Parenting Vegan Baby Led Weaning

Ready, steady, go! Starting solid foods with our daughter

Starting solid foods: Two containers of homemade hummus, one of which contains salt, and one of which is made without salt for a baby.

And so it begins!

I was dreading starting solid foods with our baby.

And I hated the word and concept of ‘weaning’ her off my breastmilk.

And I was fairly sure we were perfectly happy as we were, thank you very much.


Our journey

We’ve been breastfeeding exclusively now with our daughter for almost six months, in line with World Health Organisation guidelines. Sometimes this has been easy, and sometimes this has been tricky, but we’ve worked it all out along the way and learned to love it.

Now what? The current UK guidance around starting solid foods with your baby felt frustratingly broad and vague. I was left with a lot of questions: when, how, and how much?

There is no end of programmes and approaches to weaning or starting solid foods, available via coaches, books, and apps. Most approaches seemed to come with strict rules opinions about the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways of starting solid foods, warning of potentially disastrous and long-reaching consequences, ranging from iron deficiency and malnutrition, to attachment and social issues, to life-long selective or fussy eating.

People we know with babies a similar age to our daughter fell quite hard into two camps for starting solid foods: the ‘puree and wean quickly’ camp, and the ‘baby led weaning’ camp. For both approaches, the people we know prepare food separately for their baby, and offer their babies foods that are nothing like what we eat as a family.


Puree-first

People we know offering their babies puree for starting solid foods began by offering a single puréed vegetable. They then offered a different vegetable or food item each day.

We liked that this approach to starting solid foods was methodical, and that it was clear if the baby was having a reaction to a specific ingredient. However, the foods involved in this approach often sounded quite unappealing to us (a whole bowl of of green bean puree, or boiled aubergine puree, anyone?).


Baby led weaning

There were differences in the ways people we know were doing baby led weaning. Beginning this approach seemed to generally involve starting solid foods by:

  • Steaming single vegetables until they were very soft or falling apart;
  • Cutting the vegetables into the right sizes and shape for the baby to pick up with their hands;
  • Offering the baby several food items at the same time using segmented plates.

We liked the focus on the baby picking things up, and making choices over what they ate.


Our verdict

Neither baby led weaning nor puree-first approaches to starting solid foods looked like the food that we eat. Neither looked like the food that we hope our baby will eat, either.


Our approach to starting solid foods

We had a good think about the ‘kind of eater’ we want our daughter to grow up to be, in an ideal world. We wanted to try to offer her food in ways which are consistent with this. Ideally, we would like our to daughter to eat:

  • Foods that are as similar as possible to those that we eat;
  • Liquid and solid foods;
  • Sweet and savoury foods;
  • Foods made from multiple ingredients;
  • Foods that are flavoured with e.g., lemon juice, vinegar, oils, herbs, and spices;
  • Food free from added refined sugar and salt.

In terms of the ‘how’, we would like our daughter to eat in tune with her own interest and appetite, and to eat more solid food gradually, at a rate and pace she is comfortable with, ‘topping up’ food with breast milk until she is no longer interested in drinking it.

We therefore decided to offer our daughter the same food as we are eating from the very beginning. For breakfasts and lunches, we eat a lot of soups, smoothies, and porridge, which do not lend themselves well to being eaten easily with the hands, without substantial modification. For main meals, we eat a lot of mixed-ingredient meals: pasta dishes with vegetable sauces; chillis; curries and flavoured rice. We also flavour our food with lemon juice, oils, and herbs and spices.

We decided we would modify the foods we were eating wherever necessary e.g., we would mash the food if it was not a texture or consistency that our baby would be able to manage; or take her food out of the ‘main pot’ before we added salt.


How is starting solid foods going so far?

So far, it’s really early days with offering our daughter solid food, and she’s largely having ‘tasters’. To eat these, she has sat on our knees at a meal time, and eaten the foods off our finger – seeing the food on our pinky finger, grabbing our finger with two hands, and guiding it towards her mouth.

So far, our daughter has tried:

  • Hummus (Ingredients: chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, black pepper, tahini)
  • Banana and peanut butter smoothie (ingredients: banana, soya milk, peanut butter, ginger, turmeric)
  • Porridge (ingredients: oats, soya milk, cinnamon)
  • Suma pear and apple spread
  • Everyday lentil soup
  • Mango

Our daughter is confused by the solid foods not tasting of milk, but is very interested. She goes back for more each time, and we keep giving her ‘tasters’ for as long as she is interested in pulling them into her mouth, at her own pace. This approach feels like it follows her lead, and feels a very gentle way of introducing solid food. It feels right for our baby and our family.

Our next steps will be trying different foods (including foods containing avocado, and a number of different kinds of beans and vegetables), and introducing her to sitting in her high chair.


I’d love to hear about you, in the comments or on @wholemealmum or #wholemealmum.

How did you/ are you offering your baby solid food?


wholemealmum

Mother of a baby girl, born in July 2021. Finding my way with it all. Recipes, parenting, and walking.

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