I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. I grew up with a mom who was an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) so there was never any question. What I didn’t think about before I had a baby was what you fed them when they got a little older. I had read enough articles to know that I wanted to wait until Quinn was 6 months old to start solids and that we were going to skip all cereal.
After her birth I was on WIC in South Carolina. Through that program I got a certain amount of free purees each month. But I didn’t want to be chained to spoon feeding her all the time so my mom suggested a book about Baby Led Weaning (BLW). Check out the link at the bottom of this post.
Although this book suggests no spoon feeding purees I will admit our family did a little of both purees and BLW. We did not want those free purees to go to waste. There were also nights when we ordered pizza and wanted to feed her something a little more nutritious. You have to find out what works best with your families schedule and environment but BLW does have a lot of benefits.
You don’t have to spend mealtime feeding your baby
One of our daughter’s first foods was Sweet Potato Fries. We just cut up a Sweet Potato into strips and stuck them in the oven until they were soft. Quinn loved sucking on Sweet Potato Fries and the shape of the strip was easy for her to pick up with her hands. In the beginning we mostly fed her vegetables, fruits and meat cut into small pieces. My husband and I didn’t give her dairy or gluten until she was about a year old so we had to make modified meals for her (or omit those ingredients from our meals).
Your baby stops eating when he/she is full
Unfortunately research shows that spoon feeding purees can lead to over feeding. You don’t know the reason your child is spitting her food back out so you may encourage more bites. BLW allows your child to stop putting food in her mouth at her own time. She has to learn the feeling of being full. She gets to be in control of mealtime.
Your child is exposed to different textures
One of the big selling points of BLW is the sensory side of feeding. When your child is only exposed to purees, he is only exposed to one texture. BLW allows him to feel slimy avocado, crunchy apple, and sticky peanut butter…in the same meal if you want. This may encourage your child to be more receptive to a wider range of foods as he gets older.
No tough transition
If your family decides to do BLW then from the start your baby is learning to have meals with you. Meals become family time instead of mommy feeding me time. You don’t have to wonder when your child is “ready” for solid foods. As soon as your child is 6 months old she is learning to use her hands. She is learning to grab with a finger and a thumb. She is already used to different textures.
The Fear of Baby Led Weaning
I know what you are thinking, what about choking? That is the biggest concern that is raised when I mention Baby Led Weaning. I hear parents say all the time that they are too scared of choking to feed their child “real food”. Personally that thought never crossed my mind, but I do understand why it’s scary. As parents every decision we make goes through what I call a regret filter. “If I do this…and this happens…I would never forgive myself”. I understand the weight of that responsibility!
The Baby Led Weaning book does a great job of differentiating between a baby choking and a baby gagging. BLW does not increase the risk of infant choking and gagging can actually be beneficial. When a child is gagging she pushes the piece of food to the front of her mouth with her tongue. After gagging a few times, your child can actually process how to prevent that from happening again. The gag reflex changes as they get older but your infant’s body has been programmed to learn how to eat safely from the start.
My daughter is 21 months now and eats like a champ. Her favorites are chicken and strawberries (not necessarily together). I’m so glad we exposed her to many different foods early on. She still loves a jar of puree once in a while especially when she is sick but for the most part she just eats dinner with the family. Another positive thing is the pressure to make a meal healthier because she is eating whatever we are eating. Each family is different but baby led weaning is what worked for us.