I’ve been wanting to publish this post for weeks now, but it never felt comprehensive enough, so I didn’t. Well, it’s definitely comprehensive now. If I didn’t cover something you’re interested in, leave a comment below. So, the executive summary is this: We love it. Baby-led weaning works fantastic for us.
Now onto the long version:
We started when The Little Potato was 5.5 months old. The first food he tried was raw pieces of carrot, which he loved. Clearly he didn’t eat anything, he just sucked on it. For the first week or two we would give him a piece of carrot or cucumber once a day whenever it fit. For the most part he only sucked on the pieces, but after a couple of days he started to chew on the cucumber and absolutely loved it. A couple of days shy of 6 months we introduced lunch, so every day about one hour after nursing I (or on the weekends we as a family) would eat lunch with him.
Currently, at 8 months, he eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner (we introduced breakfast at about 6.5 months and dinner at 7.5 months). Honestly, I didn’t think when we first started this baby-led introduction of solids that he would eat 3 solid meals a day before he turned 8 months. But he absolutely loves solid food. There hasn’t been anything that I introduced that he didn’t like. And he has tried quite a few things so far:
banana, apple, avocado, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, pineapple, Cantaloupe melon, watermelon, figs, pear, mango, potatoes, carrots, cucumber, zucchini, beans, eggplant, tomatoes, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, bell pepper, spinach, mushrooms, turkey, chicken, beef, salmon, trout, sardines, eggs, tofu, bread, pasta, rice, hummus, yogurt, ricotta, feta, olives.
How about nursing? Currently, he nurses 4 times a day and I don’t think he wants to drop a nursing anytime soon. When we started, he was nursing 6 times a day.
Does he actually get food down? Obviously the first few trys he didn’t. But quite soon, after about one week, he was definitely eating something. How do I know? Well, the truth is in the diaper… 🙂
Is it messy? Yes, sure. Obviously anything with tomato sauce will require scrubbing down the whole baby, including hair and ears – at least if you have an enthusiastic eater like I do. But judging from the stories of my puree-feeding mom friends that can get messy, too. The best strategy for at home meals is to have them only wear a diaper and give them a little bath afterwards. Also, things get messy because babies try to experience and learn about the different textures while feeding themselves. For me that is something I wholeheartedly encourage. In addition, practice really makes perfect. During the last couple of weeks The Little Potato has gotten so much more skilled with his hands. Now that he can also pick up smaller pieces, things get significantly less messy.
Isn’t it time-consuming? Not really. Since I already prepare meals for my husband and me it doesn’t take much more time to prepare a third plate. Also, we eat our meals together. Since The Little Potato feeds himself, I can enjoy my meal at the same time.
Does he really eat the same as you? Mostly in a deconstructed and slightly varied form, but yes. For example, my husband and I have a salad with tofu and avocado, so The Little Potato has tofu, avocado, tomatoes, and cucumbers sliced up without the dressing. Sometimes, The Little Potato does actually eat the same meal we eat, for instance homemade pizza or vegetable lasagna (I stuck completely to my recipe apart from not using salt). In terms of the size of the pieces, the French Fries shape is the best to start with, because at first they will start grabbing using their whole fist. Since The Little Potato started working on his pincer grasp at about 7.5 months, we moved onto smaller pieces.
Doesn’t he need teeth? No. He was fine eating without a tooth until at 7.5 months the first one started peeking through. The tooth was certainly useful – for instance he was much more efficient with eating corn on the cob – but it was by no means a prerequisite to get food down.
How about allergies? Honestly, we weren’t concerned about allergies at all. My husband and I don’t have any allergies, nor do our close family members. We didn’t follow the four-day-rule that some people recommend (you introduce one new food for four days to (1) make sure the baby doesn’t react to it and (2) to know what has caused the reaction). We introduced gluten, to a limited extent dairy, and tofu. So far The Little Potato hasn’t reacted to anything he ate. If you think about introducing solid food for your Little One take your family history with regard to allergies into account and have a chat with you pediatrician.
What research did I do before? First, I strongly suggest you brush up your baby first aid skills. In terms of books, I read Baby-Led Feeding: A Natural Way to Raise Happy, Independent Eaters by Jenna Helwig and The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies by The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies. Both were good reads and are a good starting point particularly if you aren’t decided on baby-led solids yet and aren’t sure where and how to start. If you are looking for inspiration on what to feed your baby, blogs are your best bet in my opinion.
Overall, we absolutely love the baby-led weaning approach. It has been so much fun to see The Little Potato explore new foods. If you are thinking about trying baby-led solids, I strongly recommend you look into it.