Baby Led Weaning

Growing healthy babies with healthy appetites

Health Visitors and Eating 'Enough'

I keep on seeing people on other websites saying that their Health Visitors are advising mothers that their babies 'should' be on three meals a day by a certain age. (I'm not even going to print the age because the whole concept is bogus, so those of you who have stumbled on this page in a desperate search for hard facts which prove you are inadequate parents who are starving your children will be forced to look elsewhere.)

Now, I should stress that I am not accusing my own Health Visitor here because she has studiously avoided me since I quizzed her relentlessly when she came to give me her weaning talk… 'baby rice for the first week, apple puree for the second, carrot puree the third and then you're on your own'… and told her I was going to do Baby Led Weaning, which of course she'd never heard of. Having nervously suggested that the baby might choke to death she left the building and has never been seen again.

(Funnily enough, Morv goes to the same surgery as I do and the whole reason she weaned Boomer a little bit earlier was because of the panicky Health Visitors claiming to have seen her take a dip on the centile charts. I wouldn't know about Babybird because since all the problems I had with breastfeeding in the beginning – which one day I will work up sufficient bile to tell you all about – I have kept her away from the weighing scales and been much the happier for it.)

Anyway, I just can't understand how these other Health Visitors can be so definitive about what babies
'should' be eating. Think about it, with every other area of child
development they give you months of leeway either side and solemnly tell you NOT
to compare your child with other babies, but with weaning it's so prescriptive. Can you imagine if they indicated that you weren't doing a good job as a mother if your baby wasn't walking by a year? It drives me crackers because it stresses mothers out and that stress absolutely transmits to the child, leading to food anxieties all round…

So it seems to me that if your child is happy, healthy and enjoying playing with food, then you are doing just fine. Don't cut back on milk feeds, as I have heard some (idiot) Health Visitors advise, high-calorie milk is their main source of nutrients for the first year, and just leave the food for fun. As for three meals a day, bollocks. Only in the wealthy West do we finish our breakfasts while we wonder what we're having for lunch. Babybear sometimes has one, two or three solid feeds (sometimes with snacks if she wants them) because, and pardon me if I appear to be going over old ground here… we are doing Baby Led Weaning, not Health Visitor Led Weaning.

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43 Responses to “Health Visitors and Eating 'Enough'”

  1. Anonymous says:

    My little tot is now 4 1/2 months old. Her little friends are all a bit older. I told them about baby led weaning a while ago. Despite this they are all merrily shovelling baby rice and mashed carrot into their babies. Have not started my babe on any solids yet as she seems very happy with boob. She is getting good at sitting with support but can't pick things up herself yet. Should she be able to both sit without help and pick food up herself first? Don't want to put her in high chair too early! When to start???

  2. Anonymous says:

    Have just read link 'Baby Led Weaning Guidelines' again which says study sat babes in high chair from 4 months, but suggests end of month 6. Guess I should just use my common sense and see how the babe responds.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My honest opinion would be to wait until she is nearer the 6 month mark, there is some evidence that this errs to the super-safe side with regards to allergies and gut issues. There isn't a hard and fast rule as such, but if your baby is happy with breastmilk and so are you, then why give yourself the hassle of weaning at all yet? Because while it is a great laugh, it is also not as miraculously convenient and clean as whipping out a boob.
    Plus, and this is only my feeling, I don't really have anything to back it up, I wonder if the longer you leave it the easier it is for them to improve their skills quickly? Eating and holding the food requires quite an amount of dexterity, and I personally don't think Babybear had it sussed until about 7 months. I understand that it's tempting because I bet it's all your friends are talking about, but you might as well hang fire if you can.
    With regards to the guidelines, the way I read it is that food was put in front of the babies from 4 months but, crucially, they were not able to feed themselves until 6 months. This, by coincidence or not (and I interpret it that Gill Rapley would think not) also complies with the World Health Organisation research on the gut sealing itself and the outside recommendations for weaning age.
    A bit of a blether there but I hope it helps.

  4. Anonymous says:

    oh hang on… you weren't talking about starting BLW, you were talking about putting her in a highchair? Sorry, I mis-read that. I don't think we put Babybear in her chair until she got to 6 months, but that's because we didn't have one…

  5. Anonymous says:

    We put The Pixie into a highchair as soon as she could reasonably sit on her own without slumping sideways. I can't remember the exact age (does it really matter), but it was more like 5 months, I guess. We gave her spoons to play with and measuring cups, and other loud food-related things, to play with whilst we ate. She gradually become more and more interested in what we were doing, until she practically tried to climb out of the highchair in order to try and grab what we were eating. Until then, it was just a convenient place for her to sit, so we could eat a meal all together.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Boomer was about 6 mths I think when we but her in a highchair – it was all a bit random and in th IKEA food bit and it just seemed like a ok idea , at this time she could sit resonably well with the odd tumble backwards.

