Dad-led weaning: A first-hand account

Sam admits it hasn't all been smiles getting his little one into a new eating routine

New father Sam Fortescue tries various approaches with daughter Olga, with differing degrees of success

It wasn’t meant to be like this. We had read the weaning books (the royal ‘we’, admittedly) and decided that baby-led weaning was the way to go. We’d seen the cute pictures of little people wearing spaghetti, and kitchens resembling an explosion in a spinach-packing plant. But we loved the idea of Olga building a healthy relationship with food that would avoid the hours spent coaxing her to eat two mouthfuls of mush. We knew it would be messy, so we’d bought a jazzy floor mat, a place mat and drafted in some extra bibs. The kitchen walls could be wiped clean, and we made sure we weren’t togged up in anything fine when it came to meal times. What could go wrong?

Week 1

The Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair arrived at long last. Like most red-blooded men, I disdained the instructions on assembly, ensuring that it took twice as long to build as it should have done. Nonetheless, it was very simple to put together.

The Tripp Trapp is designed to slide up against the table so your baby can be part of family meals. A fine principle, we both thought. Certainly Olga seems enthusiastic, and doesn’t sit still with her delight.

We started slowly: steamed carrot sticks and celery. ‘Celery?’, I hear you ask – the fibrous, hard-to-chew stalk? Yes, indeed. And no, it didn’t go down too well. Olga’s first tooth still isn’t through, so she made better use of it as a teething aid than a meal.

Week 2

Rice cake starter today. Olga makes short work of the first, which rapidly dissolves in her sticky little hands. She gets halfway through the second one before deciding to experiment by dropping it on the floor. She then spends the rest of the meal craning over the side of her high chair for a better view of her handiwork, looking for all the world like a little lorry driver leaning out of her cab. She’s getting used to helping herself.

With two lactose-intolerant parents, we’ve been told that there’s an 80% chance that Olga will also have trouble with dairy protein. Unfortunately, this counts out some staple weaning options, including cheese. Porridge should be OK, we reckon.

Because her weight-gain hasn’t been stellar, we decide to spoon-feed the porridge to ensure it goes down well. Olga takes to this novel method keenly. She quickly gets into the habit of opening her mouth when she’s ready, like a fledgling demanding to be fed.

The porridge that had seemed so promising the day before is now firmly off the menu. Olga wolfed it down, then had two good meals of puréed potato and veg the day before. But when it came to bedtime she looked a bit peaky, then, to her own astonishment as well as ours, began to projectile vomit everywhere. The whole day’s food had come back up. No more oats, then.

We stick to special-treat Ella’s Kitchen pouches, which Olga eyes greedily as we dish them out.

Week 3

Olga has a weigh-in today and is declared to have slipped from 25th percentile to 15th percentile. It’s clear that we’re going to have to pep up her mealtimes. It also makes us even more reluctant to trust baby-led weaning. It feels as if she can’t afford any bad feeds.

Week 4

We slip into a routine where Olga has formula, baby rice and fruit compote for breakfast, mashed veg, potato and meat paste for lunch and a veggie-carb brew for supper. In between, we present her with steamed vegetables, sliced fruit or the odd Organix snack.

We discover that Weetabix has a similar effect to oats, so cross that off the list. Rice, quinoa and baby pasta go down well, however.

Mealtimes feel a bit restrictive, and we try not to rely too heavily on shop-bought pots, but there’s something heartbreaking about seeing her screw up her face at the lovingly handcrafted parsnip, pea and lamb lunch, then wolf down a purée pack. However, she’s thriving, inquisitive about everything and very chatty, so it can’t be going too badly. It goes to show, little people have minds of their own, and don’t always stick to the plan.