Guest Blog from Happy Tums: Responsive Feeding

Happy Tums • Jul 10, 2020

from first posted 23/7/18

When I first had children, I am not going to lie but I found having my life completely utterly turned upside with no sense of routine quite hard to take and I found myself believing that if Jack had some sort of routine, my life would be easier. So, yes, I decided to read Gina Ford. In fact, I even made up spreadsheets with set times for sleep, eat and play and stuck them up all over the house! I was convinced that this would give me some sort of sense of “myself” back – well, how wrong was I?!!

I didn’t take long for me to realise that Jack didn’t “conform” to any sort of routine. And, trying to keep to Gina Ford’s ridiculous timescales was far more distressing than it was before I thought it was a good idea to brush off my excel skills and tabulate the life of a baby in lines and columns.

I very quickly realised that in terms of responding to Jacks needs at the times he needed to eat, sleep, play or just cuddle up was far more rewarding.

When we talk about responsive feeding when weaning, it is all about going back to basics and listening to our little ones. We need to understand that the only person who knows when they want to eat and when they are hungry are our clever babies themselves. At 6 months, they are not able to tell us vocally that they are hungry or that they have had enough to eat so we need to look out for their cues.

When we begin weaning, we need to understand that not all babies are ready to eat at 6 months and it is not uncommon for babies to not be interested in food at this age. We do need to keep offering food from 6 months (as long as our babies are showing the physical signs of being ready to eat which are all discussed in a Weaning in a Nutshell Workshop) but if they are not seemingly bothered about eating just yet, we can’t do anything about it. And so, when we start weaning, we need to be responsive. We need to respond to our babies and when they are ready to start eating, they will. Don’t forget, their milk, whether breast or formula, gives them all the nutrition they need at this stage to keep healthy, grow and develop.

So what about once they are eating on a regular basis, how does responsive eating come into play then? Well, this is something which we discuss a lot on our workshops. As parents, our instinct is to nurture our young and one of the ways of doing this is via food. Food is nourishment and we want to make sure we nourish our children. Food is one way we can fulfil maternal (and paternal) instincts of providing sustenance to ensure our babies are well looked after. But, we need to do this responsively.

We have to listen to our small people as they start on solids. We need to offer finger foods or purees on spoons but we need to look for those cues that they have had enough and their little tummies are full. For those doing baby-led weaning (blw), it is a lot easier to notice that your baby has had enough to eat. Francesca used the blw method when we introduced solids to her and when she was full; she would pick up the pieces left on her tray and put them on the floor. She would try and lob pieces to the other side of the room or she would try to feed them to Gromit, our dog! Once she started doing this, I knew it was time to get her out of her highchair as mealtime was over.