Baby-Led Weaning

My youngest turned six months on the 4th which means we are beginning to explore solid foods! We decided to just dive into it and do the baby-led weaning approach. This means that for the most part, we are just giving her food that we eat as opposed to spoon feeding her purees. Baby-Led Weaning The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater* has been instrumental in this process, especially since we didn’t use this method with my son.

When we went to the doctor for her six month appointment I was very surprised that literally everything has changed in regards to the introduction of solids since my son (now three) was an infant. Before, you did it in stages. You offered fruit and veggies first and held off on common allergens (such as dairy, nuts, and eggs). Because we fed him purees, we started with very watery mixes and gradually increased the texture until he was about nine months and could handle finger foods. Around then is when we started giving him proteins as well.

Now, anything goes! They no longer urge you to hold off on those allergens. We were told to go ahead and give them to her and to just keep Benedryl on hand and to be aware of choking hazards. At first this surprised me that it all changed in a relatively short period of time. Hindsight, we live in a world where one day one food is highly recommended and the next it’s all over the news that it will kill you. So I guess it’s not much of a surprise.

After reading the Baby-Led Weaning book by Gill Rapley, PhD and Tracey Murkett I honestly wonder if the fact that we relied so heavily on purees with our oldest is part of the reason why he is so picky. He has always had an issue with texture and won’t touch anything new. We are about a month into introducing solids to our daughter and so far she has not rejected anything. She is definitely in the exploration phase still, she doesn’t fully “eat” much of what we offer her, but she has always at least tried whatever it was.

The book does extremely well to outline why baby-led weaning is beneficial. It fosters independence and allows babies to really explore tastes and textures on their own terms. They are able to learn how to eat because they are completely in control over what goes in their mouth. They are touching it with their hands so it’s not a surprise when the food enters their mouth. They have to learn to work their lips and their tongue in ways that purees do no allow.

It also addresses the concern of choking. This is a very real concern for parents of young children. Parents tend to react to any sign of discomfort in eating and treat it as if they are choking. The fact is, if the child is coughing they are breathing. It is all a learning experience for the child on their journey to learn how to eat. They (and you) will learn how to correct any feeding issues as they arise.

Baby-led weaning is a great way to give the baby autonomy early on. It teaches them the mechanics of eating and saves a lot of time for parents as they don’t have to fuss over purees. There are many utensils out there to aid in the feeding process such as feeders*. However, like many things in the world of parenting, it really depends on your comfort level. I did not feel comfortable doing baby-led weaning with my son. I had to do a lot of research on it to work up the courage to try it with my daughter. You need to find out what is within your comfort zone and act accordingly.

It is really interesting that in such a short period of time she already seems a lot more adventurous with food than her older brother. I don’t know if it’s because of baby-led weaning or simply because they are different people. I’m sure it’s some combination of both of these, and probably other factors. I just hope that this journey continues to be a positive journey for all of us and that she does now grow to be as picky as her brother.