Tuesday 6 March 2012

How I Weaned Joseph

I find weaning, particularly with premature babies, to be such a confusing topic and something I am asked about often, so this week I am concentrating on weaning, but especially with premature babies.

When Joseph was in NICU I recall reading that premature babies are weaned on their actual age, that is from when they are born, not when they should have been born. There are three key reasons for this. Firstly the gut is processing food in one way or another from the moment they are born, as the placenta is no longer doing its job. Therefore it makes sense that the system will be ready for food at around 6 months of age. Secondly the developing premature baby needs additional iron stores. Yes they take supplements, but there are downsides to these, so the sooner food is established, the sooner this iron supplementation can finish. And finally, there is some evidence that weaning helps with speech, and I certainly have found this to be the case.

Initally, when pregnant I had read Baby Led Weaning by Gill Rapley. Expecting a fat termie, that's how I wanted to wean my baby. However Gill advises against BLW with babies born before 37 weeks gestations. I will post tomorrow about the limitations of Baby Led Weaning and how these can be overcome.

I decided that I would try and use the principles but adapt them to suit us. I started Joseph at 24 weeks actual age, which is chronologically 6 months (6 x 4 weeks). He was ready and had been for a few weeks. He mouthed for food and tried to reach out as much as he could. Being 13 weeks early meant his motor skills were way behind. I do think in termie babies this is often just copying behaviour, but in premature babies is often an indicator of readiness.

Joseph had avocado for his first food. I decided that for me the most important principle of Baby Led Weaning was less the finger food aspect and more the fact that the child is eating what the family is eating. I would have avocado on toast, and he would have it in a bowl.

Joseph quickly learnt to like a wide variety of food. I would always offer some finger good as well, and when possible the same foodstuff, so pureed carrot was accompanied by softly cooked sticks of carrot.

I found weaning really enjoyable, and I tried wherever possible just to puree up a bit of what we were having rather than cook seperate meals, which I found really easy. I did use Annabel Karmel  quite a lot too, and adapted her food for us.

I would like to say my approach has produced a well rounded brilliant eater, but at nearly 3 he's as fussy as the next toddler!

Such is life!

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