We’re nearly four months into our baby led weaning journey (again – that’s how long I’ve been planning to write this post…yikes!) and in most ways, it just feels like old hat now.
Baby lead weaning always made sense to us intuitively. It has so many benefits, no drawbacks to speak of, and if I’m completely honest, it just seems easier. Store bought purees are pasteurized and thus are not great nutritionally so I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable feeding Peter those. I already make so much of our food from scratch and adding in three meals a day for Peter felt like way too much for me (especially when I’m used to just being able to whip a boob out to feed him – ha!)
If you’ve never heard of this approach before, it refers to starting your baby on solid foods by allowing them to feed themselves straight away rather than spoon feeding them. Therein lies the beauty: they eat what you eat, although sometimes with a few slight modifications. Studies show that it helps encourage a more diverse palate, decreases choking risks, and reduces the chance of developing various digestive issues later in life. You just have to be careful to limit their salt intake and avoid honey and whole nuts.
The tenets are pretty simple: babies feed themselves. They eat whatever you’re eating and you all eat together as a family. There are lots of great articles online explaining the approach in more detail, or you can check out the original book on the subject. It’s great to do a little bit of research so you know all of the safety tips before getting started.
We took a paediatric first aid course before Peter was born, which definitely boosted my confidence in this area. Babies are prone to gagging when they start on solid foods, which can certainly be unnerving. But all of the spluttering and coughing is actually a good thing and means they’re not choking, and they’ll almost always work it back up on their own (babies have an extra sensitive gag reflex when they’re little). We’re lucky that Peter never gagged a whole lot and we haven’t had a choking incident thus far but I’m glad we were armed with the information of how to deal with it if did happen.
Peter started having some solid foods a week before he turned 6 months old. Generally babies tend to be ready for solids around this age if they’re showing an interest in food and able to hold themselves upright with some support. But it’s always better to wait a bit longer rather than get starting early as this can cause digestive issues later on.
Peter just had a finger of cucumber to start with. He loved gnawing on it and quickly moved on to beans, toast, egg, and yogurt.
I eat mostly vegan except for having fish a couple of times a month and Matthew is vegetarian but still eats dairy and eggs, so between having some of what we both eat, Peter eats a pescatarian diet.
He took to eating quite naturally but it’s certainly been messy. It’s really normal in the beginning that babies will be more interested in playing with their food than actually eating it. And that’s a good thing! Being able to fully explore their food when they’re little has shown to decrease picky eating as they get older. Many babies will get very little in their tummies for the first few months and that’s absolutely fine as they’ll be getting the bulk of their nutrition from milk until at least age 1.
We were very casual starting out, including Peter in at least one meal a day and building from there. Sometimes he’d eat quite a bit and sometimes he’d show no interest at all.
It’s been incredible how in the past week or so Peter has been eating so much more. He’s often eating everything on his plate and then asking for more. There’s a lot less going on the floor as well (hurray!) He’ll be 10 months on the weekend and that is the age often cited as when a lot of babies really get the hang of eating. However, he’s still breast feeding as much as ever (perhaps more even as he’s teething and has just figured out how to sign for milk so he really enjoys that he can ask for it so specifically) so we’ll see if he starts reducing his milk feeds at all soon.
Here are a few things that have been working really well for us through this journey:
- We use wooden plates and bowls from Bamboo Bamboo as they suction onto the table so that a little bit less goes on the floor.
- We’re still loving our IKEA high chair that I made over.
- I don’t add salt to any of the food I made (baby kidneys can’t handle very much salt), so Matthew and I just season our plates at the table.
- I found The Gentle Eating Book really powerful for unpacking some of my own stuff around food so that I don’t pass it on to Peter as well as explaining what’s biologically normal in terms of eating for children of different ages and great tips for working through difficult behaviour around food. I’ll probably write a whole post about it but in short, I’d definitely recommend giving it a read.
- We make a real effort not to comment at all on how much or what Peter eats. We want him to stay in tune with his own hunger, satiety level, and taste preferences and as gratifying as it may be to have him gobble up a meal I’ve made, I’d never want him to think he needs to eat something in order to please me (in fact, we’re trying to avoid praise in general but that’s a topic for another post).
It’s such a pleasure to share family meal times and to see Peter exploring and enjoying food. Because of baby led weaning he’s already eaten everything from beetroot risotto, truffle ravioli, & avocado toast to katsu curry, korma, & lentil soup. The only thing he’s shown a real distaste for is Sriracha hot sauce; he’s cried every time he’s eaten it, so it must just be too spicy for him right now. His firm favourites at the moment are yogurt, porridge, banana, sweet corn, and raspberries. I’m going to work on a little series of “What Peter Ate” posts so you can see what he’s eaten in a particular week in case you need some inspiration for feeding your baby (or even doing your own meal planning, as it’ll be what we ate too!) And if you have any questions about baby led weaning, feel free to pop them in the comments. It’s definitely been a really great experience so far.