Ok… hate might be a strong word, but they definitely do not approve! They think that your baby is going to choke… that they have to start with purees… that they need teeth before they can chew anything. Your family is traditional to the core. They want to be feeding your baby purees, just like they did when you were a baby, and like their parents did before them. Now, there is nothing wrong with feeding purees, or with going the traditional route, unless it’s not what YOU want!
You’ve done your research, you know about the benefits. You’ve read my blog on figuring out the best approach to starting solids. You are ready. So, why does it matter so much what your family thinks? Maybe it’s because your baby spends a lot of time with them. In fact, maybe they’re the caregiver while you’re working. Perhaps they’re super vocal about their concerns every time you see them, and honestly, you’re just sick of it. Whatever your scenario is, I’ve got you covered with my 5 easy steps for handling the opinionated family member that really does mean well, despite how it might appear. But first, I’m going to share with you a story from my assistant, Amy, who spent some time at her parents’ house this past year with her two daughters, who were 2 years old and 6 months, at the time.
“While spending a few weeks at my parents’ house is always a wonderful time, filled with so many memories and sweet moments, it can also cause a little bit of stress! We don’t live close to my parents, so when we visit it’s for weeks at a time, and they aren’t always up-to-date on all of the parenting strategies that my husband and I use with our girls. Typically, I try to politely correct any mishaps by reassuring my daughter that no I won’t be enforcing that particular… rule, punishment, expectation, etc. When it comes to feeding, my parents are old-school. They believe dessert can only be served if you cleaned your plate, that one bite of veggie is better than zero (and must be done), and that babies eat purees. Period.
Since my daughter was 6 months old during this particular visit, solids were now part of her routine, and she loved it! I prepared my parents about the mixed approach we were taking, warned them about gagging, and briefly educated them on why we decided to do this. They had seen it before with our first daughter, but that didn’t stop them both from flying out of their chair at the first sign of a gag, and second-guessing what I put on her plate each meal. Being able to remain calm, and avoid getting defensive, was the only reason I could enjoy those meals, and even resulted in huge improvements by the time our trip was over. You should have seen the smiles on their faces watching her handle everything from avocado and banana, to toast and shredded chicken! She literally shocked them, and they were so incredibly proud!”
Keeping this level of calm is not always possible, and I’m sure my assistant would be the first to tell you that it did not happen that way every single meal. BUT, the more you are able to do this the better, and keeping these next steps in mind will help you achieve these results.
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Be empathetic
When you hear them start to object, or offer their opinion, take one moment to breathe and step into their shoes. Identify where they’re coming from. Oftentimes, these comments that can seem judgmental, or disapproving, really do come from a place of love and concern. Remember, they love your child, they want exactly what you want – for them to be safe and healthy.
I know these types of comments can often come from the grandparents. So let’s think about what knowledge they would have about feeding a baby. When they were introducing you to solids, purees were the go-to. So much has changed regarding what we now know about development and nutrition for babies. And seeing as how they have been out of that phase of their lives for quite some time, it’s reasonable that they wouldn’t be up-to-date on all of this new research. When we take a moment to realize this knowledge gap exists, we can then transition to: “how can I convince them that BLW is a safe, and good option for my baby?”
Well…. what did it take to convince you? I’m willing to bet that one of your biggest concerns was choking. I’m even willing to bet that, if you ask your family, they’re going to say the same thing.
Keep this information in mind as we move through the next steps.
Step 2: Diffuse the situation with empathy first
Before you begin to diffuse the situation, or react in any way, it is important to empathize out loud first. You need to take a moment to voice the empathy that you discovered in the previous step. Here’s how this might sound… “I know, I was so scared when I first saw that you could offer food like this too!” or “It’s crazy how much new information is out there now! It took me a while to research and understand it all.” From there, you can continue to diffuse the situation.
So, how do you do that? Well, whether they’re silently giving you the side-eye for serving a chicken drumstick to your infant, or coming right out with it and saying “You can’t serve that to a baby!”, your response should always center around maintaining calm, particularly in front of your child. I say this lightly because, let’s be real, we are people with emotions, and those are sometimes big. Quickly react by diffusing the situation. A simple, “Yes I can, he ate this last week and loved it”, should suffice. The key is to let them know that they have been heard, and that you appreciate their concern, but you’ve got this. Here’s some other examples:
- When your father silently stares with his “What the heck are you doing?” face on… You say: “Oh I’m so glad we’re having chicken for dinner tonight. It’s his favourite. Last week he devoured every single bite.”
- When your mother-in-law says: “What are you doing? He can’t eat that, he has no teeth! Here, give it to me. I’ll blend it up for him.” You say: “Thank you for offering and being so concerned, but he really can eat all of it like this. It’s all mashable, see?” And show her you can squish the food with your fingers.
