There are too many choices when it comes to raising a child. Choices I had no idea that I was going to have to make. Pacifier? No pacifier? Types of bottles so that baby doesn’t get nipple confusion. Types of crib sheets for allergies or for the weather or to color coordinate with your child’s PJ’s for the night. Types of PJ’s (I’m Team Snaps, my spouse is Team Zipper). One choice that I was not prepared to make was when, how, what we would do for our baby’s solids journey.
I’m Lisa and this is my son Atlas, and this is our story of how we chose to do baby led weaning vs. the traditional baby purées.
We didn’t start solids until 7 months because I wasn’t in a rush and I was looking for the signs from my son to see if he was ready. I wanted him to be able to sit up unassisted and have the tongue reflex needed to start solids. When he started following our food with his eyes and trying to grab our food out of our hands, that was a good indicator that we needed to hurry up and decide the how, when, what we were going to do!
We loved the idea of baby led weaning because it “seemed” easier because he would eat what we were eating just cut up in a different way. (I put ‘seemed’ in quotes because nothing is ever easy, especially things that you think are going to be easier!) One benefit was it forced my spouse and I to eat better because if it was something I didn’t want to give Atlas (like fried food) we didn’t eat it for dinner. But it was hard on days when we would eat leftovers and Atlas didn’t eat it the first two times, we had the meal, so he wasn’t going to eat it the third time.
If you are thinking of doing baby led weaning, here are my tips to succeed or at least to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone:
- Get CPR certified (you should do this even if you don’t do baby led weaning). It helped calm my nerves if my child ever choked. Familiarizing yourself with choking vs. gagging is essential for baby led weaning. Baby led weaning teaches your baby a different way to eat because you are starting with a different texture other than pureed food. So, there is going to be gagging but the baby will learn how to move their tongue and work out the food. Atlas did gag A LOT but has never choked.
- “Food before one is just for fun”. I repeated this to myself a thousand times so that I wouldn’t stress out if he was getting a perfectly balanced meal especially when he would throw all the vegetables on the floor. Babies should still be getting all of their nutrients from breastmilk or formula before turning one. So, the food is just the fun part - they are figuring out new tastes and textures, what they like, what they don’t like etc.
- Find your support. I found a support group on Facebook (social media can be used for good sometimes) and that baby led weaning specific group gave a lot of great tips on recipes, tips on cutting certain foods certain ways to prevent choking, tips for utensils, etc. I also needed our “village” to be on the same page - grandparents watched him occasionally so they needed to know the proper way to cut a banana or to also know the difference between gagging and choking. I stocked their freezer with Cafe Baby Grabbies menu items for those days that they didn’t know what to cook or they weren’t comfortable giving him something they were making. The turkey meatballs were a favorite because they crumbled in just the right way that it made it fun eating. And the Baby Bolognese was also fun for him to play with and to work on that pincher grasp skill with those noodles.
- Get a dog. Okay this one is a joke - kind of. Baby led weaning is MESSY - well really any baby food option is messy. Get a good bib, a good under the high chair mat, and a dog. Also get ready for lots of baths or sink baths especially with yogurt or spaghetti - that stuff doesn’t simply wipe off their face or hands or hair. The solids journey is supposed to be fun so I guess that doesn’t come cleanly.
Every baby’s journey into the solids world is different and you have to find what works best for your family. And sometimes what you think will work, your baby will dictate something completely different. Parenting is full of choices and this one should be a fun exploration of figuring out what your baby can or won’t eat.