Q&A Interview with Julie Clark (author of Baby-led weaning: step by step)

As you know, we recently started weaning and we’re going with a mostly baby-led weaning approach (with some limited spoon feeding). On our journey we bought a really useful book and by chance the author, Julie Clarke, got in touch with me on Twitter and I asked here if she’d be happy to do an interview for the blog… well here it is 🙂

Our books about weaning

How did you become an expert/interested in baby-led weaning?

This is actually quite an interesting question and my answer may surprise you! Before I had my first baby I had not even heard of BLW. Being a Nutritionist I was determined to plan and eat well before my pregnancy and during my pregnancy but then reality hit me and I found myself craving things I wouldn’t normally eat such as ham and cheese sandwiches and my perfect nutrition went out of the window. I then had the most horrendous labour ending in an emergency (& very distressing) c-section.  I then struggled with breast-feeding and bonding with my baby and the vision I had of the perfect pregnancy and delivery left me feeling such a failure. I was then determined not to fail at the weaning stage and wanted to introduce my baby to a good whole food diet. It was by chance that my health visitor asked me if I’d heard of BLW. As mentioned before I had not so she simply said look it up I think it will resonate with you. Well, resonate doesn’t even begin to sum it up, it was like a light bulb moment for me and it has since changed the direction of my career. I love BLW, as a Nutritionist I obviously know what foods a baby needs as well as their nutrition requirements but using a method that encourages a good relationship with food, reduces the risk of being fussy and obesity is absolutely huge. I found that my friends with babies were asking me lots of questions and asking me for recipes and eventually they persuaded me to run a course. I guess becoming an expert in this subject comes from my experiencing with both my children, my knowledge of nutrition and the fact that I have helped 300 or more parents wean their children this way.

I’m guessing that spoon-feeding is the norm, but have you seen growing interest in baby-led weaning? if so, why do you think that is?

BLW is growing in popularity at a rapid rate. It seems to stem from the fact that we used to wean at 4 months when a baby could not feed themselves and purees/spoon feeding was used but move on 6 months and many babies are refusing to be spoon fed. At 6 months the vast majority of babies are more than ready and capable of feeding themselves. They do not want to be spoon fed and this had led many parents down the road of BLW. The method is not new but the phrase is and as more people get to know about it and see the benefits the more the word is spread. You also have people like me who are looking at ways to improve a child’s relationship with food and getting in at the weaning stage is the best possible place to start.

I’ve seen a bit of snobbery among mums who BLW, they can look down on mums who give babies puree, I would have thought they give BLW a bad name – what’s your view on this?

I have seen this myself and I do not have an issue with people spoon feeding or mixed feeding as long as they are doing the right thing for their baby. I do get frustrated when I see a Mum trying to spoon feed a baby who clearly wants to do it them self. I truly believe that if a Mum had all the facts they wouldn’t just spoon feed their baby unless there was really no other way (i.e. due to medical reasons etc). I’m on a lot of BLW groups and it does make me laugh how people can react to someone wanting to mix feed and most of the time it’s the people looking down that actually do not really understand the method. I see people say you are not doing BLW if the baby uses a spoon and only finger foods are allowed, this is completely ridiculous!

One of my friends started their baby on home-made purees, and missed the ‘gag reflex’ window so the baby is now struggling to eat ‘proper food’ – do you think there’s more that can be done to help educate new parents on weaning? If so, how? e.g. should everyone have a compulsory weaning check with their health visitor?

Yes I absolutely 100% agree that all new parents be given some nutrition and weaning education which is why my weaning course (Happy Little Eaters) is a 6 week course covering both nutrition and weaning. The biggest problem with keating this to the health visitors is that 1) there are not enough of them and they do not have the time and 2) they do not have any nutrition training!

And some more practical questions…

Baby W loves omelettes – do I need to limit how many eggs he has in a week?!

Eggs are a great food, packed full of essential fats, protein and nutrients. However, egg is one of the most common foods for babies and young children to be allergic to! There is no limit to amount of eggs you can use and babies are very clever and will only eat what they need.

When giving baby W fish I’m petrified that there will be a bone in it – do you have any tips on this or do I just need to carefully check each morsel?!

I still worry about this myself and my children are now 3 and 5 years. I always tell the fish monger (and this can be at the supermarket) that I’m giving this to young children and I need the fish to be filleted without bones. My local farmers market fish monger gets out a magnifying glass and tweezers to fillet the fish!!! Then even when I’ve cooked it I will go through it carefully before giving it my children.

Jenna from Tinyfootsteps asks: I’d like to know when 3 meals a day should be fully established? Jasmine (nearly 8 months) still only has 2 meals a day but still isn’t overly fussed about food. We are BLW.

Most babies will be having 3 meals a day around 9-10 months so it sounds like your baby is doing just fine. Remember that all babies are different though and when your baby needs 3 meals a day she will eat 3 meals a day!!

Sarah asks: Please ask Julie for meal ideas for dairy and egg allergic children. Particularly along lines of pancake and muffin type recipes. I’m at a real loss as to what to cook.

I often post up recipes on my facebook page and recently added a guide for allergy substitutions. For example you can substitute egg as a binder in recipes with mashed banana. Dairy alternatives are easy because you can use lots of different dairy free milks and spreads etc. Have a look at my page Spring Nutrition.

Hannah from hannahsays asks: Our little boy is 5 months at the beginning of December. We’re being recommended by the health visitor to keep breastfeeding up to six months and then start to wean. He’s starting to get upset at meal times because we all sit down to eat but he doesn’t get any but also if he’s on our laps rather than in his chair he tries to steal food from the plates (it’s happened once or twice on the last week or so).

We bought a high chair last week and so now at meal times we put him in the high chair so he knows “now we eat” but actually it’s not his mealtime. I give him his weaning spoons to play with rather than toys to distinguish further than now is a meal time.

When can we start and what should we start with as there seems to be mixed opinions.

Hannah you need a copy of my book!!! The recommended age for weaning is 6 months but some babies may be ready earlier. Getting him sat up with some spoons and a beaker of water is a great start. You can also give him a raw carrot to play with and gum. As soon as he is showing all of the signs – sitting up unaided, holding head up, showing interest in food then give him something to eat that he can play with and taste. At 6 months anything goes if a baby can pick it up (with the exception of honey, salt and anything processed). The best food to start with is fruit and vegetables. Try giving some steamed veg and see what he does. Do not wean earlier than 5 months though unless advised to do so on medical grounds.

So there we have it, thanks Julie for doing the interview and for some really helpful answers! If you’re interested in more about Julie, I reviewed her book here where you can also buy it, and you can follow her on facebook and Twitter

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