By: Heather Farris of thebalancedmamas.com
(Please note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone. Please consult with your pediatrician before making any major changes to your baby's diet. You baby must always be supervised when being fed both hard and soft foods.)
When I first heard of baby led weaning my first daughter was about three years old. I thought it was a new fad and nothing more. With my first child, I just thought pureed baby food was the way to go because it was what everyone did.
Then I got pregnant with my second child and yet again heard of baby led weaning. Again I stored the information away, not really thinking much of it.
Then the time came for my second daughter to start eating solid foods. Ironically enough, I didn’t stress over baby food this time around. I didn’t go to the store and seek out pureed options. Nor did I ask for my doctor's permission to feed my baby what I felt was right for her.
Call it mother's intuition. Call it lazy parenting. I’m not sure what you call it, but I can tell you for a fact that my second child has a much larger palette than the first and will chow down on anything you put in front of her.
What is baby led weaning?
Essentially baby led weaning is a term used today for feeding little ones the same way kids were fed at dinner tables decades ago. “Baby Led Weaning, quite simply, means letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning.” This means the baby sits and feeds himself pieces of food that are cut up when they start weaning. No purees, spoons or baby cereals. You continue to nurse or offer milk as often as the baby would like while also offering food at meal time.
With my second child, I was determined to nurse her because of the health scares that happened with our first. But I also didn’t want to make baby food and store it like I did with the first. There is nothing wrong with that, but working 40 hours a week and raising two busy girls doesn’t leave a lot of time for me to make homemade baby food.
At around three months of age, I put the high chair together and placed the baby in it during our meal times. I did this to get her accustomed to sitting at the table with us at meal time. At six months old I started giving her pieces of my food. At first, she would play with it. Then after watching us a little bit more she figured out she was supposed to eat it. It was all downhill from there.
What do you feed a BLW baby/toddler?
Simply put you feed them what you are eating. Start with soft, steamed vegetables and fruit. You cut the food up into pieces that fit into their little hands. Our little one's favorite food is bananas. I cut a banana into wedges, long ways. It made it easier for her to hold onto and get into her mouth. The broccoli I would cut with a longer stem still attached. You can do this in some form with just about any fruit or vegetable. Our favorites are bananas, green beans, corn on the cob, melon, pasta, ground beef, soft chicken, yogurt popsicles, black beans, rice, tomatoes and so much more.
Since little ones don’t have much hand-eye coordination to start it’s important to cut things up into pieces so they have basically had a handle to hold onto.
How do I keep my baby safe with baby led weaning?
Never leave your child unattended with food at any time.
Always make sure the food you are feeding them is cooled off completely and soft enough to mash up in their little mouths. Without many teeth, it will be hard to chew.
Avoid harder raw fruits like apples as well as nut butter, raw vegetables, and hot dogs because they can become lodged and choked. If you want to try apple's, most definitely steam them lightly until they are soft enough to “chew” but not so mushy that they can’t be picked up.
Where can I find resources to learn more about BLW?
Here is an excellent article for the do’s and don'ts of baby led weaning that I read around the time we started this whole journey.
You can also visit this website.
Where are we now?
Our daughter is nearing the 17-month mark and will literally eat anything we give her. She will eat things that I won’t eat like raw onions and olives. She feeds herself with a fork and spoon although not well, but she still gets the job done. This whole process is such a different experience than what I had the first time around. I actually get to eat with both hands at every meal.
The thing that I’ve come to learn is that fed is best and no matter what you choose, that is all that matters. We are going on 17 months and still breastfeeding and she drinks whole milk during the day.
Heather is an accountant by day and blogger by night. She's raising a family with her husband as well as her business while working full-time. Her girls are 1 and 6 respectively, so she's knee deep in diapers and attitude on a regular basis.