We are a little more than two months into our Baby Led Weaning experience. Like all things that have come with being a new parent, this has been exciting and terrifying at the same time. Today’s post is focused on some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. I’m no expert, by any means, but I do feel like my profession as a dietitian has helped me a bit and has motivated me to stick this through. Truth be told, it hasn’t been easy!
You know how the baby books say that a small handful of babies simply don’t like food, and might take a few months before they really start accepting it? Well, that would be Paige. As I said in my first post about Baby Led Weaning, the first time I tried feeding her purees she really didn’t like them (and I did wait until she was just about six months, as is now recommended). I kept giving them to her over and over again, to no avail. Still two months later, she’s not a huge fan of food, and much prefers breast milk, but I’m not worried. She’s gaining weight and reaching all appropriate milestones. And, thanks to this approach, she has tried many foods, even if she hasn’t ingested them all, and she is getting to know the flavors and textures and is learning how to grasp like a champ. Below are some photos of Paige, my seven and a half month old, eating some of her favorite foods. After the photos you’ll be able to read some tips and tricks I’ve learned, and a few other comments about Baby Led Weaning, should you be interested in trying it with your little one. I’d like to make note that most of what I’ve learned about this approach has come from the Baby Led Weaning book, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. Fantastic resource!
So now that we are a couple months in, here are some tips if you’re hoping to start this yourself.
- Some other foods we’ve tried: French toast, scrambled eggs, plain yogurt (Greek!), apples, red and green peppers, cooked carrot, clementines, kiwis, sweet potato chunks, chicken legs (broiled), sourdough bread, pasta/spaghetti with light red sauce
- They say it’s messy, and it is, so be prepared! The first thing I did was go out to the store and buy a plastic tarp. We put it under her highchair before every meal. It gets messy, we take it outside and clean it. This is much easier than cleaning the floor each time. Also, we always plan baths after dinner (duh!) and sometimes we just put her in her highchair naked (with a diaper of course. We aren’t fools). Easy.
- Just because the book says one food might be a good choice, it may not be a good choice for your child. I read, on a blog, not in the book, that small uncooked oats would be fine, and that chia seeds would probably be ok too. While I think some babies could handle them right away, Paige couldn’t. She wasn’t ready for them when I first gave them too her, they were too small and foreign. Now, at almost 8 months, she’s ready.
- Think outside the box, and have fun with your food choices, don’t aim for perfection! I see a lot of blogs and/or Intagram posts/photos of foods that are cut into perfect shapes and lined up perfectly on the babies highchair tray. Umm, not necessary. While it may look pretty, it’s ok if you don’t make every meal look perfect, it’s going to be all over the place soon (plus, who has time for that?!). I literally offer Paige four pieces of food at each sitting (again, this may be different for your baby depending on their appetite, but Paige does well with just four pieces). I typically do a fruit piece, a vegetable piece, a grain (bread, or French toast or spaghetti) and a protein (chicken legs or flank steak or sometimes scrambled eggs). Once those pieces have been manipulated enough, and are no longer in appropriate form for her to grasp, she’s finished. If she wants more I’ll get her more, sure, but that’s rare.
- She/he will gag, and you have to be ok with it. You will also have at least one moment when you freak out and shake. I remember the first time this happened with Paige. I literally shook for about ten minutes after it happened. She was eating a rice cake and started gagging (note: not choking) and her face turned bright red. I freaked out. She kept coughing (a good sign) and eventually she threw up and the large piece of rice cake came out with the vomit. I actually told Nick that night that we were done with BLW, I was too terrified. But, we continued and it’s been ok since.
- You will meet naysayers who don’t think your baby is getting “enough nutrition”. All I have to say about this is read the book. The book explains everything so well. To sum it up, we are sort of brainwashed into thinking that babies “need a certain amount of solids by the time they reach six months”. This is just not true. Until about 9 or 10 months the majority of their nutrition will be coming form milk, regardless of how much they are fed!
- Your baby may not actually ingest much of the food you give him/her. Most of the first couple months is about exploring textures, flavors, and smells, not learning how to chew and swallow food. Remember your baby is still getting most, if not all of their nutriiton from breast milk or formula (or both), as I said above. As long as your baby is growing and reaching milestones, have no fear. Let meal time be more about fun, playing, and learning to have a great relationship with food.
- It’s ok to try purees in between. The book suggests not to, but I did/do, and Paige is still thriving and hasn’t stopped eating foods on her own. Just like when my lactation consultant said I shouldn’t ever use a bottle or else Paige wouldn’t nurse, I went against the rules and so far it’s not made a difference. Actually by giving her more foods with a spoon she is able to explore more foods and flavors faster. She’s not really ingesting much when she feeds herself, just exploring flavors and textures. When I feed her purees she is not only tasting the food but swallowing too. I make a point to only offer foods with a spoon once she is finished with her BLW/exploring. She typically takes a few bites and then lets me know when she is finished. Most of the time I give her pureed purple carrots, peas or oatmeal. She also gets fed oatmeal at lunch by the babysitter. I’m ok with this.
Have comments or questions? Let me know below! I’ll see you next week with a delicious and simple tuna burger recipe (so good that even my husband ate it. I promise, that’s saying a lot!).