There is always a new parenting trend to try. If it makes sense to me, and doesn’t take too much effort, I will likely give it a shot. That’s how I came to baby‐led weaning.
Baby‐led weaning is a fancy term for finger foods. It basically means you skip purees and go straight to real food, food that babies can grab with their fat little hands and gnaw on like animals. This is for babies around six months to a year, when food is a supplement to milk.
According to the trend‐setters/preachers, the method is supposed to improve dexterity early on, get kids acclimated to real food, and introduce them to a wide variety of colorful roughage that promotes healthy eating for a lifetime. Think all children are picky eaters? Not baby‐led weaners, no sir!
As someone who is solid frenemies with food of all shapes and sizes, I’d like my son to have that healthy relationship. If baby‐led weaning was a way to start things off right, I was definitely going to try it. Also, it promised to be quick and easy. I’m cheap and a bit on the hippie side, so store‐bought purees weren’t for me.
The other option was to make baby food. This involves varying degrees of prep, which takes time. Time that is – when you’re dealing with a six-month-old – very much at a premium. Baby‐led weaning involved a little chopping, steaming, cooling, and… done. That sounded good to me.
Let’s start with the good news. Baby‐led weaning was incredibly easy. It took maybe five minutes to get food together for my little guy. Bonus: it was also adorable. I have endless pictures of my son grasping a stick of zucchini, smashing blueberries all over his face, and inhaling broccoli dipped in hummus. The whole process was disgusting and messy and ridiculously cute. (Make sure to put a drop cloth underneath the high chair. And get a dog.)
The bad news? That healthy-relationship-with-food thing. You know, the important part of the whole equation.
My son is now two-and-a-half and he’s just like every other toddler when it comes to food (and tantrums, but that’s another blog post). He’s a picky little monster, surviving on mostly bread and cheese. His love of vegetables? Gone. He will sometimes ask me to dip his broccoli in hummus, but I think it’s just nostalgia. It goes untouched along with the rest of his dinner.
I spend most of my life avoiding foods that are so wrong but feel so right. I run three times a week so that I don’t feel quite as guilty when I go for those nachos or that extra slice of pizza. But the guilt is still there – still way there – and I’d love for my kid not to deal with that.
We’re so lucky to be able to make bad food choices, but we also have the means and access to make good choices, too. I want my son to opt for the good, not because he feels guilty, but because it’s what he wants to do. For his health, yes, but for his taste buds, too. I want people to think he’s weird for wanting veggies instead of fries with his meal. I want him to be that guy who hates soda.
There’s research now that food habits begin in the womb, so… good news, moms-to-be! We get to start this food worry even earlier! As someone currently cooking up a baby, I often feel guilty-for-two every time I go on a cake‐eating binge or finish an entire bag of chips. Sometimes I take a beat, remember how much my son used to hate cake, and realize that habits change. For the worse, yes, sometimes, but maybe for the better, too.
This is why I refuse to make “kid food.” My son eats what the rest of the family eats. He won’t starve; he’ll always have his bread and cheese and fruit. And every now and then, there’s hope, like the chicken marinara he inhaled the other day. He asked me to lick the sauce off first, but I’m calling it a win. And not just because I got all that extra sauce.
I don’t regret trying baby‐led weaning. I do think maybe he would like soup and applesauce a bit more if he had been exposed to purees, but that’s not a huge loss. And again, it was SO easy. Maybe, for new parents, that is the most important thing.
I know I’m going to pass on bad stuff to my kids; that’s something none of us can avoid. The best I can do is keep putting those green beans on my son’s plate, keep ordering a side of spinach for the little one I’m growing, and hope the good will eventually outweigh the bad.