Guess who’s started solids! We decided to go with a baby led approach to solids and it’s been pretty hilarious for us and lots of fun for O. With baby led weaning you put out the food and let him choose what he wants to eat and when he is done. The first couple of months are generally full of messy playing mixed with a little bit of ingestion. The idea is to allow him to explore food at his own pace and in the process learn how to chew and move food to the back of his mouth and safely swallow. He will ingest more as his nutritional needs evolve and his digestive system is ready so in the meantime it’s all about exposing him to new textures and flavors. A common concern with this approach is choking, however if a baby can sit up on their own and reach to grab food off their tray then this is a minor concern. You do not start baby led weaning until after 6 months and at that age the gag reflex is pretty high up on the tongue so anything a baby bites off will be quickly spit back out. Babies learn what they can and can’t swallow and after a short while they can safely eat a wide variety of foods. I have a link to an article and a blog about baby led weaning on my articles page and the book I used is also listed on my books and dvd’s page for anyone interested in learning more about this approach to introducing solid foods.
We started O with steamed broccoli, carrots and asparagus. My wife cut the carrots into finger sized sticks so that he could easily grab and handle them. He loved trying all three and he made quite the mess. The broccoli got everywhere! I wasn’t sure if he got any down any since I spent quite a while picking chunks out of his hair and high chair but I found some in his poop later on so I know he swallowed some of it. It’s definitely a messy approach but it is hilarious watching him choose what he wants to eat as tries to figure out how to eat it. He makes the funniest faces the first time he “eats” a new food as he explores its flavors and textures. Here he inspects, tastes, and re-inspects a piece of broccoli that he will end up wearing.
One of the major benefits of baby led weaning is that when we eat out he can pretty much eat off our plates! We went out with friends to one of out favorite restaurants in Newington CT for Greek food this past weekend and O got to try all sorts of fun stuff. He ate off of my plate as he had his first pita, humus, cucumber and salad dressing! I don’t think the pita agreed with him, but he sure seemed to like chewing on it as he sucked off the humus.
One of the other joys of baby led weaning is seeing all of the weird ways they combine their food. The next day we gave O a gob of the leftover humus and he got to try his first pieces of banana as he mashed it up and mixed it with the humus. This is by far the messiest meal he has eaten so far but I am sure he will surpass it soon enough. It is also a great example of how babies can use their hands to eat mushy foods by sucking it off their fingers or a dipper like a cucumber strip. We have also starting skipping the shoulder straps on his high chair so he can lean forward easier. This is important when he gags and needs to lean forward to spit it out. Banana flavored humus anyone? My little man will take an extra-large helping!
It’s often seems like he didn’t swallow anything because it always ends up in the chair or on the ground or stuck to his face but I keep finding evidence in his poop that he got some down. Today we had lunch at home with another stay at home dad and his daughter. O’s lunch consisted of pepper strips, cucumber strips and firm baked potato wedges. I adjusted the high chair so he could truly sit at and eat off of the table with us. I think it worked out well!
Through all this he has made some pretty big messes and he gagged twice and spit out what was in his mouth but his joy in exploring solid food has far outweighed either of these drawbacks to baby led weaning. I wholeheartedly recommend this approach to anyone willing to read up and commit. It’s not for everyone but the rewards for us so far have been tremendous. If you choose to use this approach make sure to read as much as you can about it before you get started. It’s relatively simple but you want to make sure you fully understand what you need to do to make it work for you in a safe and happy way. I have really enjoyed introducing solids to him and can’t wait to give him some new tasty foods to taste and play with!