Ok, so we all know there is just an incredible amount of information out in the world regarding when/how/why/where our babies should begin eating solids. I will be keeping up with our experiences with food here, but I am not a pediatrician or a nutritionist so don’t look to it as some sort of guide, it’s not.
Since this is the first post of this nature I’ll start from the top.
Why I chose Baby Led Weaning (BLW)
Years ago my mother told me our friend “J” was using BLW with her son and seeing some great results. Now “J” has two kids who have both been fed this way and are awesome eaters. Much like deciding to breastfeed, I had decided I’d try BLW with Violet even before she was born. The idea of giving them recognizable foods just seemed like a good plan, plus I loathe the smell of jar baby food.
How I got started
I checked out the book, Baby-Led Weaning by Gil Rapley and Tracey Murkett from the library (a penny saved is a penny earned… or something like that), and got to readin’! It’s a very easy and quick read which was perfect for me because I dislike long-winded text without interest or humor…or at least a few pictures…I like coloring books, ok? is that so bad?
How I knew it was time to start solids
The book (and the WHO) recommends starting solids at six months because of the gut flora being strong enough to handle the food and also the baby’s immune system being ready. They also say that baby should be able to sit up even if it’s assisted, and they should be able to get things into their own mouths (or close to it). Violet was about 5.5 months when we first gave her solids and I knew the time had come because she lost her mind when I wouldn’t share my banana with her. Eating food became impossible with her around, so I talked to my husband and we agreed to give it a go.
How “well” did she do the first time?
We tend to measure the success of a baby starting solids by how much we managed to get in them…I didn’t want it to be that way for Violet. She is still getting the absolute majority of her nutrition from breast milk, so solids are really a chance to explore and learn. As soon as I set the food in front of her she looked excited and went to town on it all. She mostly just sucked on things, but that’s what she knows to do. She ate/played for about twenty minutes before she decided she’d had enough and we cleaned her up. I’d call that a very successful first run, but don’t be concerned if your kid doesn’t dive right in. Plenty of moms have reported that their babies didn’t show interest right away, just continue giving them the opportunity!
What did I give her as her first foods?
Orange bell pepper strips, whole strawberries, and strips of cucumber. I’m sure people will disagree with my choices, but that’s ok. The key is to avoid foods that your family members have allergies to and anything they could choke on easily (such as nuts or grapes). They recommend you cut the food up into strips or “fingers” long enough so that the baby has room to grip it and still have some sticking out of her fist, so that’s what I did, although I left the strawberries whole.
Aren’t you afraid she will choke?
Not really, more so with certain foods than with others. Carrots, cucumber, etc. can be cut into long “fingers” and bits don’t break off very easily, so those aren’t really a concern. Things like apple, pear, etc. tend to fall apart in chunks, so I watch her more closely with those. I do like to leave the skin on them, but it is more difficult for her to get down if a piece breaks loose. She has only gagged once, not choked, as of this point in time. As they say in the book, never leave your child unattended with food.
Just how messy is it?
Wonderfully messy! Food gets everywhere, so just be ready to give them a bath and deep clean the highchair. Remember when everyone told you not to get that super fancy highchair because it would be a pain in the butt to clean?…yep, they were right. I don’t mind the mess because I know it’s necessary for my girl to really experience the food. Plus she will eventually be less messy, but she won’t get to that point unless she practices!
Is it time consuming?
The answer is yes, but feeding your baby is always time consuming. I will say that the most time-intensive part is the cleanup at the moment. She’s only just learning to control and manipulate the food, so it gets everywhere…EVERYWHERE. However, I do save time on the prep because I either give her what we have (sans salt) or she gets chopped up veggies and fruit which takes only a moment to prep. Also, she eats when we eat, so it’s not like I have to carve out time to feed her and then figure out when I’ll be able to eat my own meal, she’s an active participant in the meal.
Are you happy with your choice?
Yes, I am very pleased with my choice so far. I love watching her explore the textures and flavors and recognize her favorite food, strawberries. Her coordination has increased noticeably as well, which is super cool. We’ve really only just begun, so I can’t rant and rave about how awesomely non-picky she is (although she has yet to refuse anything I’ve given her), but everything is great so far.
How often does she eat solids?
We’ve started with once a day, usually in the middle of the day after a nap and a good feed. However, we have skipped a day here and there. I know consistency is key, but it doesn’t always happen and I won’t apologize for it.
Has she cut back on milk feedings?
Not yet, as I mentioned before, she’s only eating solids 1-2 times a day at this point so she hasn’t cut back on milk at all. The book mentions that when introducing solids you should offer them breast milk (or formula, but this is my account and I breastfeed so I’ll be using that when I write from now on. So if you formula feed just substitute it in where “breast milk” is written) before you offer them solids to be sure that they get the maximum amount of nutrition. I hadn’t thought about it, but breast milk is so much more nutrient dense than solids, especially when you look at the amount of solids they eat, as well as the variety, so if you cut back the milk too quickly they lose out on nutrition.
What outcome are you hoping for?
I’m hoping for a smooth transition to solids with the least amount of frustration for everyone and the least amount of constipation for her. I’m also hoping for her to enjoy a wide variety of foods with very few aversions. I’m a fairly picky eater (I have a thing about sauces…), but I want for her to like and be willing to try new things without a lot of fussing. I’m hoping to give her the most nutrient dense and quality foods that I can and avoid things like added sugar and salt so that she learns to love foods as they are without the need to doctor them up. I fight a sweet tooth almost daily and I don’t want that for her. I understand that she will eat sweets and all that eventually, but I believe that having a good relationship with food starts early and stays with you for life.
Well, that’s it, that’s the current story of my babe’s foodie life!
If you’ve tried BLW what food does your babe love that surprised you? If you are planning to try it, what excites you about it?