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Eating with Ira

Mar 9, 2016 etc

Baby-led weaning means parent-led cleaning. 

This article first appeared in the March 2016 issue of Metro. Illustration by Angela Keoghan.


For quite a while, we pined after a very nice wooden Scandinavian highchair that converts into a chair for toddlers. It doesn’t look out of place with the rest of your furniture, and goes with the idea that children will learn to eat at the table while dining with their parents.

We looked at them new — they cost $400 — and then we looked for them second-hand on Trade Me, where they cost nearly $400.

Then some nice friends up the road gave us their white plastic highchair from Ikea. Trust us, they said. We told ourselves we’d use it only until the right Scando one came up on Trade Me.

Then Ira started to eat. We give him whole chunks of food, which is known as “baby-led weaning”. The idea is that this encourages infants to work it out for themselves rather than being spoon fed. About the only thing he’s ever had fed to him is raisin porridge for breakfast, which Hannah laboriously makes with organic oats and coconut milk.

Upside: it’s good for their co-ordination and relationship with food. Downside: mess. We tend to strip him down to a nappy for dinner, and when he’s done, we put him in the bath. One evening, I picked him up from the highchair and he was smeared from head to foot with kumara.

He held it up above him, throwing his head back as if to give thanks to the food gods for such a wondrous thing as a well-done piece of sirloin.

When I put him in the bath, the water went brown, and it still smelled like kumara the next morning. Once he was safely in bed, I took the highchair out onto the lawn and waterblasted it clean.

He likes strawberries, which he shoves in his mouth and gums to a paste — he has no teeth at this point — and he likes kumara, which he grabs and jerkily brings up to his face, sucking it out of the bottom of his fist.

Other times, he brings something to his mouth in his palm and sucks it, or — as with watermelon — he holds it in both hands and gnaws away at it. He has a particular thing for avocado, but he doesn’t like broccoli or eggs yet.

The first time he ate a piece of steak, his eyes widened and he held it up above him, throwing his head back as if to give thanks to the food gods for such a wondrous thing as a well-done piece of sirloin.

Sometimes, he pauses mid-mouthful and stares off into a contemplative middle distance, and at other times his face goes red and we think he’s choking, until we realise he’s just doing a poo. He often drops a piece of food over the side, and when this happens he leans over and stares sadly at it.

When his highchair tray is empty, he emits a squawky grunt and reaches out for more food. When you give it to him, he chortles to himself.

We are, naturally, very proud of his enthusiasm. When we were away over summer, he chomped his way through a piece of charcoaled snapper at a friend’s bach, before reaching for the slices of lemon on the table and sucking happily on those, too, and the next day, at the local beach-shack restaurant, he ate several chickpea fritters, a handful of chips and the end of a piece of pizza.

One morning, he decided he didn’t want to be fed porridge any more, and then a couple of days later, he refused to sit in the bach’s ancient highchair at all. So while we cleaned up the mess of gummy fruit dropped over the side, we left him on the floor, where he picked up a piece of toast he’d dropped. Despite the bits of sand and dog hair, he squashed it into his mouth, and then he asked for more.


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