Lydia is beginning the transition to solid foods with a method that I had never heard of before, called Baby-Led-Weaning. When Deacon turned six months, instead of starting with rice cereal like I did when Lyddie was 6 months old, she is giving him real, unpureed solid foods from the get-go. Naturally, I had questions but after observing the results and watching it first hand I am a believer. Come and eavesdrop on our mother/ daughter conversation:
Gail: What is Baby-Led-Weaning and where did you hear about it? (Thinking, “WHAT are you doing to my grandson!!”)
Lydia: Baby-led Weaning is an alternative method of teaching a baby to eat. Instead of spoon-feeding him cereals and purees, I simply put some of whatever we are eating in front of him, and let him touch it, pick it up, put it in his mouth, and taste it. He is in complete control of what goes in his mouth. This is different than traditional weaning because of the order of things babies learn: when they are spoon fed, they learn to swallow first and then chew later. This way, Deacon is learning to chew, move things around his mouth, and use his mouth muscles before he learns to swallow. He spits almost everything out at the moment!
I don’t remember where I first heard about it. Probably somewhere on the internet. But as I was learning about it, I bought the Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook. This was a super helpful resource – the first five chapters or so explore what it is and how to do it safely.
Gail: Why did you choose this method (thinking, “Why aren’t you doing it the way I did it?”)?
Lydia: BLW has a lot of benefits – by exposing him to flavors and textures now, he will hopefully be less of a picky later on. Also, by not taking the time to spoon feed him, we all get to enjoy meals as a family. I get to eat while my food is still hot! Another factor for us is that it is cheaper and takes less time. I don’t have to buy baby food, or spend hours making homemade purees.
Gail: Isn’t he at risk of choking (picturing a vision of baby gagging, turning blue, and dialing 911)?
Lydia: No more so than purees. Because he is learning to chew first, he is learning to handle foods before they get anywhere close to his airway. He might gag, but there is a big difference between gagging and choking – a baby’s gag reflex is much further forward in the mouth than an adult’s, so their little bodies are designed to protect them!
Also, we definitely take common sense safety precautions. Before we started, we took an infant CPR course to prepare ourselves for the worst (hopefully we’ll never need it!). I also have yet to give him anything that is too hard to gum – no raw apples or carrots. Other major choking hazards are things the size of grapes or cherry tomatoes. These can be quartered lengthwise to make them safe, but I’ve just not introduced them yet.
The other important thing is to simply make sure everything is washed down, so he gets water during the meal and then I usually nurse him for a minute or two afterwards to make sure his mouth is free from obstructions.
Gail: Does he get enough nutrition? It seems like he spits everything out!
Lydia: At the moment, all of his nutrition is coming from breastmilk. I nurse him before every meal. This is totally fine for him – he doesn’t really need much else until he’s a year old (the saying is, “food before one is just for fun!”). The biggest concern is his iron intake. Breastmilk does have some iron, but not much. I remedy this by keeping my own iron intake up, and making sure to give him iron rich foods like red meat, broccoli, spinach, and eggs.
Also, it might seem like he spits every single thing out, but I know he must be swallowing at least some things, because they come out the other end!
Gail: Giving him foods willy-nilly seems extreme. Can his system handle strange tastes?
Lydia: Yes! It is important to wait until six months for his digestive system to finish developing, but after that, he can handle anything. Breastmilk adopts strong flavors, so he has actually already been exposed to some things. Just like an adult, there may be things that are too spicy for his taste, but it’s all part of the learning experience (his and mine – I’ve been learning what kinds of things he likes and doesn’t like).
Gail: Will you ever give him pureed foods?
Lydia: Not unless I would eat it pureed, like applesauce or smoothies. We haven’t given those yet, but when we do we will use “pre-loaded spoons” which basically means I will dip the spoon in the applesauce, and them lay it in front of him so he can pick it up and put it in his mouth himself.
Gail: Look at him! He’s totally loving that avocado! Meal time sure is a happy time. I am remembering parents of my preschoolers complaining how they can’t get their kids to eat, or that the table is a battlefield.
Lydia: That’s one of the best parts of Baby-Led Weaning! Obviously there will probably come a day when I need to tell him to eat his dinner, but for the moment he can learn to love food and taste different flavors and textures without any stress or pressure. There are some days when he doesn’t try much, and that is ok!
Gail: Ok, I am convinced you’re on to something! I guess there’s always something new to learn and that the way I did it isn’t necessarily the only or best way to parent. How about if you pass me more of that humble pie?
Watch our video to witness BLW in action: