When my daughter was around 4 months old, I began reading and researching solid foods. I knew a baby’s primary nutrition in their first year of life should be breastmilk or formula and the more I thought about this, the more I felt concern over starting solids. What if solids started to replace her breastmilk consumption? In reading the amount of food suggested for starting out at the recommended 6 months of age, I felt sort of overwhelmed with it all. It just seemed like too much food. I ended up deciding to wait until my daughter was 9 months old to introduce solids so she could benefit from exclusive breastfeeding as much as possible.
In the meantime, I was soliciting advice from friends and family on their experiences with homemade baby food. I had a friend recommend the book Baby Led Weaning. Once I read it, I finally found the answers I was looking for. It was so intuitive, and I knew this was the approach to solids I had been looking for. My daughter prematurely replacing breastmilk with solids was not an issue with baby-led weaning. This was huge for me! I felt a burden had been lifted. I finally had confidence to give my daughter solid food, a confidence I just didn’t feel when I considered starting her on purees.
I was ready to start our baby-led weaning adventure once I finished the book. My daughter was a little over 7 months old. I no longer felt the need to wait until she was 9 months old. With the baby-led weaning approach, you offer your child true solid foods, not purees. The key thing is that your child feeds him or herself. My daughter was in control because she put food into her mouth by herself, and she choose what to do with it once it was there.
This approach was so freeing, fun and easy. I would simply prepare our dinner and make sure there was food that we were eating that was appropriate for her. (The big no-no’s are anything with added salt or sugar. The book also goes over other guidelines as well.) We also followed some of the guidelines about when to introduce certain foods (for instance, we waited to introduce egg whites and strawberries until she was a year old.) Initially you start out with bigger foods they can hold onto; things cut into long stick shapes are great. The book suggests steaming some veggies or fruits to soften them up a bit. Sometimes we did this and sometimes we didn’t.
A lot of times it was just fun for her to play and experiment with her food. Every night was a new adventure. She would feel the texture and figure out the best way to manipulate different items in her hands to get them into her mouth. It was fascinating to sit back and watch her learning about different foods and figuring it all out. It’s more about your child learning by experiencing food than by the parent “teaching”.
A huge plus to this approach is that we never developed the mentality of “kid food” and “adult food”. Any food we would eat, she could eat. We rarely order off the kid’s menu for her when we are out. Most of the items are either unhealthy or just plain boring if you really think about it! She is happy to eat what we are eating or we have ordered sides or appetizers for her before (like hummus and veggies, a favorite of hers!) We also never needed to bring separate food for her to places unless we knew there would be no healthy choices, although we have been known to give her chicken wings which she eats with relish!
Every family has to make the decision that is right for them in regards to how to approach solids. For us, that was baby-led weaning! She loves to eat and enjoys a variety of foods. It’s quite possible this is just part of her personality and isn’t related to how we introduced her to solids, but part of me thinks it definitely played a role. I’ll never really know, but I do know that my husband and I enjoyed our experience so much and our daughter thrived with this approach so we highly recommend it!
If this is something that interests you and you’d like to learn more, check out these great resources:
This post has been edited from a previous version published as a guest post at Mama Eve.
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