Parenting is all about following your gut feeling and doing what works best for you and your child.
This post is about our adventure into Baby Led Weaning and how we did things. Take what I say with a grain of salt and do your own research before deciding what will work best for you and your baby. 🙂
So, what is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)? It is a term that was first coined by midwife Gil Rapley and essentially means that you are giving your baby control over what they eat, thereby creating a more “adventurous” eater. The term “weaning” is the confusing part because it does not refer to the American meaning of weaning your baby off of breast milk or formula, but rather derives from the British meaning of “adding complementary foods”. As the Baby Led Weaning website states, “NO MORE MUSH!” This was intriguing enough to me because the idea of having to prep or buy specific foods for the baby was daunting and expensive sounding! And who likes mush anyways?
A very good friend introduced me to BLW. Her son is 8 days younger than my son and one day when the boys were nearing 6 months she asked what our plans were for starting solid foods. I of course figured we would do rice cereal or something, but she encouraged me to look into BLW and directed me to this website. I did my research, I talked to my son’s doctor and then my husband and I made the decision to give it a try. The rest is history!
Many people ask me how we started BLW. Well…we did just what they say to do. Feed your baby from your plate! Rather, his Grammy fed him a pizza crust from her plate. I about died! My baby’s first food was PIZZA!!! He nommed on the crust a bit and seemed quite enthused by it! He was a week shy of 6 months old. After that experience we knew he was ready to try something other than Mama’s milk and so we prepped for his “first” food.
Our second “first” time with solid food was of course a monumental day. Everything with the first child is monumental! We had a video camera, a cute bib, pictures, the works! The “first” food was going to be avocado. Why? Because it was fairly tasteless, smooth, healthy and on sale. 🙂 We put a slice of avocado on his tray along with a dollop of pureed avocado to give some choices. He grabbed the slice, tossed it on the floor and then burst into tears. Our first true BLW experience ended in a sobbing baby. :-/ Oh man! Luckily all of the websites, books, etc say “If the baby doesn’t like something the first time, try it again later.” We tried again later and he mushed things around before tasting his fingers a bit. No tears this time.
After our first whack at things, we slowly introduced new foods to help assess any allergies or reactions. We would steam or microwave certain foods to make them soft enough that he could mash them in his mouth. In order for him to be able to grab things, we served them in wedges with notches taken out on the sides. (Note the mango below) We also served mango and avocado with the skin left on so that it was not as slippery. Be sure to wash the skin really well before doing this and once they start being able to break off pieces of the skin while eating, then it’s time to start peeling things. 🙂
If he became frustrated with chasing slippery items around his tray we would mash them up with a fork and let him grab fistfuls. Our very own “hybrid” of BLW. All in all though, we let him decide what went in his mouth and when. Rarely did we offer to spoon feed him things. Even yogurt!
One month into things and he was eating avocado, sweet potato, banana, strawberries, cream of wheat, broccoli, kale, quinoa, applesauce, yogurt, crackers, peaches, and wheat toast. After we crossed the one month mark, he started having some of what we were eating at mealtimes. Before we knew it he was willing and interested in eating anything we offered! BBQ Chicken, Veggie Chickpea pancakes, pasta, anything!
We are now almost 2 months into BLW and Bren (7.5 months) has moved beyond wedges and is eating things that are cut up into baby bite sizes (think pinky nail sized). His pincer grasp is not 100%, but it is far more developed than it was 2 months ago! He also understands the concept of drinking out of a cup and using a spoon and plate. It is just amazing how quickly they learn!
The one big thing that people bring up all the time is the increased possibility of choking. This is a very legitimate concern, but keep in mind that if you were to feed your baby purees right now, eventually they are going to move to solid food and you will still have the risk of choking. One thing that eased my fears was watching refresher videos on doing the infant Heimlich and CPR. While I would recommend an actual class to anyone that has no education in infant CPR or the Heimlich, I did find the following videos to be good refreshers for having taken the classes recently.
I then did my research and learned that there is a big difference between gagging and actual choking. Gagging is the baby learning to safely move food from the back of their throat to the front so that they can “chew” it more. Some babies have a more sensitive gag reflex than other babies, so you may find that your baby gags at each meal or hardly ever! Choking is when no air is being exchanged. You will recognize choking.
We only had one scary instance and it was when we introduced mango. Bren managed to gum off a chunk and it got lodged when he was swallowing. He gave me a frightened look and I was prepared to scoop him from his chair and start patting his back, but within a second he had managed to swallow the mango and cheerfully moved on to the next piece. I gathered my wits and decided we were done with mango for the day, if only for the sake of my heart rate and gray hairs!
We still nurse before each meal so that he gets his fill of milk before eating anything else. While he is gaining nutrition from the whole foods he eats, the majority of his nutrition still is coming from Mama’s milk.
One of the things I love about BLW is that we get to sit down to a meal together. Neither my husband nor myself are left having to spoon feed Bren while the other eats. We all sit and eat together! A lot of Bren’s meal ends up on the floor still and it can be a pretty messy experience, but luckily babies and parents are all 100% washable!
If you have any specific questions about how we tackled BLW, please feel free to list them in the comments section below and I will answer then to the best of my ability. I am not a pro nor do I know all the answers, only what worked for us. 🙂