Baby Led Weaning | The Road to Solids

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When Selah turned six months old, I was NOT ecstatic to start solids. Things were going well with nursing (unlike with Bella) and I wanted to continue to establish breastfeeding. Also, breastfeeding was so convenient that starting solids seemed a tad overwhelming to me. I remembered all the things that go along with feeding a baby: the bibs, messy highchairs, cleaning up their sweet faces (and legs, hair, arms, stomach, etc), packing food when we travel, and the poop (I said it….breast milk poop is nothing compared to the diapers to come).

This time around, however, I had decided to do something a little different. With Bella, I made all her baby food from scratch from almost all organic food. I loved it and found great joy in prepping, cooking, and pureeing her food. I was not excited about that idea at all with Selah. I suppose that’s the difference between your first and subsequent children. Thankfully, because of the breastfeeding support group I had been going to, I learned there was another way (P.S. If you are a nursing mama or mama-to-be and need breastfeeding advice or support, I strongly encourage you to visit Amanda Ogden at The Mama’hood. I don’t think I would have had success this time around without her!). Anyway, Amanda had mentioned “baby led weaning (BLW)” during one of the groups and although I had heard about it, I didn’t know much. I decided to go to the “Starting Solids” class at The Mama’hood to learn more.

Basically, with BLW, you start your child on table food and never do purees. This appealed to me like no other. I loved the idea of Selah enjoying meals with us and her being able to feed herself and explore food. They talked about starting them on large chunks of food first (the size of your finger) and then moving them to smaller pieces once they developed the pincer grasp. All the information I received was music to my ears! There was another way and it didn’t involve watering down some type of puree with breast milk and watching her spit it out. It didn’t involve hours of prepping and freezing and warming up frozen cubes! It involved feeding her what we were eating (within reason) and letting her go at her own pace and reading her cues.

So we started. Selah wasn’t into it at first. We gave her things to try and she would taste things but didn’t seem impressed. We were leaving for Florida in a month so I figured we would really jump into solids once we returned. It was nice knowing that Selah could continue to thrive on breast milk with no rush to start solids. We’d give her things once in a while but not regularly.

About mid-December, when Selah was almost 8 months old, something clicked and she decided she was ready for solids. We were visiting a friend who was feeding her little one lunch and Selah dug in as well. A few days later, Selah seemed very interested in the over-hard egg I had for breakfast. She gobbled it up and since then, she has had egg yolk everyday for breakfast. She pretty much started on 3 meals a day right away.

A big concern with BLW is the choking factor. They talked about this a lot in class. One of the benefits of BLW is that you are helping your child develop all of those little muscles in their mouths and jaws. In developing this, they learn very quickly how to “work up” food that may be too big of a bite. They are actually learning how not to choke! It is quite natural for your baby to gag but actual choking is a rarity. They encouraged us in class that if your child starts to gag to give them 20 seconds to work it up (unless of course they are truly choking, turning blue, and clearly can’t breathe). Talk about nerve wracking! Sitting and watching your baby “choke” seems like a terrible idea. We gave it a go. Selah would/does gag during her meals but in just a second or two she has worked it up and cleared it.

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So, in conclusion, I am a big fan of baby led weaning and I will follow this method with any other babies we have. Here is a list of the greatest benefits and even some of the troubles that I see to this way of feeding:

Benefits

  • Mouth muscle development: Selah Mae is a pro at eating. She spits food out or removes it with her hands when it is too big. She gnaws/chews her food fairly well too even though she just recently got teeth. She has never choked.
  • Self regulated eating: Selah eats until she is full. She gets to decide. I think this is healthy because she will learn early on to stop when she is full. Sometimes she eats a lot (4 eggs for breakfast is her record) and sometimes she eats a little (but mostly a lot).
  • Increased hand-eye coordination: Bringing food to the mouth is great practice for coordination. Selah has learned to bring food to her mouth efficiently. She knows how to hang on to it, turn it around, and take it out of her mouth. This is great for development.
  • Food Diversity: Selah tries a variety of things. Babies who do BLW are said to be less picky and potential have less “texture issues”. They get used to new flavors and new textures.
  • Ease for Mama: I love not having to puree and freeze a bunch of food. More often than not, Selah will eat whatever we are eating even if it is just a bit modified. We had salisbury steak the other night and Selah had exactly what we were having down to the green beans and mashed potatoes. She devoured it. Another ease is that I don’t have to spoon feed! I love that I can actually enjoy our meals together and Selah can eat at the same time as all of us!

Troubles

  • Mess: Baby led weaning is messy….extremely messy. We strip Selah down to just her diaper so that she is easier to clean. Food get everywhere because she does drop bits and pieces and will squish it between her little fingers. The benefits outweigh this little trouble in my mind.
  • Ease: For me this was listed under the benefits but I realize not everyone chooses between making their own baby food and BLW. Some of you may just want to buy baby food off the shelf and so this is more of a hassle. But remember, it will save you money (and spoon feeding!)
  • Nerves:  There’s a chance you may not be able to deal with the whole “gagging” thing. It may just make you too edgy and so that would be a “trouble” for you. Like I said, it can be a little nerve wracking but it was worth it. As long as you are supervising, your baby will be fine! But if you don’t want to do it, then don’t.

I truly couldn’t come up with many “troubles”. It has been a joy to feed Selah this way. If you are interested, I highly recommend taking the $12 class at The Mama’hood, checking out the book, and/or visiting the website! If you have any other questions about our experience, please ask!

To happy babies with tummies full of nutritious foods!!

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