Never did I imagine I would be a mom that bypassed purees to give my child finger foods as her first solid. When I first heard of baby led weaning from a fellow mom who was experimenting with the method on her six-month old, it sounded like a fad – a fad that I certainly was not going to follow. It seemed dangerous, unsuccessful and against the norm. Purees seemed like a natural progression to solids; after all, I never knew a baby who didn’t love purees . . . well, until my baby.
At seven months old, it was time for my exclusively breastfed daughter Emory to try her first helping of pureed food. Staying true to my naturalistic ways, I was ready to become a pureed food chef for my new eater. I researched recipes, pumped and stored breastmilk to add into the puree, and stocked up on fresh, organic produce. I dutifully mashed and blended and mashed some more, but all my efforts were massively rejected by my strong-willed seven month old.
Her first pureed food was avocado. She ate a little but mainly swatted the spoon or ducked and dodged my every attempt to get the spoon in her mouth. I knew that swatting was normal for babies as they adapt to eating solid foods, so I persistently attempted to spoon a serving of homemade goop into her mouth. But after wasting numerous batches of bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas and apple sauce, and months of time watching Emory grimace at the sight of a spoon, I realized spoon-feeding Emory had become a power struggle, and one that I lost...to a seven month old.
Totally discouraged and feeling defeated, I scrambled for advice from every mom friend I had. Which led me back to my friend who suggested Baby Led Weaning. The process won me over; it made sense. Rather than me dictating Emory’s every bite with a spoonful of mash, I could follow her interests to feed herself. Baby led weaning is a method of forgoing baby purees in exchange for finger foods to complement your baby’s diet of breastmilk or formula and allowing your baby to self-feed from the start. It’s intended to create a relaxed and natural introduction to solid foods by trusting your baby’s innate sense of hunger, want, self-awareness and self-limitation.
My puree-making days were done, and I started simply slicing strips of vegetables and fruits for Emory to munch. I had the most success with cucumbers and apples. Then her palate started to bud, and she was able to try whatever we were eating at mealtime.
Although Emory was a selective eater, and still is two years later, baby led weaning calmed the parent-versus-baby power struggle that spoon-feeding had created. Allowing her to have more control over her own consumption made her more willing to eat. That was much better than constantly coaxing our dodging, swatting, spitting baby to gobble down my colorful purees.
The approach to solid food with baby led weaning: The success of baby led weaning is contributed to the relaxed approach it takes to starting solids. Letting your baby pick up, mash, taste and explore the foods you are eat during mealtime is the process, as simple as that. A big concern is the possibility of choking on non-pureed foods at such a young age, but Baby Led Weaning suggests that babies are not able to move food from the front of the mouth to the back until they learn to chew. Baby led weaning is attributed to jumpstarting the development of oral motor skills like chewing and swallowing food.
Helpful hints to the baby-led weaning method: You would want to follow much of the same advice for introducing purees, but there are a few other strategies to get you through this adventure.
- Talk with your child’s pediatrician before giving your child solid food.
- Make sure your baby is fully capable of sitting up on his or her own.
- It will get messy, so be prepared. A drop cloth under the highchair is very helpful.
- Offer the baby the same food you are eating at meal time.
- Do not serve small, tiny pieces of food. Large chunks can be easily grasped and more manageable for the baby.
- Know that it may take a while for you baby to actually eat the food. Baby led weaning is about exploration and learning the process of eating.
- Relax and enjoy eating along with your child.
Baby led weaning was never a method I planned to use to feed Emory. But thankfully, it got me through a very rocky initial introduction to solids. Knowing the strong-willed personality of my now toddler, I should have known she would never let me force a spoon of goopy vegetables in her mouth. Now my second child is six months old and approaching the solid-food stage, and I am sure he will provide me with a completely different experience. Here goes to my new adventure!