  7. Anonymous says:

    yes bollocks to the weigh ins, I havn't had Boomer weighed since I was scared into action by the well meaning health visitors. Boomer has always been really really really healthy looking and a rounded baby shape and I should have just trusted what I coul see and not been so worried – very easy to say now a mere 4 mths later. The percentile charts are so flawed anyway and I think cause more worry than reassurance.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Thankfully, The Pixie's docs (over in the US we don't have HV's, not sure whether that's good or bad..) spend about 10 secs looking at the percentile charts, and then pretty much ignore them. The nurse jokes about whether she's “met the curve” yet. The charts are such a load of rubbish. As long as the kid's healthy, not losing weight and pooing and weeing loads, who cares where they sit on a chart designed for FF babies? After all, to have percentiles, by definition some are going to be at the 10th and some at the 90th. That's the whole point..

  9. Anonymous says:

    This website has been great for me: my 9 month old BG is very happy to taste things and play with food but not eat meals as such. I had been trying lots of different things but feeling guilty (am I lazy etc) about giving up puree-ing or cooking specific baby foods (no time) and just handing BG bits of food that I was eating. So now I know I was doing BLW all along. Luckily BG has a robust figure and hence I haven't seen my HV since her (early) developmental check who suggested that everything was okay with her eating small amounts (hurrah). However my friend with a more delicate petite BB was told that if he didn't keep his weight above the centile she should put double cream in his bottle..!! Surely this is madness and advice was fortunately ignored. Anyway I wish I had seen this website sooner as I have been grassed up by being seen feeding BG Quavers (okay a bad idea) and pizza (proper Italian so tomato on ciabatta really) but had no real defence…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Saucy, you still have no defence on the Quavers front… tut, tut, but you're bang on with the pizza. It's one of Babybear's top favourites, particularly the crust. I think loads of people do their own versions of BLW but they don't tell people because as perfect mothers we are supposed to spend all our days grinding and sieving and pureeing… sounds boring to me. Nice to have you here, Saucy, I'm glad you've enjoyed what you've read so far. (As for the double cream… wow.)

  11. Anonymous says:

    double wow to the double cream was that advice from a HV or a farmer?

  12. Anonymous says:

    I have a theory. I'm on the local MSLC so I kind of know what some HVs think. They seem to say an awful lot of want the Mum thinks she wants to hear as to not upset them. Lots of reassuring, you're doing good job stuff even if they are doing something not entirely beneficial for the baby.
    Many mums seem to like starting solids, perhaps they are bored and it's something new to do. There's also the mistaking the 4 month growth spurt and nightwaking for needing solids.
    The HVs are so used to women wanting “permission” to start solids early they dish that advice out to everyone, assuming we all think that way I guess.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Well that's true, I guess. God knows that there are few areas more sensitive than what and how we feed our children – just ask Jamie Oliver! So I can imagine that some Health Visitors try to fight shy of upsetting their clients. (Although in my experience they certainly weren't shy when they were criticising my continuing desire to breastfeed.) What's an MSLC, by the way?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Maternity Services Liason Committee, all trusts have them. I'm a laymember, I just tell them what I think of the maternity care we get in my area and they actually listen.
    I too was criticised for breastfeeding my ds2 aged 6 months in clinic once. “Not still doing that are you?” shouted out the SMA mug wielding HV in front of loads of new mums.
    So I sent a bit of a tantrum of an e-mail to the Primary Care Trust about it. It worked, we now have a new breastfeeding policy, no formula leaflets, a breastfeeding support group and room. The HV's have gone on the babyfriendly course too. Big improvement thankfully!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Well done you!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Feel really quite comforted having read these comments. My baby is just over 4 months and has been on the 50th percentile all along until the past few weeks when she has dipped to between the 50th and 25th – only put on 4oz in two weeks as of yesterday. So the HV advised me to start weaning and then started on about all the pureed veg and baby rice, etc. I don't really feel she's ready for it yet though – she's so small!! She's also not waking at night and seems perfectly content between milk feeds – the exception at the moment is maybe the last feed of the night when I don't seem to have enough milk left for her. I also want to give BLW a go and obviously that's best from about 6 months. But I don't want to be completely irresponsible and have her weight drop. HV has said I should go back next week to get her weighed and if no improvement then I know she will push for me to put her on solids. I kind of wish I wasn't bothering to weigh her as she looks perfectly healthy and is happy and content . . . most of the time! Has anybody got any advice – on whether or not to start weaning and if so what to start her with seeing as she can't even sit up on her own yet!

