It’s hard to believe nearly eight months have gone by since we welcomed our sweet little girl. She’s growing and changing each day, and so much of her personality is starting to show. Being the food people we are, Eric and I were ecstatic to introduce Clara to solid foods. I decided before she was born not to worry about how we’d do that until the time came to actually do it. Since I worried about so many other things beforehand, I decided to go with the “we’ll cross that bridge when we get there” mentality in regards to solid foods. I had heard and read about various methods for introducing foods, but it wasn’t until I got to see baby-led weaning in action that I really started to consider it. My friend Marlyn introduced me to the concept, and I got to see it firsthand when she, her husband and their daughter came to visit us earlier this year.
Baby-led weaning, or as my friend Aimée calls it – baby-led feeding, is basically a common sense approach to introducing solids. I wasn’t even certain I wanted to try it, but the more I watched Clara while we were eating, the more encouraged I became to attempt it. After a couple weeks of her pulling food off our plates, we finally took the plunge. I’m happy to report that it’s been a huge success. I’ll admit to us both being nervous in the beginning, but Clara hasn’t had a single problem. We have gotten a few questions like “but does she even have teeth?” (actually, she’s cutting her third and fourth right now) and “can she actually swallow any food?” and “what happens if she chokes?” Trust me, I had similar questions and researched the heck out of this before giving Clara food for the first time. What I found out is that babies don’t need teeth in order to eat solid food. Before her first two teeth came in, she did a fine job using her gums to chew the food. As to whether or not she swallows food when eating, the answer is yes, most definitely. Choking concerns are minimized by waiting until the baby is big enough to sit on her own, which Clara was easily doing by the time we started, and providing soft foods in large pieces (though, admittedly, I still looked up how to perform an infant Heimlich maneuver before we started).
We started BLW when Clara turned six months old, so it’s been almost two months since she had her first bites of solid food. With very few exceptions, Clara eats almost everything we eat. During this time, I’ve been amazed at how much her hand-eye (or rather, hand-mouth) coordination has improved. When she first started eating solids, she was a little clumsy and could only eat the parts of the food sticking out of her fist. Now, she has an easier time gripping the food and is even starting to open a couple fingers as opposed to keeping them all tightly clenched around whatever food she’s holding. She eats with intention, and it’s evident every time she takes a bite.
Clara started out mostly sucking on the foods we offered, but it didn’t take long for her to break off pieces and swallow them. Before we knew it, she was actually chewing her food! Our little girl hasn’t turned down a single food she’s been offered, and I’m hoping this means she’ll continue trying and enjoying new foods as she grows. Like I said, though, there are a few exceptions to what she eats. First – we don’t give her any spicy food. Eric and I both love spicy foods (some of which make my eyes water), so obviously we don’t share those with Clara. Second – we are mostly keeping sweeter fruits, like banana, out of her diet for the time being. We want her to develop a love of vegetables and savory foods first. Eric and I try to fill our diet with fresh, unprocessed, mostly organic foods, and we feel comfortable sharing those foods with Clara. I love that we can all eat dinner together, Clara in her highchair feeding herself, and Eric and I at the table (watching her closely) with free hands to feed ourselves.
Some of the foods we’ve given Clara are:
- roasted carrots
- roasted acorn squash
- fresh tomatoes
- sweet potato wedges
- baked chicken
- ground beef and chicken
- penne with goat cheese
- caramelized onions and roasted butternut squash
- penne with spinach and avocado sauce
- sliced avocados
- applesauce (no sugar added)
- toast, cut into sticks
- cheese grits
- steel-cut oats
- garlic bread, cut into sticks
Baby-led weaning is certainly messy – after all, it’s essentially letting a small child feed themselves – but it’s totally worth it. Plus, Abby is more than happy to help clean up the mess. ;) I’m so happy we decided to follow this method, and every time I watch her chubby, dimpled hand guide a piece of food to her mouth, I know that we made the right choice for our family. We want Clara to grow up with an appreciation of food, not just how it tastes but how it’s cooked and where it comes from, and I think we’re on the right track. Though Clara won’t actually be weaned for some time and continues to get most of her food from breast milk, she’s already eating more food than when we started.
Let me qualify this post by saying that I know baby-led weaning isn’t for everyone. It was the right approach for us and Clara, but you should obviously do what is best for you and your little ones. I mentioned this method to Clara’s pediatrician before we started and got the all clear to proceed. Like pretty much everything related to children, what you decide to do is incredibly personal. However, I wanted to share our experience since a few people have asked me if I’d be posting any baby food recipes. If you’ve done baby-led weaning, I’d love to hear about it!
We often joke that Clara’s expressions are like a baby meme generator, so I just had to do this.