- When you’re having lunch with your sister and she pulls out homemade baby food, while you pull out toast and avocado slices, and she says: “You’re doing that? Aren’t you scared of choking? Purees are so much safer.” You can simply say that you used to feel scared (if that’s true of course), but you took a Baby Led Feeding course and feel so much better about it now.
There is no need to argue with any of them, or to create a “me vs. them” scenario. Recognize that you are all wanting the best for your baby, you just need some help to get on the same page, OR to simply agree to disagree. Acknowledging that you know their comments come from a place of love can be so important in moving forward.
Step 3: Explain the facts (with a smile!)
In some cases, the family member that you are speaking with is going to need a bit more convincing, or conversation, to drop the subject. When this happens, think about the three C’s: concise, confident, and clear. Explain what baby led weaning is, why it’s safe, and why you chose this particular method of feeding. It’s also important to note that, depending on the family and your relationship with them, your tone of voice can be crucial. In general, keeping a happy tone, and even smiling while you talk, can help to get your point across, without sounding too defensive, or even worse, preachy. Try to think about how you would want to hear this information, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be scolded, and they won’t either. A simple smile can go a long way.
Don’t over-complicate this. Start out slow with a few simple facts, and see how they respond. If they drop it? Great, move on. If they have questions, do your best to answer them as simply as possible. A full lecture on the topic is not needed here.
Try out some of these responses to typical questions or concerns that may come up:
“My doctor/dietitian/research said that baby led weaning is just as safe as feeding purees!”
“Funny enough, there’s still a risk of choking when eating purees, just as there is in baby led weaning.”
“I have done a lot of research on gagging and choking, and I know the difference between them. I even have my CPR certification and feel prepared should she choke.”
“That was actually a gag! If she had been choking she wouldn’t have been able to cough. Gagging is very common, and she’s actually gotten a lot better!”
“Watching him explore new foods, play with foods, and learn how to eat each food has been so mesmerizing to me! I’m really happy with my decision to go with baby led weaning.”
Step 4: Get them involved
Assuming that you see these family members often, it can be incredibly beneficial to ask for their help. Ok, I know it may not seem like they’ll be willing to do this now, but after going through steps 1-3, you’ll most likely see some turnaround. They may even show interest in baby led weaning! Maybe they have more questions. Maybe they watched your baby happily, and safely, enjoy their meal and thought to themselves, “Wow, this really is a thing!”.
By saying to them: “This is really important to me, I’d love to have your support.” You’re essentially saying: “I hear you, I see your concerns, I know you love my baby. This is what I believe is the best fit for us, and I’d love to have you be involved to watch him grow along with me.” And not many can say no to that!
Once they’re ready to support you in this journey, give them some resources to allow them to catch up! They probably aren’t going to complete my entire Baby Led Feeding course – but who knows, they may surprise you! A great starting point would be to link them over to my blog on the difference between gagging and choking – again, I’m going to assume this is a main point of their protests. Let them read it, give them time to think about it, and then check in. Do they still have concerns, what are they? Continue to share information with them for as long they’re willing to participate, and if you feel that it’s still beneficial.
Step 5: Let it go!
This may in fact be the hardest step of all – letting their comments roll right off your back! But, here’s the thing, YOU are that baby’s Mama (or Papa). And that means that you are uniquely qualified to make decisions on what is best for your baby, because you know them best of all! Your child, your choice, plain and simple. No one should ever make you feel guilty, or shame you, for the decisions you make regarding feeding your baby – purees, BLW, or mixed – all approaches are valid choices. Be confident in your decision to do BLW, and don’t second guess.
If you decide that no one, not even yourself, can make you feel badly about your decision to do BLW, then no one will. You will confidently answer any questions and respond to any opinionated remarks without hesitation. You will delight in the BLW journey, and not allow others to derail your joy in all of the wonderful memories you’re making.
If the comments and suggestions persist, you may decide it’s easier to use purees, or softer finger foods, while with those family members, and do true BLW when at home. But, this needs to be your choice, something you are comfortable with, and not because someone shames you into altering your methods. Try to meet these people where they are, as far as their knowledge on the subject goes, and pick your battles. If you aren’t with them frequently, it may be worth it to simply alter what you serve for those one-off meals that occur with those family members.
Stay true to the decisions that you make as your baby’s Mama, or Papa, follow your baby’s cues, and most importantly, enjoy the journey!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about starting solids, and are unsure how to decide what method is right for your family, get all of the details inside my Baby Led Feeding course. I discuss purees and BLW, allowing you to decide the best approach for your family, so you can feel confident and ready to tackle this new feeding adventure!