-led weaning is as old as the hills; it’s what we have been doing for generations, apart from the last 150 years or so, and to try to sum up, instead of spooning puree into out baby’s mouth, we put a selection of food in front of them (usually from our own plates) for them to feed themselves with.
My two older children were puree-weaned. It was all I knew at the time. Then when I was Health Visiting in Bath I was lucky enough to hear Gill Rapley speak on baby-led weaning; in fact it was her and her research that is responsible for coining the phrase! So my younger two children have been ‘baby-led’. I have handed them cooked vegetables and meat, fruit, bread or pasta and more in good sized chunks, for them to feed themselves; and they have loved it!
Which brings me neatly back to the chunks; a small chunk, put in its entirety into a little mouth, has the risk of being a choking hazard. My Mum had carefully cut those bits of chicken into perfect wind-pipe-sized pieces! Give a baby a large chunk, that they can grab about 50% of in their fist, and another 50% sticking out; then they can hold it well, stick the end in their own mouth and decide how they are going to manage it. They may just suck it (to unrecognisable mush), they may manage to gum a piece off – but THEY have the control. Which Gill’s research found is SAFE! A baby has natural mechanisms in place to protect them from choking; a gag reflex which is considerably further forwards in their mouth than ours is, and a cough! More information about Baby Lead Weaning can be found on www.rapleyweaning.com
Happy, and safe weaning (and don’t cut those chunks too small!)