  17. Anonymous says:

    I guess the main point I took from your post is that you don't think she's ready for it yet. If you don't think she's ready to wean; don't wean her.
    I wouldn't bother getting her weighed next week. Perhaps go in a couple of weeks if you want to. There's alot of variation in weight gain especially in BF babies. You could always cheat and give her a big feed before you take her – that'll add another 8ish oz to the scales!
    When you next see your HV tell them that i) she's content after feeds ii) she's still going the same amount of time between feeds iii) she's not waking in the night iv) she can't sit. Ask how low calorie dense food, like baby rice, will help weight gain. Ask why they are recommending weaning before six months, contrary to NHS and WHO guidelines.
    Obviously you don't need to do all that! But it helps to bolster your position if you believe all those things. Ultimately though, you don't think she's ready and that's the only reason you need.

  18. Anonymous says:

    poor you… how stressful. the thing is, i don't really understand the centiles because after my grim experiences with getting my daughter weighed every two days in the first few weeks of her life i vowed not to put us through it any more. so i don't have the faintest idea where she is on the charts.
    what i can tell you, though, is that i have observed her getting fatter and skinnier over the piece, and for the most part the leaner times have co-incided with growth spurts. and four months is a recognised time for babies to have growth spurts…. has your baby been getting longer, do you think? i really noticed it when her toes started curling in her babygros…
    would it be possible for you to have a 'babymoon' for a day (or even two) where you just spend the time in bed with the baby doing skin-to-skin and feeding as often as possible to maybe 'up' your milk so that you can feel more confident about that last feed?
    sorry i don't have anything more useful… all i can say is that she's your baby, not the HV's. you already know that milk is infinitely more calorific that baby rice or sticks of carrot, so your HV's advice sounds crackers to me, but perhaps she has another take on it? at four months, i would certainly have thought that she might push formula on you, but early weaning doesn't sound right to me. (or you, crucially).
    Morv had a similar experience to yours with her HV, so hopefully she'll be along soon to sympathise.
    also have you thought about posting somewhere else as well?
    there are a lot of weaning experts (ie mothers) who go on mumsnet and their opinions, while varied, will give you an idea of where you stand.
    mumsnet weaning page

  19. Anonymous says:

    I know a lot of mums who have been told by HVs to wean babies on the lower end on the centile charts before 6 months and it really chuffs me off. WHY replace the perfect baby food – milk – with low calorie puree before they are even physiologically ready for it?
    I have heard the same HV who told mums to wean early then telling them that it is normal for weight to stabilise when first weaning because they get fewer calories. Aargh!
    Just ignore them, I have not heard a single worthwhile piece of advice from a HV but I have heard a great deal of ill-informed bollocks. And if your baby is on the heavy side, they start spouting on about obesity. You can't win.
    Phew, deep breaths, in, out…

  20. Anonymous says:

    Thank you all for the advice and support and so quick too! It is really appreciated and has helped me feel more confident that I am doing the right thing. Would love a babymoon day but have a two year old as well so wouldn't be able to sadly – sounds gorgeous! I did tell the HV all the things Moomin pointed out which is how she agreed to “allow” me another week! Most decent of her I must say!! Her h to my question about it not being advised to wean until 6 months was that they used to do it at 3 months years ago!! Mmm! Was thinking about never going back to the clinic again but am a bit of a one for not going against “rules” – even those set by HV! Not sure I'll have the guts not to return next week! But I do feel more sure about not weaning yet so thank you. The only concern I do have at the moment is that my boobs do feel quite empty even now and so I'm not sure I have quite enough milk for baby (particularly near the end of the day) – but then again surely they'll adjust given time and produce more if she's wanting more? It was only a week or so ago that I had too much milk and was having to express some off for comfort's sake. It's all so confusing!!

