A month or so into our vegan baby led weaning journey and it’s all systems go! Even though Arthur is only at the beginning of his food exploration – with little nibbles and tiny tastes here and there, it feels very real having him included in mealtimes. I’m constantly thinking what can Arthur try next.
As a first time Mum and having never really witnessed what BLW is in practice, it’s all very new to me. Arthur who has only had milk his entire six months of life is entering a whole new phase – all of these flavours, textures, smells, feels and shapes – it’s very exciting for him.
Because I felt totally clueless on the matter, I slowly read the popular Gill Rapley Baby Led Weaning book while I had the chance. Reading this book, I found myself nodding along and relating to a lot of it in how Arthur would first start solids. This book isn’t specifically vegan, but has some relevant and current research on BLW. I then started researching some ideas for meals.
I was really happy to discover BLW is gaining popularity, with some of my Mumma friends taking this route over spoon feeding purée.
The main reasons we have chosen BLW
We have felt very strongly from the beginning that we want to follow Arthur’s lead, trusting his abilities to learn and take to new things, including eating. This coincides with our gentle parenting approach and feels completely natural for us.
With BLW – the baby is in total control of what goes into their mouths, under supervision of course. This is a great learning experience for them to experience food how it is eaten, be it crunchy, squidgy, stringy, juicy – rather than the same puréed texture which may get a bit boring. This also prevents potentially unwanted food being shovelled into their mouths and too far back for them to decline.
We are really keen for meal times to be inclusive, social and special times for us as a family. For this reason, Arthur will have the same foods as us and learn to feed himself with all the fun and mess that comes with it! It is thought that babies who have led their own weaning process are more social and less fussy eaters. I am trusting this will make future meals equally as inclusive.
Babies who have led the weaning process learn to chew from an early age, lowering the risk of choking down the line. It also helps develop their hand eye co-ordination as they learn to get the food or spoon into their mouths early on.
How Mumma has found it
At the beginning, I must admit I found it very tempting to feed him from the spoon. This is not BLW so I would give him a preloaded spoon instead. There were occasions where I would be tempted to guide it to his mouth as he was putting the wrong end of the spoon in his mouth, chucking porridge over his shoulder, flinging chia pudding onto the cupboards and rubbing avo in his eye. It must be some sort of motherly instinct to try and take control of the situation, however I have taken a back seat and let the mess continue. In fact Arthur is quite adamant already that he wants to do it himself without my input. It’s amazing how quickly they develop a sense of independence.
That gag reflex can be quite unerving to begin with, wondering if he was going to choke but I felt reassured that it is totally normal having spoken to other Mums. Babies have an incredibly sensitive gag reflex to prevent choking.
A very helpful tool in the difference between gagging and choking by the Red Cross:
I have learnt to accept that BLW is messy business – but it is so good watching his hilarious faces squishing the food up, painting the sides of his chair, waving a piece of broccoli around triumphantly.
It must also be a thing that if you’ve made the effort to make a special meal (virtually salt and sugar free) you want them to eat it! I am patient with him though as he’s so little and still so new to everything. I’m pretty sure he’ll be munching down on family faves when he is ready, not when I’m ready. This also means I don’t have to disguise veggies with a sweet fruit for him to like it.
I feel I may have been getting a little flustered in the beginning trying to make all salt free meals – but figured he’s only eating tiny amounts right now. Even so, I’ve been adding salt at the end for our dinners or stirring veggie stock at the end once Arthur’s portion is served.
My other half reminded me he does not need to be on a set number of meals a day just yet. BLW is a gradual process and I’ve realised that now. We’re only fives weeks in so I needed to check my expectations of him. I do wonder if this was influenced by “social norms” particularly since I’ve only ever known about spoon feeding. I was also reassured to discover some babies don’t show interest in food until seven or eight months. I then remind myself of the saying “food before one is just for fun”.
I must admit the bit of food waste really gets to me as I’m a big advocate for reducing waste. We have a floor matt for any food that gets chucked, like a cucumber can be picked straight back up and given to him. Unfortunately the dog doesn’t like some of the stuff dropped so those bits are composted.
Also, I’ve questioned whether I am a magpie. Sometimes my eye is drawn to all the colourful packaging in the baby food section in store. I’ve had a look at some ingredients and was shocked by some of the contents. The amount of ingredients in a rusk including sugar. Baby snacks come with all sorts of packaging also so I’ve easily resisted as I’m keen for home made whole foods with minimal or no packaging as possible.
How Arthur is doing – 5 weeks in
He is loving this new phase! So much textures to squidge, taste and paint with. He’s quite the artiste! We decided to give Arthur some bits and pieces around 1 week before he turned 6 months as he was showing interest by staring at us eating and trying to grab from our hands.
His first food was avocado which he had so much fun mushing everywhere. We then realised this is messy work as his chair, sleeves and floor were covered in avo, not to mention the bit in his eye. We’ve also discovered that chia seeds could survive a nuclear war. We find them in all sorts of places, even after a wash!
We had ordered his high chair without realising it would take a whole month to be delivered. In the meantime we got a second hand bumbo chair. We alternated between that and my lap for meal times. There were times when he was more interested in the buckle of the chair or taking the table off it. Again – it’s all about patience. I don’t expect my 6 month old baby to concentrate steadfastly on what food I put in front of him.
