So having said that Daniel rarely eats together with other babies any more, there have been a couple of occasions of communal dining in the past couple of weeks, and these have both reinforced to me that BLW is no guarantee of faster skills development. The first occasion was a bit of a living room picnic when we got together with another bunch of our friends from the antenatal group. Confirming what I’d observed before, Daniel is by no means any more advanced in his ability to feed himself as a result of BLW than any of his puree-weaned pals – in fact some of them were definitely more efficient than he is at stripping down a slice of melon! And then the next day we had brunch at the home of some other antenatal group friends, and their little boy was at least as good as Daniel, if not better, at tackling strawberry and pineapple pieces. Discussing this with the mums in question, we concluded that babies probably develop their hand-eye-mouth skills at a pretty similar rate, and are not speeded up by the practice of BLW, but the advantages still hold true about less hassle for the parents and the enjoyment of eating in tandem rather than in shifts.
Daniel has tried a few new things over the past fortnight. Mini-weetabix have been a pretty good addition to breakfast time. They hold their shape for longer than full-sized weetabix so he can have a good go at picking them up whole (his pincer grip is really coming on a treat now) and then when they go mushy, he finishes them up via loaded spoons. He also appears to love cinnamon raisin bread, whether toasted or ‘cold’. And I finally got up the courage to open up a tin of mackerel in tomato sauce, having stared at it with trepidation before replacing it in the cupboard on multiple occasions! Daniel was totally unfazed by his first foray into oily fish and went for it both in chunks straight as it comes, and also mashed up with some mayonnaise on ricecakes. However, the downside of baby-led fish is that it really made his fingers stink, the smell lingering even after bathtime – which was rather offputting in the middle of the night when he’d moved into our bed and had his hand right in my face!
Some good news is that we had a soup which had some chilli in it the other day, and this time Daniel coped with it just fine. I got a bit gung-ho, however, and gave him a slice of Jalapeno pepper from my nachos when we ate out at Chiquito’s on Saturday night. This was a step too far and we were back to the gasping and eye watering! The meal ended much better though, as he thoroughly enjoyed the complimentary mini-milk ice lolly that our waiter brought for him.
I’m actually having a bit of an inner struggle with the sweets and puddings thing, as I know you’re not supposed to give babies sugar too often, but it turns out I have quite low willpower in this regard. It seems a bit hypocritical that I find myself so often having something sweet and tasty but not sharing it with Daniel. I think if I can work out my own rationale as to why it’s not a good idea, then I’ll be able to stick to it better. I like Annabel Karmel’s advice that, since babies take in so little food, every part of it should have nutritional value, but then it only seems fair to offer him dessert when we’re having some – part of learning about normal social mealtimes! I guess the thing to keep in mind is that I want him to get used to enjoying a wide range of healthy things that he can plough into with abandon, before adding in the concept of ‘occasional treats’. But equally, I don’t want to sow seeds for ‘issues’ if certain foods become off-limits or seen as bargaining tools.
An exciting development has been to see Daniel starting to swipe his spoon across his dish, rather than dropping it and going in with his hands every time. He’s by no means ‘scooping’ yet, but he seems to have cottoned onto the fact that the spoon can be used as a tool. And also this week, away from the dinner table, he’s also started putting-things-into-things, so we’ll watch with anticipation for when he puts the two skills together at a mealtime!
Finally just to update on his weaning in the sense of milk feeds, he’s now dropped to just seven or eight ‘boobfuls’ per day. So that’s about 1/3 down on what he was having before he started on solids, and he will now easily go for four hours between feeds, sometimes even five. Nightfeeds-wise, his bedtime is still pretty late – around 9.30 or 10pm – and he’s still having a breastfeed somewhere between midnight and 2am, but if he wakes again later in the night (which he tends to do at least once), he can usually be soothed back to sleep without a feed (though this generally involves coming in to sleep in our bed), and then sleeps through until about 9am. So extrapolating from this, I figure that if he had a more normal baby bedtime of around 7-8pm, then he’d be ‘dreamfeeding’ at 10ish and then sleeping through until about 7am, which seems perfectly reasonable to me. I still prefer the slightly later schedule, so at the moment we’ll stick with it!