How to feed your baby is one of the biggest decisions that new parents face. For us, the decision was initially simple: breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed. After the initial difficulties, I am proud to say that I have not only been able to exclusively feed my son this way, but I also enjoy it tremendously. Judging from the huge smiles that Baby exudes every time he lies down to nurse, I think he enjoys it tremendously too.
The World Health Organization says that the optimal way to feed an infant is six months of exclusive breastfeeding. When we reached this goal, we were ready to introduce Baby to some solid food in addition to his full breastfeeding schedule. I have to admit that we decided to start Baby on homemade baby food based on his age and not on visible signs of readiness. Signs of readiness for solids include sitting up well without support, losing the tongue thrust reflex, reaching for food and showing eagerness to take part in meals, and developing a pincer grasp where the baby can use her thumb and forefinger to pick things up. Baby was definitely not exhibiting all of these signs, but we ploughed ahead anyway.
Baby was initially reluctant to eat the purees, but he got into it for a couple of weeks. Then he suddenly went on strike. He only wanted to breastfeed and wanted nothing to do with the spoon or his baby food. I had been reading about Baby Led Weaning since pregnancy and it really interested me, but it also made me a bit nervous. When I realized Baby was done with baby food and was actually finally exhibiting all signs of readiness for solids at seven months, I decided to give Baby Led Weaning a try.
For a full description and instructions, check out: Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater. Basically, the baby joins the rest of the family at mealtimes, is offered regular food shaped in a way that is easily handled, and feeds himself what he wants. The idea is that babies learn about food naturally, learn to eat safely, and gain confidence as eaters.
Please don’t try this without first consulting the aforementioned book or a resource such as Baby Led Weaning. I am only sharing our personal experiences with Baby Led Weaning and not providing a tutorial, although I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
We officially started BLW a few weeks ago, and so far, it has been an amazing experience. We can’t get over how capable our little baby is! We just had to let go a little and give him the opportunity to learn on his own. (That’s probably a parenting lesson we’ll be learning over and over again for the next sixty or so years, right?)
If you’re interested in trying Baby Led Weaning, here are some tips on how to get started based on our experience so far:
- If you have a teething baby, one of the best first foods you can offer her is a cold, hard stick of food. We used peeled mini cucumber sticks. Once your little one feels the soothing nature of the cucumbers on her swollen gums, she will be much more interested in putting that cucumber stick in her mouth again and again.
- If you have homemade baby food in the house from first trying purees with your little one, it doesn’t have to go to waste. You can use it as a spread on many of the easy first foods. We have used pureed sweet potato and carrot as a spread on all of Baby’s favorite multigrain foods: toast, rice cake, and waffle. This is also an easy way to offer your baby varied tastes with one easily handled piece of food.
- Don’t worry if your little one is not ingesting much food! If your child is taking part in meal time with you, handling a variety of foods, and exploring tastes, then he is accomplishing a lot! All you have to do is place the food options on your baby’s tray and let him take it from there. If your baby is still breastfed, then he is getting all of the nutrients he needs. Anything extra that he ingests through the Baby Led Weaning process is only icing on the cake.
- Dipping is fun! Once your baby gets used to eating foods like carrot sticks, celery, and asparagus sticks, try putting out a bowl of various dips for her to explore. She will have a lot of fun dipping her veggies into hummus, yogurt dip, or melted cheese.
- Your baby will do best with pieces of food that are about the size of his fist. If you find that some foods are too slippery, try coating them in something crunchy. For example, a banana can be coated in crushed Cheerios. This offers your baby an additional taste and will keep her little hands from slipping.
Enjoy the photo essay below of Baby’s first attempts at eating regular food. Note that he does not have teeth, and he has not choked or even gagged. He has displayed nothing but excitement, curiosity, and satisfaction in this process so far.
Photo credits: Author
This article has been edited from a previous version published at I Thought I Knew Mama.
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