At my baby’s six-month checkup about a year ago (hold on, I’ll finish when I stop crying over how big my baby is) I was all geared up to speak to her doctor about starting solids. I couldn’t wait to humble-brag about how I was going to make her all-organic -homemade food in my fancy new blender. Then her pediatrician threw me for a loop when she said:
“You can feed her whatever you’re eating”.
Once I recovered, I clarified that sure, she meant whatever I was eating, but OBVIOUSLY only after it was blended into a disgusting mush . She laughed at my horror and told me that she did indeed mean whole foods, and explained how her gums could actually mash up the food well as long as I didn’t feed her a few restricted foods (nuts, unsliced grapes, popcorn).
Well I was paranoid, so I just fed her some pureed food to start out, but her words stuck with me and I realized I really liked the idea of just feeding her what I eat for a few reasons:
I’m lazy and it doesn’t require making something seperate for the baby.
It helps the baby try a variety of foods and, theoretically be a less picky eater
It develops strong hand-eye coordination.
She learns to chew before swallowing, as opposed to swallowing as soon as the food hits their mouth, which can help prevent choking.
So, as usual, I turned to the all-powerful and all-knowing Google to see what this would look like. I found a bunch of articles on what I now know to be called baby-led weaning, and how it usually works. Here are some of the requirements:
Must be at least six months
Baby needs to be able to sit by him or herself
Must have developed a pincer grasp
…..and some of the rules:
Baby has to feed herself. No one puts food in the baby’s mouth except the baby. This is important for choking purposes. Babies actually have a better sense of how much they can eat than we do. It also teaches them to eat until they are full, instead of overriding that when we try to get them to eat “just one more bite”.
Baby has to eat whatever everyone else is eating. This is so that he learns by example and feels included in meal times.
Nurse or give formula 30-60 minutes before mealtime to make sure this is still the primary source of nutrition until 12 months of age.
Food should be finger sized portions to allow baby to grasp it more easily.
Her first meal with us was chicken, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. She loved it! Granted, she only got about a bite or two into her mouth before the rest was happily tossed on the floor, but still, she did great. Slowly I became more and more comfortable giving her food and experimented with more flavors. She continued to surprise me by developing her own sense of taste and preferences. For example she LOVES rice and beans with a splash of hot sauce, but will not touch pancakes. Some of her favorites include wheat pasta with marinara, broccoli, cheese, apples, mushrooms, and steak. She is less fond of plain bread, muffins, and kale.
Now that we are a year into eating solids, I can definitely say I am a fan of baby led weaning. My daughter eats a huge variety of foods, and has a blast trying new stuff. It’s been such a fun experience for us both! It also helped us identify allergies she had early on, which allowed us to take interventions to keep them from getting to dangerous levels.
Would she have been a rockstar eater had I traditionally weaned her with pureed fruits and veggies? Maybe, but watching your little munchkin learn to eat and ending up with spaghetti coming out of her ears is a pretty fun way to bond and enjoy mealtime together.