Baby-Led Weaning – Our Experience Part I

baby_led_weaning_book__85557_zoomYou’ve probably heard me speak of this term quite a bit since having my son 8 months ago. I bought the books, did my research and asked around to other Mommy’s on how this thing worked. I did what any first time mother did with my daughter. I eagerly awaited the five month mark, ran to the store, bought the cereal and couldn’t wait to pop my little one in her seat to watch her gobble up this yummy cereal! Fail. I was so upset that she wanted nothing to do with it and wouldn’t even let it go into her mouth. I was disappointed but more so I felt like I was failing her (yes I’m hard on myself) I didn’t understand what was really going on and why she didn’t take the cereal. It wasn’t because she didn’t like it. It was because she didn’t know what to do.

A lot of people are under the assumption that babies need to get used to eatting pureed food before they can move on and eat solid foods. This is not true. Sucking purees from a spoon doesn’t prepare your little one to chew, in fact the best way to teach your child to chew is let them teach themselves on food that actually needs chewing. I even read in one of my books that it’s instinct for a baby to suck when something is put in their mouth. Think about it, your finger, a binky, a nipple, insert and they suck. They simply don’t know what to do. They aren’t used to the texture nor the taste.

So rewind three years ago and I was on the verge of tears for nearly 3 weeks while I attempted to feed my daughter cereal and pureed foods when she wanted nothing to do with them. I had no idea that she was really teaching herself what to do with this substance that was being shoved in her mouth. I assumed she was supposed to have just “known” what to do. So if you look at the picture below as I’m feeding my daughter puree’s she’s reaching out, she wants to touch the cup, she wants to explore, I never paid attention.

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From what I’ve read up on babies don’t really need solid foods until after a year of age. They receive all of their nutrition through formula or breast milk. If you’ve already waited until six months to feed your little one anything besides formula or breast milk then you’ve already skipped the spoon-feeding stage! At this age they are curious little babes and they want to hold onto that food themselves! Their instincts drive them to want to use their hands and their mouths. A baby’s motivation to put food in their mouth is curiosity and copying at first-not hunger. For the first couple of months, solid food is all about learning. Now with my son I gave him mashed potatoes for the second time the other night and not only did he eat it right off the spoon but I also allowed him to feed himself with the spoon. He didn’t do it perfectly but I can tell you he did really well and HAD fun with it!! Wish I got that picture! Below is Drew having mashed potatoes for the first time, he really didn’t know what to do with it, he’d only been eating dinner with us maybe a week, but after watching us and becoming more curious and ready he was able to tackle it the second time!

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So what actually happens with BLW? Let me see if I can draw a pretty picture for you, if you love family time, or love dinner time because you get to gather around the table and talk as a family then this will convince you alone that BLW is the way to go.

1.) Your baby is included in all meal times. They sit at the table with you in their highchair and they get to watch, watch and listen to everything going on around them. At first I would sit my son in the high chair with a few toys, it helped change up his normal activities and he just loved being there. I knew he was ready to start trying actual food when I saw him take his toys and put them into his mouth, over and over again.

2.) In part II I’ll mention more about what foods to first give your little one to start off with but first your child is given food in pieces that are easy to pick up (like sticks) they don’t have the “grasp” effect yet so they “fist” their foods meaning they will hold that stick shaped food in their fist and eat or suck off the top of it.

3.) Its up to the baby how much and how quickly he/she eats.

4.) Baby continues their usual milk feedings (formula or BM) whenever they want and decides on when to start reducing it. For example my son just turned 8 mths and he still drinks the same amount of formula he’s been eating for months.

5.) Going with your babies instinct to handle their own food, rather than against it, makes weaning easier and more fun then the old conventional way, think again how stressed I got when trying to feed my 5 mth old rice cereal.

6.) BLW also helps with your babies hand-eye coordination and chewing skills.

7.) It makes picky eating and mealtime battles less stressful. When there is no pressure there is less of a battle ground between little one and parent. I swear this is why my three and a half year old is such a picky eater. She still to this day doesn’t like anything chewy besides gummy bears or lollipops! Meat is not her favorite because of that, which stresses me out at every mealtime because I want my kids to have the nutritional value they need.

8.) Allows babies to explore texture, taste, colors and smells of all sorts of food your giving him/her.

9.) Encourages confidence at mealtimes and more enjoyment rather than when can I get down and go play! It means baby is part of the family time right from the get go!

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We’ve been doing BLW for about 4-6 weeks now and finally I’m starting to notice that he’s actually consuming some of the food he puts in his mouth. He actually swallows the breads and foods that turn to mush. Next week I’ll talk more about the chocking/gagging reflex that turns most parents off from BLW but honestly once you get past that it’s such an enjoyable process.

First Food

For example I’ve had a few scary episodes watching my son learn what his gag reflex is all about but I never panicked and I’ve only had to go in and remove a piece of food once, don’t panic it’s not that bad and honestly he always works it out by coughing or swallowing. As the weeks progressed he’s gotten used to it, my husband on the other hand gets really nervous so I just tell him to stick to the mushy stuff when I’m not around! Until he gets a few teeth that is!

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This information is strictly my own opinions and thoughts. My knowledge I gained is from the book Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods. By: Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett.

I will leave you all with a recipe and see you next week for Part II. I made these the first week I started Drew on solids and he LOVED them. I kept them in the fridge for a week and he munched on them once a day! Plus I sneaked some veggies in there. I use shredded carrots or shredded zucchini. Get the recipe HERE.

Substitute shredded carrots, zucchini, summer squash or heck throw some broccoli in there!

Veggie Tater Tots (3)

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