Baby Stuff: The Messy Art of Eating – – Highchair Reviews & Baby-Led Weaning

When W was 4 months old, he was a hideous sleeper. There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a weapon of war and torture. It hurts. Physically hurts. Being woken every 45 minutes overnight for more than a night or two causes psychosis. Every 2 hours, a moderate delirium. Every 3 hours, a notable tetchiness. Every 4 hours is tolerable. I was working towards 4 hours.

Having studiously scoured the pages of the No-Cry Sleep Solution in the weeks prior to W’s arrival and diligently implemented all the recommended strategies for helping my baby to learn to fall asleep and stay asleep without needing to be physically attached to me, I was rather devastated and disillusioned when at 4 months of age, I was still to get more than an hour or two consecutively on a consistent basis. In desperation, we decided to start W on solids.

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W celebrating turning 4 months old with rice cereal for dinner.

Diligently following the ‘rules’, we started with rice cereal mixed with expressed breast milk and spoon-fed him. He enjoyed it. And then slept for two four hour stretches overnight. That’s it, I cried, we’ve found the solution!!

The next night, I served him another bowl of rice cereal. He woke up every hour. Every hour. Sigh.

I spent a few weeks pureeing and straining vegetables and spooning them into his mouth. It was messy, time-consuming and he was still a hideous sleeper.

So, after a particularly painful session of trying to extract pumpkin goo from underneath the blades of our Thermomix, I dug out a book that had been randomly given to me by a woman I met at a plant propagation workshop while I was pregnant. Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett.

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W shows me he’s ready to move on to a baby-led approach to food.

I had opened the book while pregnant and the first paragraph about needing to be willing to breastfeed my baby until they decided they’d had enough and that could take “several years” (!!!) had put me off entirely and it had sat for months at the bottom of my baby book pile. Wiping pumpkin goo from my hands to my jeans, I re-opened it. A very good friend had started her two boys on solids this way while working in a seriously busy full time job. It had to be easier than pureeing everything.

There in nothing ground breaking about baby-led weaning (BLW for those in the know). In the book, a brief history of feeding babies reveals that this whole mush craze is a recent invention borne of a drive to feed babies not ready for solids. The authors draw links between (now historical) implementation of four hourly feeding by maternity hospitals, a lack of breast milk production in new mothers and a drive for early introduction of additional nutrition in the form of solids. I haven’t done the background reading myself, but it sounds logical. To get my breast milk supply up to a level sufficient to sustain him, W was feeding every 2 hours in those early days, and at times cluster or, more accurately, continuously feeding for hours at a time.

The basic idea of BLW is that you let the baby feed themselves. No spoon feeding. No mush. So, leaving a few pots of pureed brown lentils in the back of the freezer just in case this all went horribly wrong, I embarked on a new mush-free approach.

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Loving a lamb chop.

It’s been messy, but after nearly two months, W is really getting the hang of it. He’s biting with his two brand new teeth, chewing and although a lot of food ends up spread around, I have objective evidence (ahem!) that some of the food is getting swallowed! He enjoys porridge fingers for breakfast, strawberries, watermelon, banana, yoghurt, savoury muffins, vegetable fritters, sticks of cucumber and roast vegetables and the biggest hit has been a lamb chop which he happily sucked on for over 40 minutes while we entertained dinner guests!

Essentials of BLW

Equipment

  • Easy to clean high chair (probably a good idea regardless of how you’re feeding your baby). Reviews on our two chairs below.
  • Plastic sheeting to protect carpet (we have this one, it’s a bit on the small side but is handy for gathering up the muck and taking it out to shake off in the chook pen)
  • Coverall water-resistant smock (we have these and they’re fab, the pocket catches a lot of the mess and prevents it getting squashed under chubby thighs)
  • Cloth wipes (we love these as they are a good texture and very grippy – useful for wiping down faces, hands and then giving the highchair and plastic mat a once over)

Food Ideas

  • Baby’s food should be free from added salt and sugar and present no hard choke-size pieces (like nuts).
  • Pieces that are easy for them to hold in a fist and still have enough sticking out to chomp on are good – sticks of steamed veggies, fresh cucumber, toast soldiers, porridge fingers (paraphrased recipe from BLW Cookbook: equal parts rolled oats and milk, soak for a bit until slightly mushy, press with back of spoon into small flat square container, microwave for 2 minutes, cut into fingers while hot, allow to cool before giving to baby), roast vegetables cut into large wedges.
  • Let the internet help you! I’ve found some brilliant ideas here and here. Essentially, I try to make food that we can all enjoy but is in baby hand friendly shapes and sizes.
  • Dinner is easy as we just give W a bit of whatever we’re eating.

For more information on BLW, head here.

Interestingly, W started suddenly sleeping much better, day and night, as he hit 6 months of age. It made me wonder whether all the people telling me their children slept better after solids actually just happened to start solids at 6 months, as I had originally planned, and in fact the two events were unrelated.

I still believe Elizabeth Pantley‘s advice on avoidance of unsustainable sleep associations and am glad that I persisted with her methods. I now have a baby who goes to sleep on his own and does 4 to 6 hour stretches with the occasional all-nighter.

But I also believe that some kids just take a bit longer than the books say to learn how to sleep. No matter what you do.

