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When my older son, J, started solids, I did just what I thought everyone did. I grabbed the box of rice cereal, mixed it up with some breastmilk and spoon-fed my baby.
I did it all by the book. We started with puréed veggies, then fruit, then meat and then added textures. I waited 3 days between each new food and it all went great. After we did the purée thing, I moved onto feeding J what we were eating.
I was adamant about not making him special, kid-friendly meals. To this day, he’s a great eater (for the most part) and has a large palate.
My biggest complaint about the whole thing was how much time and effort it took!
Since then, I’d done my research and found a whole new way to feed babies.
I discovered Baby Led Weaning and it just made so much sense, and so much easier! After I saw my best friend feeding her two babies like this, I was hooked. Here are the basic principles.
- Feed baby healthy, whole foods (no purées)
- Let baby decide how much to eat, no “topping off” with purées at the end of a meal.
- Give baby time to explore and eat, so meals should not be hurried (this is a tough one for me…I try though)
- Start with soft foods and cut into shapes so baby can pick them up (long sticks, big chunks, etc.). Move onto smaller finger foods once baby develops the pincer grasp.
- Non-finger foods (yogurt, oatmeal, etc.) should be offered on a spoon and allow the baby to self-feed (I haven’t done this…yet!)
And that’s basically it…simple. And here’s why I chose baby led weaning:
- I believe in not doing for children what they can do for themselves. Why would I spoon feed my baby, when he is capable of feeding himself?
- He gets to decide how much he wants to eat. With spoon feeding it’s really easy to feed a baby past fullness. This approach helps him learn to listen to his body and not to overeat.
- He gets to taste all sorts of flavors, spices, and textures at a really early age. He gets to start growing his palate really early and this will hopefully lessen the likelihood picky eating later on.
- He’ll learn how to chew and swallow from the very beginning.
- It’s great for hand eye coordination and working those fine motor skills.
- I make one meal for my entire family, he sits at the table with us, and eats what we eat. No extra time taken up with spoon feeding.
Instead of spoon feeding, I pretty much just cut up foods our family was already eating, and fed it to E.
I admit, was pretty easy.
Instead of mashed peas and green beans, these are some of his first foods:
- Toast with toppings like avocado, jelly, cream cheese, and melted shredded cheese.
- French toast made with bread, egg, vanilla, and cinnamon.
- Sweet potato fries with cinnamon.
- Seasoned roasted potatoes.
- Steamed bell pepper
- Sautéed onion
- Zucchini and yellow squash
- Penne pasta with sauce
- Green beans
- Hamburger patty
He was a great eater from the start and loved mealtimes.
A few weeks after starting BLW, he started getting upset when we’re eating and he was not. For example, we were at a deli for dinner and I didn’t order him any food. He started fussing, so I handed him my bread and he happily nibbled on it during our entire meal.
I even took him on a picnic with J and he sat in my lap and devoured slices of peach and toast with avocado. It was nice to be able to include him in our picnic lunch too!
A few more things to note:
- I highly suggest reading up on this technique before giving your baby anything and everything. There are some great tips out there about how to cut and prepare foods for babies. Here’s a leaflet that I found to be very helpful.
- The only foods that babies can not have before 1 year is honey and whole nuts…everything else is a go, unless there is a history of food allergies in the family. Some people are very hesitant to give nut butters and shellfish due to allergies. Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about this.
- The AAP recently just stated that there is no need to wait 3 days between introducing foods, again, unless there is a history of allergies or food intolerance.
- Babies still get most of their nutrients from breastmilk/formula, so food is really for fun and learning. Food for nourishment isn’t really necessary until close to their first birthday.
- It is important that you supervise your baby. With any introduction to solid foods, there is a risk of choking.
So, if you are thinking about how to introduce your baby to solids, I highly suggest looking into BLW to see if it’s something that might work for you and your family.
UPDATE! I originally wrote this post a few weeks after starting BLW. E is now 15 months old and is an AMAZING eater. He loves his food and loves to feed himself.
One thing that is interesting, is that he doesn’t like small finger foods like peas or beans. He prefers big chunks of food that he can bite into. If I give him peas, he will only eat them with a spoon.
I really enjoyed Baby Led Weaning and I would do it again if I ever had another baby. It was so easy and it was wonderful to see E be in control of his food.