  21. Anonymous says:

    re not having enough milk for your baby, maybe your supply has settled down now, it does around this time, also, i always thought that the majority of the milk your baby takes when nursing is made at the same time, so u cant 'run out' as it were.
    as for health visitors – pfft – ignore them, u could even lie to them if you wanted to…keeps them quiet lol. anyway, she shouldnt be giving you that advice. i weaned both my elder boys at 3 months and went the puree route and they are the most pickiest eaters u will ever find, they are 14 and 11 now, the eldest has just been shamed into trying veg (and found out he likes it) by joshua eating at the table with us!
    just remember, health visitors are optional!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Please don't worry about those weight charts. They really are based on formula fed babies and most breast fed babies seem to drop off their centiles. My monkey dropped from the 50th to almost the 9th, but since starting blw at 6 months she is back up to the 50th. Don't forget that teething also reduces their appetitites considerably. I also think it's common for breast feeding mums to worry they don't have enough milk. If your baby sleeps through then you must be fine. When you do start to wean (in your own time) then you must try blw. It really is fantastic. The only downside so far has been the weekly meetings with my NCT mums when the current topic is how their little ones won't chew lumps. I do try not to look smug I promise….! This blog is a life saver and the only suspect comment I have seen so far was a preference for the McDonald Brothers. I mean come on, have you not seen Ben??

  23. Anonymous says:

    “Allow you another week” – cheeky mare!
    I wouldn't go ever again. Minky's been weighed at clinic a grand total of three times in eleven months. I do it under duress and have a good moan for about a week afterwards about how they can't plot graphs, interpret data etc etc. The best thing that can be said about my HV is that he is totally harmless.
    Does the little one seem satisfied after a feed? If so, you're probably producing plenty of milk for her. My boobs rarely feel engorged these days, I think this is because I've been feeding Minky for so long that my body is pretty in tune with her needs. If you had too much milk a few weeks ago then you're obviously capable of ramping up the supply when she asks for it.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Just to add agreement that 'emptier' feeling boobs, probably means that your supply is pretty much on demand now. Its hard to believe that you are producing enough milk when before you were decorating the walls with it and now it only goes staight into the baba.

  25. Anonymous says:

    WHERE is the positive comment about The McDonald Brothers, Scotland's national shame? i have a delete facility and i'm not afraid to use it, squirrel…

  26. Anonymous says:

    Hope I'm not being too nosy now, but I must ask why your daughter was being weighed every two days?!

  27. Anonymous says:

    oh it's all bitterly documented in the BLW, Breast and Formula Feeding folder… basically i wasn't making enough milk… or was i? certainly driving to the hospital every second days through the snow, wind and rain, waiting around to be seen and then watching as Babybear was stripped naked and weighed doesn't sound much like a babymoon to me.
    see why i don't rate midwives and HVs? they've got their own boxes to tick, and sometimes they aren't the same ones you hold important.
    it was very frustrating, because every time the docs would say 'oh she looks fine, she's very alert etc etc'. and i'd be thinking, 'then why am i here? it's taken me hours to get organised and my breastfeeding is just getting worse…'

  28. Anonymous says:

    Just wanted to say another big thank you to all of you who responded to my comment some months ago about the health visitor pushing me to introduce solids at 19 weeks. We ignored her and E has now started BLW about three weeks ago (at around six months) and all seems to be going well. She continued to gain weight and be content without the early introduction of solids (so clearly it was just a little blip . . . not a “gonna drop off the curve” situation) and I am so grateful for the support I got from this site. Thank you!

  29. Anonymous says:

    that is really great, caroline, and very decent of you to come back to say thanks. see you around in future, i hope.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I have been BLW my LO for almost 5 months and have been amazed at how well she took to it and have been a great advocate of this feeding process, however in the last couple of weeks my LO has gone from eating almost everything to hardly anything, she is being so pickie and refuses to eat the foods she onced loved. I do know that like us adults, babies have their off days but this has been going on now for a couple of weeks and I just don't know how she is surviving on such little food. I'm still breastfeeding and worry about nutrients etc.

  31. Anonymous says:

    i'll lay you a pound to a penny she's teething or sickening for something… Babybear used to go off her food in a frankly alarming manner sometimes but she always got back into the swing of things after a while.
    If you are still breastfeeding then you are doing fine. Perhaps she's even goiing through a growth spurt and is smart enough to know that more milk = more calories? Who knows? Try not to worry about it, though. in fact if you read the random thoughts thread you'll see that Tinksmum posted that in Zimbabwe children aren't weaned until much later than ours and nevertheless grow up to be healthy, toothsome children.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I posted something similar on here when Small was 11 months! If you put “living on thin air” into the search thingy, you'll find everyone reassuring me. Sure enough, her appetite returned after a few more days but she pretty much ate next to nothing for nearly 3 weeks. She still had the odd bad day(s) but also has days where she eats me out of house and home. If she's taking milk and is happy in herself, then I've learnt to go with it.

