Baby boy has been eating solid foods for a few months now, and is doing phenomenally. His weight is increasing at a healthy rate, and I can tell how much solids have upped his energy and helped his development.
When people see my baby eating, the most common reaction is usually disbelief. Why would a baby eating throw people off so much?
I’ve chosen a method of introducing solids that is becoming more and more common, Baby Led Weaning or BLW. This means I have completely skipped purées and “baby foods” and baby eats whatever I eat, but in sizes that prevent choking. He also feeds himself, so I never spoon feed my baby or force him to continue eating once he shows signs that he is full. My baby leads mealtime.
Why would you choose BLW?
There are a ton of benefits to skipping purées, but here are my main reasons:
– Baby led Weaning introduces baby to a variety of textures and flavors from the very beginning of their solid food journey. This means that baby will be way less likely to be picky in the future when it comes to new foods. Did you know some kids even have to go to therapy because they can’t handle textured foods after purée?
– Self feeding is great for fine motor skill development. My baby has been practicing using his pincer grasp, grabbing spoons, and bringing food to his own mouth at every single meal. I have noticed a huge difference and seen how far he’s come!
– You get to eat with your baby instead of spending meals feeding them! We get to share mealtimes together, I get to eat hot food, and everyone is happy. You don’t have to cook separate meals or make baby food!
So Can Babies Really Have Anything You Are Eating?
There are some restrictions. First, let’s go over some outdated info – your mind is about to be blown.
1. You do NOT have to wait three days in between introducing foods. An allergy can pop up at anytime. This can be the first time you feed baby a food, or the tenth. My baby had a reaction to eggs after eating them for two weeks! A fun goal a lot of BLW parents set is to introduce 100 foods before a year old, we made it to 100 foods by 9 months!
2. You do NOT have to wait until 12 months to introduce allergens. This is SUPER outdated info! New research shows allergens should be introduced early. The top 8 allergens are peanuts, treenuts, shellfish, fish, soy, wheat, eggs, and dairy. If you have a family history of any allergy consult your pediatrician before introducing, but other than that allergens are fair game when you start solids!
3. Foods do NOT have to be softened for baby! Your kiddo needs texture! My baby has tons of fresh veggies and fruit. Baby gums are super strong so they do not need teeth to chew. If you think about it, you mostly use your molars to chew and babies don’t get these until way later on.
So what are the actual restrictions?
– babies cannot have honey until 12 months. It can cause botulism. Babies cannot digest honey!
– babies cannot have whole milk or a milk alternative as a replacement to formula or BM. It’s fine as an ingredient though, but not as a drink.
– babies need some food cut into long, finger shaped strips. Other round foods need to be quartered, like grapes or blueberries. This helps them grasp the food and take bites when feeding, and it also prevents choking.
– babies cannot have raw or undercooked meat or eggs. Eggs are fine when fully cooked!
– babies should only have about 4 ounces of water a day. Too much water prevents them from getting nutrition because they’ll already feel too full.
– babies can only have 400 mg of sodium, or 1 gram of salt a day until 12 months. Their livers cannot process large amounts of salt. Other seasonings are fine.
That’s it! Everything else is fair game – and that includes spices, meats, etc.
What about the choking risks?
Studies show that babies don’t choke any more frequently when doing BLW than with purées. I’ve seen babies choke or gag on purée, so I definitely don’t think it increases risk.
I will be honest and say there is much more gagging, but GAGGING IS NOT CHOKING.
What do I mean by that?
Well, babies have their gag reflex triggered way more easily than adults do, so they gag way more often! This is a way their bodies prevent choking, especially when they’ve bitten off pieces that are too big.
So really it’s actually a good thing when they recognize that they don’t want the food in their mouth anymore and try to gag/spit it out. When my son did this at 6 months, I would encourage him by clapping and showing how happy I was that he was learning how to spit out food that was causing him to gag. He would then realize he needed to take smaller bites OR chew his food more before trying to swallow.
Now at 9 months he barely gags and has a great understanding of how big his bites should be as he eats! All thanks to BLW.
How Do You Know When Baby Is Full?
He stops eating! Simple as that. Baby is feeding himself, so once he starts to throw food around, play without bringing it to his mouth, or feeds my dogs his dinner, I know he’s done. He also gets fussy in his high chair, so that’s another sign! I never force him to eat more just because I think he “hasn’t had enough.” Breastmilk is still his main nutrition – all babies should be on BM or formula until 12 months – so I’m not super worried about him when he doesn’t eat as much as I was expecting.
I always feed from the breast 30 minutes before a meal to make sure Breastmilk is the main nutrition, but baby is now eating for shorter periods of time and much less often.
Another super easy way to tell that baby is eating plenty of solids? Their POOP. Solid foods change their poop so much and of course make it more solid as well. Especially for breastfed babies. You might even see some of the foods in the poop, like blueberry skin or corn!
What Are the Negatives?
The anxiety would be the worst of it, 100%. Not even going to lie, no matter how much research you do it’s so scary to watch your kid take a huge chunk of something then gag because they bit off more than they could chew! But it’s a phase that is quickly over and is also super beneficial. Babies need to learn this skill to eventually eat correctly. Purées do not teach babies to chew, bite off correctly sized portions, or feed themselves. The anxiety was worth the benefits!
The next thing I would mention is the mess! A baby learning how to bring food to their mouth or how use a spoon can get creative. The dogs help clean the floors most days, but a good highchair and full body bib are necessary! when eating out or at other’s houses you can feel nervous as you watch your baby make a mess, but just always ask for a broom to clean up after yourself and don’t worry about it.
Lastly, I would say the lack of support or negativity from old fashioned people. Watching a baby eat whole food can be a little scary, even for people like me who have researched. Strangers or even family might have comments about your baby that you will have to ignore or respond to calmly.
I know I’m making the right choice for my family, but people who have not researched or don’t care to learn new parenting techniques can be very negative! Do not let people stop you from doing what you have decided is right. BLW is not a path that everyone might choose and that’s fine, but you shouldn’t shame another parent for their choices!
Baby led Weaning was one of the best decisions I made as a mom. I try to tell everyone about it, and my son is the best proof of how much it benefits him! I hope this is the route you choose so you can start amazing people with your little eaters too!