After trying purees, we changed the way we fed our son.
When Bruce turned 4 months old, his pediatrician told me at his well check appointment that I could start feeding him solids. Her words were something along the lines of “We usually recommend waiting until 6 months, but if he’s sitting independently now or if you just want to start anyway, go for it.” I asked her if she thought he was ready and what signs I should be looking for, and she kind of shrugged off the question and said “if you’re comfortable, you’re fine to start.”
Lady, I don’t know if I’m comfortable, I’ve never done this before, that’s why I’m asking YOU for a recommendation (can anyone relate??).
Side note: I think that this is when I realized that there are a lot of topics that pediatricians just aren’t experts in, and feeding is one of them. Looking back on it, this is what triggered me to be a “kind of crunchy” mom, if you will, researching everything baby related and choosing, based on my own beliefs and comfort level, where I wanted to potentially deviate from the “conventional” or traditionally recommended approaches to all things baby.
Knowing that I am the type of person who obsessively researches when I don’t immediately know what to do, I just said “OK, thanks” and started thinking about everything I was going to Google search during Bruce’s next nap.
WE STARTED WITH TRADITIONAL FEEDING
The thing is, at the same time I was also REALLY excited to feed him solids. It just seemed so…fun? I wanted to mix and match spices and make all of his baby food, and I reaaaally wanted to start using the highchair and feeding products we had registered for and been staring at for months (I wasn’t even remotely aware of Baby Led Weaning at this point). I had ultimately decided on my way home from the doctor that I was going to just start with solids and see how he did, research the shit out of baby feeding, and adjust however I wanted and felt comfortable with.
So, the journey began. I steamed and pureed some sweet potato and he loved it, so I knew starting solids was the right choice because it WAS fun. He was excited about it, I was excited about it, and it became a time of day when we could just bond and enjoy. Pretty much right away, he also started grabbing the spoon from me and wanting to chew on it and handle it on his own, and when we would all eat together, he was definitely reaching for whatever was on our plate. Little did I know that these were signs he was ready for more than just purees!
And then, when I started getting into the depths of the internet, I discovered Baby Led Weaning.
WHAT IS BABY LED WEANING?
For those who may not be familiar with the concept, Baby Led Weaning (or infant self-feeding) is the idea that you introduce babies to feeding by giving them pieces of whole foods and let them explore and learn how to feed themselves, rather than pureeing foods and spoon feeding them. With Baby Led Weaning, you essentially give them soft, easy to pick up foods like roasted sweet potato strips or a mozzarella cheese stick, and they pick it up, gnaw on it, eat it, etc.
All in all, it boils down to this: with both methods of feeding, they are being exposed to a variety of different tastes and flavors. In traditional feeding, babies are learning how to swallow foods first, and THEN how to chew and handle texture and whole pieces of food, whereas Baby Led Weaning is the opposite: they learn how to handle texture and whole pieces of food and chew upfront, and THEN how to swallow.
A lot of parents choose not to do Baby Led Weaning because there are a lot of worries about choking and safety. The thing is this – babies have an incredible gag reflex on the middle/front of their tongue, so they are inclined to spit something out if it is too big or if they don’t like it long before it gets to the “danger zone” in their throat. Additionally, it is an excellent idea to get CPR certified to feel confident that you know what to do in the case of choking.
Knowing these things, if Baby Led Weaning still triggers an insane amount of anxiety for you, it just might not be the best method of feeding for your family. The most important thing is to make sure YOU feel safe and confident in how you are feeding your baby, because their energy and confidence will “feed” (no pun intended) off of you.
FINDING RESOURCES ON BABY LED WEANING AND LEARNING MORE
I found Inspiralized Kids (@inspiralizedkids) on Instagram, which led me to discover Feeding Littles (@feedinglittles), who are infant and toddler feeding experts, and the more I learned, the more I realized that Baby Led Weaning was right for us. Regardless of whether or not you want to do Baby Led Weaning, I HIGHLY recommend you follow both accounts as they have great meal time ideas and examples, as well as a wealth of information about feeding babies and toddlers in general.
Bruce is, and always has been, such an active and physically-forward (I have no idea if that’s even a phrase but hopefully you get what I mean) kid, so I knew that a feeding method that focused on motor skills and eating was going to be perfect for him.
Plus, he was close to sitting up fully supported, loved grabbing and playing with spoons, and was incredibly interested in the things we were eating rather than the purees we were giving him, which was signaling to me that he was ready to progress.
TRANSITIONING FROM TRADITIONAL FEEDING TO BABY LED WEANING
I didn’t want to go “all or nothing” and make a total change, so I decided to do a slower, gradual transition. Bruce really enjoyed the purees he was being fed, and I could tell he was hungry and eating a lot when we were feeding him, so I didn’t want to take that away (I think I had a little PTSD from when he was younger and we had to go in for a few weight checks because the doctor was concerned about him not gaining enough weight, so I didn’t want to give up anything that was working in terms of feeding him).
During meal times, I started to introduce whole pieces of foods before purees. I would do things like strips of toast with a puree spread on it, and let him explore and go to town. I had a ton of pureed food that I had already made and frozen, so it was a great way to use that and still practice Baby Led Weaning! Afterwards, if he didn’t eat a ton, I would feed him purees because he was used to it and he was hungry – I couldn’t say no!
After about a month of combination feeding, he started figuring out the whole pieces of food more and more, and we started doing less and less purees afterwards until he was comfortably eating whole foods exclusively.
I knew he was ready to be on whole foods exclusively when daycare called asking if they could feed him whole foods because he was trying to steal other kids’ foods!
All in all, from the time that we started feeding purees to the time that we were doing Baby Led Weaning exclusively was about 2 months, which means by 6 months old we had fully transitioned. And we never looked back!
There are a couple things I’d be remiss not to mention:
1) This isn’t to say we never used pouches for snacks — we definitely did, as those were key for our busy, on the go family. While he was still under 1, we used the puree pouches, but after 1 applesauce and yogurt became (and still are!) our favorite go-to snacks.
2) We invested in different equipment — after learning from Feeding Littles and observing Bruce eating, I knew our current highchair wasn’t going to cut it. I took the plunge and invested in a considerably more expensive highchair, and bought all the cups, plates, and forks. I don’t regret it at all, and feel that it was a game changer for him.
Baby Led Weaning was one of the best things we did for Bruce, as we saw a huge improvement in his motor skill development, and I think it is what built the foundation for him to be an amazing eater still to this day. While we are experiencing some toddler pickiness, he still eats a TON and it is pretty cool to watch him learn and grow and be so self-sufficient with his eating.
Let me know what questions you have about Baby Led Weaning; I can’t wait to start our feeding journey with baby girl after she arrives!