So, I mentioned in Jude’s six month post that I was going to start baby led weaning (BLW) with him. Since then I’ve had a few people ask me what it is and why, so I thought I’d attempt to explain. First, lets talk about when a baby is ready to start solids. It is not recommended that a baby start solids before the age of 6 months (no matter what your Dr says!). I mean think about it… it just makes sense that when a baby can sit on their own and grab things (food!) they are more than likely ready. These two things are usually going on, at the same time, around 6 months old. Sometimes later! Eli didn’t really take an interest in solids until around 7 months. Other signs to look for is the tongue thrust. If baby won’t even keep food in their mouth and continually spits it out (thrusts it out with their tongue)… they probably aren’t ready. So, typically if a baby is getting ready to start solids rice cereal is recommended. Ugh. That is the most nutritionally void food ever. And yes, I fed it to Luke. (I did skip it with Eli!) We are going to avoid grains for a few more months, mainly because they are so hard on the gut… and I’m talking an adult gut. I can imagine they would be harder on a baby gut! So, if rice cereal is a no-go, people usually go to Stage 1 foods, which is basically food flavored water. Seriously it is thin as water! No food has the texture of stage one baby food! So, with already two picky eaters on my hands I began to research baby led weaning. There is a book… but I don’t have it! I’m just going to give you my take on it after reading from a few blogs and the BLW site! And just for clarification, baby led weaning does not actually mean you want to wean your child. Weaning begins the moment a baby starts solid foods. But weaning doesn’t have to be forced or quick. Weaning can be led by the baby…. thus, baby led weaning.
Like I mentioned, stage one food is like flavored water. Many babies at 6+ months are ready to eat most any soft, whole foods. So, why not give it to them? They get the real flavor and texture of the actual food. In BLW, you let the baby feed themselves. No forcefully spooning pureed green peas in their mouth as they gag. The results show that babies who are offered whole foods to feed themselves are better and more adventurous eaters. They are in control of what they eat and how much. They learn how much food they can handle at a time (how much to bite off). Will Jude ever eat with a spoon? Yes, but it will be when he learns on his own. I’m sure I will let him experiment with cutlery in the next coming months! God gave us hands for a reason and picking up food is a great way to learn fine motor skills, too! What did folks do way back when? Sure they might have mashed up some food but I would bet that when a baby was ready, they mostly ate what mama cooked.
So, what can you feed them (before 1)? Pretty much anything with the exception of any known allergens (or family related allergies) and honey. Beyond those restrictions it is personal choice, like the no grains I mentioned. I am going to hold off on dairy (cheese, yogurt and butter) until around 9 months. I’m also going to hold off on peanut butter and egg whites until a year. But those are personal preferences. Many people who practice baby led weaning just start feeding baby straight from what the rest of the family is eating. I am choosing to just do one or two foods from what we are eating. For instance tonight we had orange chicken over rice and steamed broccoli. Jude had broccoli and tomato. The tomato was an add on but we often have sliced tomato with our dinners in the summer. It’s a southern thing! I picked out his broccoli before I buttered and salted ours. One night this week we’re having Mexican and Jude will have avocados with us. I really want him to eat something that the rest of us is eating, too. In a few months he will be eating much of what we are having right from the table. That is the goal! If you wait until 6 months, there is also no reason to slowly introduce foods unless it is food that is a concern (like a family member has an allergy to).
Am I afraid of Jude choking? No. Everything Jude eats is appropriate. It’s either soft enough raw (like a peeled tomato) or cooked soft enough for him to gum and chew. And if he gets too big of a piece in his mouth, he spits it out (you can see him do it in the videos I’ve taken of him). Babies are pretty smart. Also, if you’ve seen the videos I’ve posted, you will notice that I give him large pieces of food instead of smaller ones. Babies actually do better with large pieces they can gum or ‘bite’ themselves. Yes, Jude does cough a little or gag. These are natural, God-given reflexes. These keep Jude from choking. As long as you don’t freak out, the baby naturally spits the food out. The food is actually not in the throat. Once the baby feels the food too far back, it will gag or cough to get the food back to a safe place (or out altogether). Obviously, I’m not going to give Jude a hard carrot diced up and expect him to be able to handle it. And obviously, Robby or I sit with Jude the entire time he is eating and watch him. It was really beneficial for me to watch a few YouTube videos of babies doing baby led weaning to know what to expect!
Some other things worth mentioning… Jude always nurses before he eats any solid foods. I want him to get his nourishment from breast milk first. It’s still the absolute best food for him now. “Food before one is just for fun” is the common mantra, but it’s true. Right now Jude is only eating solids at dinner time. He gets mommy milk the rest of the time. We will probably stick with one “meal” a day for a while. It is so fun watching Jude try new things himself. And he is doing SO great! He was totally ready for it! I mentioned to the Hubs tonight that I really wish we had done this with the other boys. So far he has tried banana, sweet potato, tomato, carrot, cucumber and broccoli. He has loved the banana and tomato best. He was most reluctant with broccoli but he still kept tasting and sucking on the little ends. He actually ate a good bit of the broccoli. One bit of warning: It is MESSY! But again, oh so fun! We got one of those bibs with the lip at the bottom that catches the food and it helps some. I think he needs a few of those bib shirts! I might need to invest in some! We don’t eat out often but even if we did at dinner time, we could just take something less messy so he could participate. The cold cucumber wasn’t very messy at all. It’s not necessary that he even eat. I could easily feed him his ‘solid meal’ at lunch and then just nurse him before we went to dinner.
So, there is a little info about BLW and how things are going with Jude. I really wish I would have done this with Luke and Eli. It just makes sense to me now! I’ll share more updates as we try new foods!