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This post has been awhile coming. I’ve been meaning to write it for the past week but I have been busier with calf chores and a teacher inservice on writing. It has kind of been a little taste of what my schedule will be like when school starts in a few weeks, and oh BOY do we have an adjustment coming!
But anyways, I have had a few moms ask me about how we went about introducing solids to Mia. Some are a little surprised when they hear that we have not fed any baby cereal or any purees. This process of introducing solids first is called baby led weaning.
The idea for this started when Mia was a few months old. One of those fear mongering articles popped up on my Facebook newsfeed about how rice cereal is dangerous and has chemicals, and blah, blah, blah. I actually didn’t even read the article and I didn’t really care. Babies have clearly been eating it for a long time and are JUST FINE! I ate it as a baby! 🙂 But, it did get me thinking a bit on whether or not we wanted to go this route.
Breastfeeding was going well and I didn’t know if I wanted to introduce cereal at 4 months as we were getting into a good routine. At our 4 month appointment, our doctor said it was okay that we hadn’t yet as Mia was still gaining a good amount of weight. I started doing research at this point and I stumbled upon baby led weaning on Pinterest. The more I read about it, the more it just made sense.
Baby Led Weaning: Introducing Solids First
So what is baby led weaning? In short, it is when baby is fed solids right off the bat instead of being fed cereal or purees. The baby puts these solid foods in her mouth, not the parent. Think of it like baby finger food.
What I liked about this method is that it seemed more natural to me. I am not saying there is anything unnatural about cereal and purees, I just liked the idea of baby learning how to chew first before swallowing. She also learns to put food in her own mouth, so she can eat when she wants and how much she wants. Cody or I are not feeding her spoonful after spoonful. This also helps at mealtimes because we get to eat our own food while Mia eats. It has worked out so well for us that Mia will now only feed herself and almost NEVER takes food off of our hands. If we try to feed her something off a spoon, she wants the spoon to put in her own mouth!
Preparing for Introducing Solids
When starting baby led weaning, there are some preparations that need to be made.
First, baby has to be able to sit up without assistance (to prevent choking) and she needs to be picking up items with a raking motion. (Using all fingers, stretching them out then “raking” them in to pick up an item.)
Most research I read said this starts at about 6 months for most babies, although some take longer. We ended up giving Mia solids for the first time at about 5 1/2 months because she was putting everything in her mouth and could sit on her own. However, she really only played with the food for the first few weeks.
Mia had one meal a day until she was about 6 1/2 months, and then we added two. Now at 9 months she is eating three meals a day but breakfast is usually cheerios or baby biscuits with breastmilk. If she doesn’t eat very much during a meal it is okay! She is still a baby so most of her nutrition comes from her milk.
There are also a few ways that parents need to prepare:
- Have a high chair with a large tray. We use the JOOVY Nook . (LOVE this thing!)
- No Utensils – baby doesn’t need plates, forks, or spoons. They will just end up on the floor!
- Bibs – These are great at catching food. Although a naked baby is usually easier, especially in the beginning!
Many of Mia’s first solid foods were the same as if she would have had purees: banana, carrots, and sweet potatoes. We also found that she like avocado, green beans, and watermelon!
The key to first foods is that they are mushy and easy gummable. The softer at this point, the better. I tried to cook carrots at first for Mia, but I couldn’t get them soft enough. The second food she had was banana and that was much easier for her to mush, although she still wasn’t a big fan of it for a few more meals!
There are all sorts of food ideas and lists for baby’s first solids. Try only one every few days at first to check for any kind of reactions. Remember that babies need to be offered food more than once before they can decide if they like it or not. Check out some of these for ideas:
- Food for the First Month of BLW
- Getting Started with Baby Led Weaning
- 102 Foods My Baby Can Eat Without Teeth
The best part of baby led weaning is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of food prep! At first, we cut Mia’s food into stick shapes, about the size of our little finger. This way she could pick them up easily and gum the end of them. Small chunks in the beginning are big choking hazards. I started cutting food into chunks when Mia was over 7 months old. At that point she was eating cheerios and was gumming her food well. She was also picking the chunks up with more of a pincer grip.
Some foods need a little more prep than cutting. Most vegetables needed steamed or roasted. The sweet potato I baked for an hour was one of the easiest to prepare! I usually cooked enough vegetables to eat for 3 or 4 days. This way I didn’t have to prep a minuscule amount of food every day!
By 8 1/2 to 9 months she started eating about whatever we were eating. This has made food prep super easy! She has had spaghetti, mashed potatoes (Yup! She eats these with her fingers!), baked chicken, refried beans, omelettes, and goulash. Occasionally there are things we aren’t comfortable with her eating yet so she will have leftovers or vegetables that I steam really quick.
As always, talk to your child’s doctor before introducing foods of any kind, especially if you have a history of allergies in your family. I have heard all sorts of things when it comes to allergies. The American Academy of Pediatrics says to hold off on foods that have high allergy risks, (eggs, dairy, nuts, wheat, etc.) while some studies are now coming out that say to introduce some of those foods earlier. The way I see it, it’s a mess to muddle through as a parent whether you’re feeding purees or solids! So talk to your doctor.
Gagging vs Choking
Another big scare when it comes to introducing solids is choking. Prevent choking by cutting food into the proper sizes and shapes. Grapes, cherry tomatoes, and cherries need to be avoided or cut at least in half. If it helps your peace of mind, find a CPR class near you! (Just make sure the class also covers infants.)
While choking is something to be on the look out for, many parents mistake gagging for choking. While it is scary, gagging is merely a reflex used to get larger food particles back up to the front of the mouth. Mia did some gagging when we first introduced solids, but she rarely does it now. Check out this video to learn more:
Introducing solids first may not work well for every family, but it did for us. It is just important for baby and parents to be ready, to select the right foods, and know it doesn’t work perfectly from the start. It’s not an all or nothing deal either! Your baby could eat solids and purees!
What did you do when introducing foods to your baby? Did you use solids or purees? What kinds of foods did your baby like? Comment below! I am always looking for new ideas!