Baby-Led Solids: Our Journey with First Foods

Image by Sarah Wiggins Photography

When I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, I had always assumed that when I started solids, I would make my own baby food.

I wasn’t a big fan of the idea of jarred food and I also wanted to save money by making it myself. So, I researched the Baby Bullet but put off buying it until after our baby was born.

One night, during one of Anna’s nursing sessions, I was browsing the internet and came across something called “Baby Led Weaning,” or BLW. Someone wanted to know (and so did I) what exactly Baby Led Weaning was. I assumed it meant that you allowed your baby to wean from the breast on his own, as opposed to mother-led weaning. Little did I know that my little Google search for BLW at 3 a.m. with a baby on my breast would ultimately change my decision on Anna’s first foods!

Essentially, Baby Led Weaning is a term used to describe a method of complementary solids introduction that involves bypassing cereals and purees.

Your child will go directly into finger type foods. You are allowing your child to decide for herself how much and what types of food she eats. You offer your child a variety of foods, but ultimately what she puts into her mouth and how much she chooses to eat is totally up to her.

I fell in love with the concept of Baby Led Weaning. With breastfeeding, you have to learn to trust your body and to trust your baby. You know that she is capable of “getting enough” milk without having a number line on a bottle to tell you so. Having Anna decide for herself how much food she wanted to eat made total sense to me.

The main source of nutrition for a child under twelve months is breastmilk or formula. Knowing that, I felt that solids was really more of a way for her to learn and experiment. I knew she would still be getting everything she needed from me, so I adopted the motto that “food under one is just for fun.” BLW was right up my alley!

Image by Sarah Wiggins Photography

Baby Led Weaning also appealed to me because of the health benefits. There is research to support that babies who are offered solids using BLW are generally more healthy and choose healthier foods when compared to babies who were fed purees.

I also think that BLW teaches children at a young age that it is okay to eat everything, but it is also okay to leave food on your plate. It encourages a healthy mentality about food.

After my initial Google search of Baby Led Weaning, I picked up the book Baby Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. It is full of information about when to start solids, how to know that your child is ready for solids, concerns with the method, and stories from mamas just like us!

Since solids are supposed to be introduced after six months, I waited until she was about six and a half months until I offered her “first” food. I gave her wedges of sweet potato that I had baked in the oven, and let her have at it.

I introduced only one meal a day for the first few weeks. I offered her breastmilk first so that she would get full on that before I offered food.

For the first few weeks, Anna maybe got a bite or two of the food I had given her. But I could see how she learned, even from the beginning, how to hold what she was eating. She learned the difference between holding an avocado and a banana. She learned how much food she was capable of putting in her mouth. She learned textures and tastes. It was so amazing for me to watch her learn and enjoy food.

Image by Sarah Wiggins Photography

Of course, doing something outside of what is considered “mainstream parenting” can elicit unwanted advice. Ultimately, you have to be confident in your decision as a parent that you are doing what is best for your family and for your situation.

When I talked to my daughter’s doctor about it, I got lectured that I couldn’t possibly think that it was a good idea. He said I should start her on solids at four months, and that babies are not capable of handling anything but rice cereal as a first food. I respectfully disagreed and went on my merry way.

When I told my in-laws I wouldn’t be doing purees I got the “OMG, you can’t be serious” look and I was told that my daughter would choke.

Of course, choking — or more correctly, gagging — was a concern for me. I read about it in the book and watched videos on the difference between choking and gagging. We had lots of gagging in the beginning, mostly because their gag reflex is more anterior on their tongue when they are younger. But, like most things, in time she worked it out.

By the time she was 11 months old, Anna was pretty much eating everything we were eating. It made meal times easy and enjoyable. I never had to worry about packing extra food with me when we were going out to eat, I just gave her some of my food.

Anna is now 21 months old and I am constantly told how great of an eater she is. I have had several friends tell me, “I wish my kid would eat like her.” I honestly believe that I can credit Baby Led Weaning for at least some of the reason why she is such an awesome eater!

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