Highchair Reviews

Product: Siesta Highchair

Brand: Peg Perego

Bought: Baby Junction

Paid: $399 (“How much?!”)

How I Use It: 

The idea of buying this (slightly ridiculously expensive) high chair was two fold. Firstly, it was a suitable seat for feeding my then 4 month old baby with his still developing head control. (I now know this should have been a red flag that he probably wasn’t ready to start solids!) Secondly, it reclines and wheels around and therefore could be a substitute for the bouncer. I envisaged W’s grandmother finding it much easier than the ground level bouncer to get him in and out of and he’d be on a good level for her to play with him without having to hold him on her lap. And, I could wheel him around into the kitchen to watch me prepare endless pots of pureed pumpkin each week.

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Peg Perego Siesta in action.

In reality, we rarely use the reclining function. And W’s grandmother simply jumps down onto the floor to play with him. I do wheel it around and he does watch me in the kitchen. Though, I’m baking savoury muffins these days instead.

We also take full advantage of the adjustable seat height by lowering W to the level of the dining table when we’re all eating dinner together. I’m surprised at how much I love having him at the table with us. I’m also surprised at how fond I’ve become of a 5:30pm dinner time!

Problems: 

I use a folded old bath towel to boost the seat as the tray is too high (and not adjustable) and it’s a bit tricky for W to grab his food effectively from a surface level with his armpits.

After a week of pumpkin goo, I bought suck pads for the harness and it is a rather impractically highly absorbent fabric that seems to soak up anything that it comes into contact with. Now, however, I simply strap him in before putting his smock on. The smock protects his clothes (mostly) and the straps. I have removed the shoulder and hip straps and put them through the washing machine a couple of times, with pleasing results, but the central buckle strap is not easily removed from the chair and hence still pretty funky.

The seat cover can be removed reasonably easily for a good wipe down but it’s a bit too much of  nuisance to do with every meal. The creases and crevasses do hide crumbs and smooshed strawberry, so a careful wipe down is required after each meal. The controls on the sides of the chair are disappointingly prone to collecting food bits and are difficult to wipe down quickly.

The front base has two protrusions presumably to add stability in the presence of the wheels. They catch on any edges (such as plastic sheeting) as you wheel it around and I often find myself lifting the whole chair to move it. Disappointing for a thing fitted with four wheels.

Pros:

  • Adjustable seat height
  • Able to be wheeled around
  • Looks very pretty
  • Tray comes off making getting baby in and out very easy
  • Five point harness (safe)
  • Seat designed with bit between legs so when you unclip the harness the baby can’t slide off the chair before you manage to pick them up
  • Easy to use once you learn where all the buttons and releases are
  • Tray top is removable, which makes it easy to chuck in the sink for a scrub or even into the dishwasher.

Cons:

  • Highly absorbent straps
  • Tricky to wipe down – lots of spots for food to hide in seat and also frame
  • Front edge catches on things while wheeling it around
  • Tray set too high for seat and not adjustable
  • Pricey!

If I had my time again: There are lots of things I like about this chair, but I probably would have bought a chair that is easier to clean.

Overall Rating: I like it, but it’s not perfect. 7/10.

*

Product: Antilop Highchair with tray

Brand: Ikea

Bought: Hand-me-down from husband’s colleague

Paid: Nada (retails for $29.99…yes, yes… less than 10% the cost of the other chair!)

How I Use It:

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Al fresco breakfast in the Antilop.

This chair was given to us as a part of a massive pile of baby stuff by a colleague of my husband. It was hard, uncomfortable looking, and a hideous white plastic. Not nearly as pretty as the Peg Perego. So, it sat dejected and gathering spiders in our shed for several months.

Given the difficulty with cleaning food from the crevasses of the Peg Perego, we decided to give this chair a go.

It has its advantages, but I still prefer the Siesta for most meals. We use this chair for outdoor meals (easier to move it over the lip of our verandah door) and for anything that is expected to be particularly messy.

Problems:

The main issue I have with this chair is W’s chubby thighs. The tray is fixed to the chair and getting him in and, more challengingly, out is difficult. I find myself gripping the feet of the chair with my toes to hold it down while I lift him out. Otherwise the whole chair just comes with him.

Pros:

  • Extremely easy to clean. The safety belt is still absorbent but we’ve mostly been using this with his smock on. The rest of the chair simply wipes down with very little in the way of cracks and crevasses in which soggy bread crumbs can hide.
  • Light and therefore mobile.
  • The tray is at a good height.
  • Cheap!

Cons:

  • Fixed tray means tricky manoeuvring required to get baby in and out of the chair, especially if you have a chubby thighed baby
  • Possibly uncomfortable (But how can you tell? W seems happy enough!)

Overall rating: It has its place and is a great starting point for people looking for an affordable chair. 7/10, but for different reasons.

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2 thoughts on “Baby Stuff: The Messy Art of Eating – – Highchair Reviews & Baby-Led Weaning

  1. Am says:

    Google “sleep regressions” : ) . Sounds like your little one hit the famous 4 month one! Ours did too. It was so brutal. He had another one right before he figured out walking, and supposedly has another coming up around 18 months.

    Sleep deprivation is the worst!

    Liked by 1 person

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