Before Julian was even born, I had intentions of trying Baby Led Weaning where you skip the baby food & let baby manage & experiment with their own food. Then once he reached 4 months old & was in the middle of a major sleep regression, I was desperate to try anything that might get me a few more minutes of sleep.
He liked the baby oatmeal cereal, but he would not usually eat significant amounts of it, & there was always a lot of precious pumped breast milk going to waste. So I bought some fruit purees instead. He really liked these, but again, it was hit or miss whether he would actually consume any significant amount. His favorite part of eating these baby foods was grabbing the spoon & putting it in his own mouth – he liked to play with it.
In between introducing these baby foods, I have let him try some solid foods – sucking on apple slices, gnawing on bread, mashing up banana, etc. Since he seemed to really enjoy experimenting with new food (& since it is getting harder & harder to keep him entertained), I decided I better read more info about Baby Led Weaning & really start doing it.
I went to BabyLedWeaning.com for great tips on getting started. I realized that I was doing a few things wrong in my attempts at Baby Led Weaning up to that point:
- Sometimes I was giving Julian small pieces
- Sometimes I would hold the food for him
- Sometimes I would panic & fish out a piece of food
- Sometimes I gave him things that are not recommended for beginners (like apples, which are not mushy enough)
- Sometimes I would end his eating/playing session b/c it was worrying me too much with the gagging
So along those lines I realized what to do instead of what not to do:
- Cut food in strips or chip shapes so that baby can hold onto them
- Let baby pick up the food & manage it themselves
- Make sure baby is sitting upright in the high chair or in your lap (not lounging)
- It’s okay if baby gags a bit. That is how they bring the food back to the front of their mouth. It is not the same as choking
- It’s okay if baby doesn’t actually swallow anything. In fact the first few times, they will just play with the food & practice chewing it
It was really helpful for me to go watch some YouTube videos of these tiny little babies practicing Baby Led Weaning. These videos were particularly helpful b/c it reminded me that this would be a gradual process, & gave me ideas for food selections.
After my research yesterday, I gave Julian sliced up pears for breakfast (while I made coffee for me & breakfast for his brother), & toast slices for lunch (while I helped Matteo with some preschool activities in the kitchen). I realized that leaving the skin on the pear slices & cutting them into chip shapes made them much more manageable for Julian b/c without the skin they kept slipping out of his hand. He gagged maybe twice with the pears, but he did not gag at all with the lunchtime toast. He was actually gnawing & chewing the toast & then would spit out the piece if it was too big, or I think he ended up swallowing some of it too.
Baby Led Weaning may not be for everyone. Since we don’t have food allergy concerns, we can offer a variety of foods that we have on hand without following any sort of schedule to watch for allergies. And while it can be nerve-wracking initially, I already see how Julian can manage his food very well without fear of him choking on it (as long as I am giving him appropriate food). Also, baby led weaning is very messy. Foods get squished between chubby fingers, thrown down beside them, rubbed in their hair, & spit out; but purees can be very messy too. Plus, I think the mess is worth the entertainment value for all involved 🙂
I was encouraged by our first attempts at true baby led weaning, & I look forward to all the food fun in our future 🙂