Our experience of Baby Led Weaning First Foods
Throughout my pregnancy with Miss M (baby no. 1) I spent a lot of time researching all the baby-related topics I could think of. I’m a planner! I spent a lot of time in forums, chatting with other expectant and new parents about parenthood and particularly breast-feeding as I very much hoped to be able to breastfeed. One topic that seemed to crop up often in the discussion about feeding babies was Baby Led Weaning First Foods.
Although the latter spoke for itself, I hadn’t heard of Baby Led Weaning, BLW, previously and spent some time researching it further.
Gill Rapley coined the phrase ‘baby led weaning’ and the concept seemed to be that instead of giving your baby mashed up fruit and vegetables or other purees and spoon feeding them, you go straight on to them eating ‘proper’ food and learning to feed themselves.
The idea that I wouldn’t have to spend hours making and freezing baby mush, completely separately from the food me and Mr were eating was appealing in itself to me. Then I read more about how it could help my baby developmentally too by leaning to pick up the food themselves, develop their pincer grip and learn to chew rather than just swallow.
Miss M came along and I breastfed her for 7 months (and a day…another story!) and at the 6 month point, we decided that she was showing all of the signs that she was ready to start with some solid food. This included the death stare she gave us every time we ate anything ourselves – unless she was simply judging us of course.
We picked up a copy of Gill Rapley’s ‘Baby Led Weaning Cookbook’ which gave a really nice overview of the BLW concept, plus some recipes that would be nice for all of the family and nutritionally beneficial for Miss M.
And then the fun began! By fun, I of course mean mess. Baby Led Weaning is messy – but with the help of a garbage bag on the floor under her highchair and armed with many, many wipes, it really was a fun experience.
We started off with very soft food as she had no teeth to aid her chewing although, that said, we quickly discovered that her gums were more than strong enough to chomp through most food.
The first thing we did was give her banana and instead of mashing it into a puree, we cut it into 3 pieces, then peeled the skin off only half of it – so she could hold the part with skin in her hands and gnaw on the ‘exposed’ bit.
Well that was the plan, of course for the first couple of weeks most of the food we gave her was pushed around the highchair tray, pushed over the side of the high chair tray or smeared over her clothes/face/hair.
We also gave her slices of avocado (very slippy and slimy!), grapes, peas, cooked chunks of carrot and sweet potato from our dinner, pieces of buttered toast, and as she got better at keeping the food in her hands and finally consuming some, we could progress to giving her more and more of the food we were eating ourselves.
At 6 months, we felt that whilst she was ready to start eating solids, they were not essential so it didn’t matter how much she consumed as she was getting all she needed nutritionally from the milk she had at that point.
From the beginning it was just a joy to watch her experiment with food, her little face lit up whenever we presented her with something to eat and it was great that we could get on with eating our own meal and sit around the table together instead of one of us having to stop eating to spoon feed her.
Of course there were many times we had to retrieve the food that she had propelled around the room but this got less and less as time went on. In fact we were so surprised at how quickly she did progress and soon she was picking up and gripping food like a pro, eating every last bit and licking her little fingers at the end!
We definitely did have concerns before we started about the potential chance of chocking and we armed ourselves with a plan of what to do if she did experience this but it just didn’t happen. If any food went in that she wanted out, she would gag a tiny bit to bring it forward.
Our confidence with this grew quickly but we always ensured that one of us was with her when she was eating and we watched her at all times. Now she’s nearly 2 years old we are still with her when she eats as we always eat as a family (at least 1 parent or both of us) and Baby Led Weaning really helped set that up for us.
We didn’t skip the mush completely – there were the occasions when we were travelling long distances or eating at a place where we didn’t particularly want her to eat the food we were having and we did give her some pouches – I think these are awesome too, especially for on-the-go. In the end you have to decide as a parent what is best for your baby and for you.
I’m not sure whether we can credit the BLW approach with her being completely un-picky when it comes to eating or whether her love for ALL food has simply been passed down from her Daddy but I do know that our lives have been made much easier by BLW and we will absolutely be trying this approach again with Baby no.2 when it’s ready.
At nearly 2 years old, Miss M’s favourite foods are banana, grapes, peas and carrots – she would choose them over anything else. I hope that continues for a long time!
For another Mum’s experience of weaning – check Muddle Through Mama’s Guide to Weaning