When Arthur’s high chair arrived – it’s like he knew it was for him, watching intently as his Dad assembled it! This has been a great help as he can perch at the end of our breakfast bar at meal times now and I’m no longer sat on the floor with him in the bumbo. Which may I add, he barely fit in with his chunky thighs.
He is not currently on a set number of meals a day. Breakfast is a staple as we all enjoy this together before Arthur’s Dad goes to work. I then offer him snacks through the day like fruit, veggies or bits of what I’m eating if it’s good for him. Sometimes he is too tired and asleep before dinner is ready. I was reassured to know that it can be a gradual process and he will totally follow his own needs, so long as we are offering varied food types.
He is definitely swallowing bits here and there, sometimes just sucking the juices out of what he’s got. We’ve certainly noticed a change in his nappies and he is going more regularly.
He has not yet dropped his milk feedings so we will continue to follow his lead with this, assuming he will need less milk the more solids he takes in.
He shows clear signs he is done having chucked what he wants on the floor matt numerous times, making a noise I’m familiar with or rubbing his eyes if he’s tired. We’ve also noticed he is more controlled with his foods, passing it from hand to hand, getting it into his mouth (occasionally).
What about his nutrients as a vegan?
At six months old, a babies main nutritional source remains as milk. The nutrients of breast milk does not deplete, however the babies nutritional needs is gradually increasing so his need for other foods increase with this. A baby grows the most in its first year of life than any other time. Additionally, I’ve read that food is to complement babies milk diet – not totally replace it yet.
I am mindful babies fat needs are higher than that of adults. So I’m making sure to offer fatty foods each day – such as avocado. I’m yet to make some yummy cashew or coconut milk.
Quinoa and hemp are some examples of complete plant proteins which we also offer him regularly. We are not overly keen on soya as we don’t eat it much ourselves anymore. Chia seeds and tahini are loaded with calcium and iron.
Arthur’s favourites so far are green veggies and oranges – a perfect combination for his iron and vitamin C levels.
We are not giving Arthur supplements right now. So try to ensure when we are out for walks his little face or hands are absorbing the vitamin D from the sun. I’m aware that B12 is a nutrient vegans can be deficient in. This is essential for a healthy nervous system. I currently take B12, vegan omega 3 (from algae) and a vitamin D supplement, so he is still getting it from milk. Foods such as nutritional yeast are fortified with B12 which can be a tasty addition sprinkled on food.
I understand there is a lot more to nutrition than this. Overall, I’m not concerned he will be lacking in anything so long as I provide him with varied and wholesome meals. He’s already thriving and on the 100th centile for his weight and height development. We have him weighed every couple of months out of interest and not to compare.
VEGAN BABY LED WEANING- First foods
We have tried not to give the same food every day – however because we have oats daily Arthur usually has a little taste too. We mix it up by adding organic raspberry, blueberry or dates with a different piece of fruit on the side.
Also we have made a conscious effort to opt for organic. I know this is not entirely achievable – but we do as much as we can.
- Ripe pear
- Lettuce cup
Steamed or Roasted
- Sweet potato fries
We’ve also used some herbs and spices such as garlic, turmeric, paprika, cumin, oregano and parsley so the foods aren’t overly bland for home – with the addition of tahini or homemade hummus for extra dippiness.
- Oats cooked with filtered water
- Breast milk chia pudding with mango
- Raw fruit from list above
- Green smoothie
- Quinoa porridge
- Gram flour omelette
- Organic brown rice cake with avo
- Canelleni Bean Pattie with quinoa
- Steamed or roasted veggies
- Organic pasta with veggie blended sauce
- Preloaded spoon quinoa
- Courgette spaghetti
- Steamed or roasted veggies
- Celeriac rosti
Although these are what we have offered, that’s not to say he has eaten or tried all of them. Some of them have ended up eaten by the dog or in compost.
What’s been helpful?
Obviously eating comes naturally and equipment is not entirely essential. Babies instinctively eat with their hands.
But some bits and bobs that have come in handy during this BLW journey for me to get tidied up after the fun. Of course this is not essential and just what’s helped us. I sometimes dream of being in a warm country where he could just munch away in his nappy not needing all the get up.!His cousin in Australia goes for a dip in the pool after a messy dinner!
- Wipe clean mat – still not big enough for the mess but helps minimise it and saves food waste to an extent when food is dropped.
- Long sleeved bib – rinsable between meals and dries quickly
- Cheeky wipes for his face – these are nice and soft for his face and hands afterwards with warm water
- Muslins – roll this up and tuck it in between his tray and lap
- Bamboo bamboo suction bowl and spoon – prevents the bowl being flung across the room – not the spoon though 🙂
- Lots of cloths for mopping up the surrounding area!
- Sippy cup with handles – to offer him filtered water before/after meals.
If Arthur has gotten really messy, I sometimes sit him on the sofa on a larger muslin to get him changed and cleaned up. If I lay him down – I double check his mouth has not got food in it as babies are like hamsters and store food in their cheeks apparently! I give him his sippy cup of water to have also once we’re done which he usually just chats to or plays with.
So far, it’s been a fun journey. I’m looking forward to exploring new foods with my baby boy and seeing what his favourite Mumma’s home cooked meals will be.
Disclaimer: Hopefully this has been of some use. Obviously I am not a BLW expert or nutritionist so always seek advise from others or professionals if you are experiencing any issues or concerned about your child.