  33. Anonymous says:

    We are pretty unique in the West for rushing to have our babies onto mush before they are a year old (let alone younger).
    I've gone through hunger strikes, last was about three weeks ago the week of her birthday, silly me had just complained we never get much nursing time in anymore and now my boobs feel like I have a little baby again!

  34. Anonymous says:

    Hello — we're new! (although I found this blog when I was pregnant, and couldn't wait for 6 months and our first tree of brocolli).
    We've been getting general persecution from the Health Visitors in our area about “eating enough”. Ba has been eating solids for about 3 weeks now and apparently MUST be on three-meals-a-day-with-pudding or I'm a bad and evil mother. They're also threatening me with the low levels of iron in breastmilk. It's pretty scary, if you listen to them.
    Thank you so much for this site. It makes all the difference after a session of fighting with health visitors. I really should stop listening to them.

  35. Anonymous says:

    This makes interesing reading if you're getting hassled about the iron thing.
    I wouldn't so much stop listening to HVs, by the way, as say 'that's really interesting, can you point me to the research that proves what you're saying?' I'm always happy to listen to what people have to say if they can back it up. There's room on the broom, if you know what i mean?

  36. Anonymous says:

    Interesting topic the whole iron thing – my friend's little boy who was weaned the conventional puree way, has always had problems with anaemia……..I wonder if some people are just more efficient at processing iron in their food.
    I've been vegetarian since the age of nearly 3 and have never been anaemic, yet my sister who has always been a carnivore has been on a number of occasions growing up.
    A good varied diet and milk on demand….seems you can't go wrong!
    HV's seem to be very hands off in my area, or just with me, I can't say I have seen one in months. The 8 month check was an absolute non-event, when I was asked if the Pickle was taking part in family meals and that was it for the 'weaning' talk.

  37. Anonymous says:

    Ahh thanks… that is interesting (and comforting).
    I did wonder how mankind evolved to make it necessary for babies to eat fortified baby rice but it felt unfair to challenge the HVs (am I being mean assuming they'd have been challenged? Maybe they'd have replied with a string of references).
    Also comforting (in a bad way, probably) to hear that purees don't solve it.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Just had to share the details of a text that I received today from a friend… I quote:
    “Health visitor recommended giving Matt skips or quavers!”
    To which I replied “WHAT???!!! What was the rationale behind that??!”
    My friend's text came back with…
    “Good finger food to start him on!”
    Mmmmm… I think perhaps HV's deserve all the flack they get if that is the kind of nonsense they dish out! Anyway, thought I would share!

  39. Anonymous says:

    Quavers!!! What are these people thinking??!!! Oh yes, how to foster the next generation of obese, over-nourished children..
    I've never heard anything so stupid.
    Catherine is blessed with a pediatrician that doesn't waste my time with crap. She noted that Catherine's iron was a bit low, but with Catherine learning so well, and being such a bright little button, there wasn't anything to worry about, and “maybe test her again in a year or two”. She's never bothered with the eating nonsense after I growled when “rice cereal” was mentioned.
    Of course, now that it's blueberry season over here in the US, hubby and I get to have a daily chuckle over “choking hazards”… “Don't give her any blueberries, she'll choke!” Oh yes, well, her favorite activity is shoving in as many blueberries at one time as humanly possible (and even I have to admit that the little madam has a big gob), and then pointing to her bowl, and shouting “more” as a a couple of escapees make a break for it from her cavernous mouth. Ah! What a lady!

  40. Anonymous says:

    of course now you've really made me fancy a bag of quavers…

  41. Anonymous says:

    I went to dietician recently with my then 9 month old DD as she has a suspected egg. Dietician very interested in BLW and really impressed that my DD could feed herself adult food. She said a couple of interesting things which are relevant to this blog. First that with BLW it may seem that they are eating far less than their peers who are eating purees but that is partly because purees is full of water and if you eat real food its not. She also said that a babies stomach is the size of their fist and it can expand l the same size again. Therefore a baby should be eating about two fistfuls of good a day. I found this so reassuring as that doesn't seem that much at all

  42. Anonymous says:

    oops I meant two fist fulls of food at each meal – sorry.

  43. Anonymous says:

    LOL, and i take it you meant suspected egg allergy as well…
    thanks for that, tapster, very comforting.

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