Baby Led Weaning: Yay or Nay?

Years ago when I first started feeding my son solids, I cooked and puréed a couple of foods (sweet potato and peas) and spoon fed them to him much to his delight.

We continued on that path, adding 1-2 new foods a week until he was capable of feeding himself with his own utensils. I refused to buy those raggedy plastic but part metal utensils with some cartoon or superhero character emblazoned on the handle. No.

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But now there's this “new” way of feeding your child called baby led weaning. Now when I first heard about it, I thought don’t babies learn to feed themselves anyway so what’s the big deal? How is this any different? Simply put, its timing. Typically when most parents start their babies on solids, around 6 months usually, it's with pureed foods as I mentioned doing with my son.  But now, you skip that altogether and go straight to table food that has been cooked or mashed to a soft texture that allows THEM to feed themselves.

Now for me, initially it was a no go. Why you ask? Let me tell you class, because I’M. NOT. TRYING. TO.CLEAN. UP. THE. MESS. THAT. WILL. ENSUE. Nope! Not today. Ya’ll tried it.

But then when she turned 6 months, I found myself giving her bits of banana laid out on the tray of her of high chair. Most pieces ended up in the seat of her chair while a few pieces landed on the floor. While this wasn’t terrible because it was just a banana, I still didn’t want to be bothered with this or worse on a regular basis. So I’ve come up with a compromise. I feed her but I haven’t given her anything that's been pureed or remotely thinned out in anyway and she’s eating a like a champ! She’s had scrambled eggs, sweet potato, honeynut squash, zucchini, carrots, pancakes, avocado, grapes, applesauce plus a few others. Now before you say something about the applesauce. It's not like the kind you buy in the cups or the squeezable versions. I make it at home using macintosh apples which bake down to a perfect chunky, but soft flavorful sauce. I add a dash of cinnamon and just mix it up. No mashing or pureeing whatsoever. It's the same version I fed the boy many moons ago and he still likes today although he’s had his fair share and then some of Go Go Squeez because of sheer convenience.

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It's now been a month and half although, she’s just gotten into really eating the last couple of weeks, I still don’t see what the big deal is about it. I know BLW is also supposed to help teach your child how to identify the amount of food that they need, which I doubt it doesn’t once they actually learn to get the food in their mouths but so does feeding your baby. Most babies who are being spoon fed, when they are done, will simply turn away or refuse to open their mouths to allow more food in. My she babe does this very thing when she’s no longer interested in the meal. We don’t force her and keep moving right along to the next activity. If she doesn’t like something, she will let you know by her reaction. Once again, am I going to force her to eat it? No. We’ll just move on to something else. Eventually she will try everything we eat, but I don’t expect her to be a fan of it all. But if she’s anything like her brother, she will still have a broad palette for food that goes far beyond some adults I know. He eats a variety of foods that not only spans types but ethnicities, has the ability to put away a considerable amount of food yet definitely knows when he’s had his fill and enjoys being in the kitchen helping and learning to prepare meals for the family. And it all started with pureed sweet potatoes and peas.

Listen, whether you choose baby lead weaning, spoon feeding pureed foods or a combination of the two like me, introducing your little one to solids shouldn’t be an additional stressor to the sometimes chaos of raising children. But before you start, here are a few tips to make it a more enjoyable and safe experience for you and your little one:

  • Make sure they can sit up unassisted
  • They no longer have the tongue thrust reflex (their tongue won’t automatically push the foods out of their mouths during feeding)

  • Waiting until they are at least 6 months to allow for their gut to mature. Here's why here and here

Beyond that, try to make the most of this sweet yet messy time. Its another opportunity to watch them grow and become more independent little people.