Watching your baby reach so many milestones so exciting--and recently the excitement of Aiden reaching milestones has included laughing at Aiden spit out a raw stalk of broccoli and look at us like we're heartless traitors for handing him a green vegetable. Though I still nurse him a lot, he can now feed himself semi-successfully. So, today I'm sharing what's worked for us as we've started "baby-led weaning," the awkward term for letting your baby teach themselves to eat. ;)
What it is
I first heard about baby-led weaning from Hayley at A Beautiful Exchange before I was even pregnant, but it sounded like such a good idea that I tucked the concept in my metaphorical back pocket. Basically, your baby's first foods aren't purees but solids that they feed themselves. No need for spoons, blenders, or baby food sold in jars. You just give them what you're eating, in small chunks so that they learn to grasp the food, bring it to their mouth, chew, and swallow. Lots of skills wrapped up in one messy, messy process. Supposedly (according to this article) it also helps with learning to talk because the baby already has such developed oral motor skills that are required to chew and swallow. Though it's hard to track how much food they're actually consuming, it's SO much easier to let them practice feeding themselves during family dinner than trying to serve them purees from a spoon.
Tips for getting started
+ Whenever the baby first starts showing an interest in what you're eating and can sit up with a little support, put them in a high chair and place some food in front of them. Tear off a piece of whatever you're eating and put it on their tray.
+Be ready for some laughs. Like I mentioned in Aiden's 6-ish-month update, the early stages of them learning to feed themselves looks like a recovering stroke victim struggling to grab at food and bring it to their mouths. Admittedly, it's fairly frustrating to watch.
+ If they gum it for 20 minutes, that's pretty much a best case scenario because it means they didn't choke and die.
+ Jk. Their gag reflex keeps them from choking. But still keep an eye on them.
+ Put food in front of them when you've got time to let them play around with it and try to feed themselves. Letting them practice is not for a rushed "we only have 10 minutes before we have to leave for church!" scenario. Sometimes I let Aiden self-feed in our bedroom while I fold laundry haha.
+ Keep easy-to-grab foods on hand in case you decide your meal of spicy chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-a isn't ideal for a baby's digestive tract.
+Be patient! Eventually they'll be able to get the food to their mouth, and eventually they'll be able to chew it up, and eventually they'll be able to swallow it without spitting it out.
+ Trust the baby's gag reflex. Aiden once choked on a piece of cucumber, but before I could launch into a Mom Save, he threw it up (along with everything else he had recently eaten).
What food to offer
+WHATEVER YOU ARE EATING (cut into grab-able chunks)
+ But for real. Especially at first, it doesn't matter what you put in front of them because approximately 0.5% of it will actually make it into their mouth. On taco night, we put beans and some mashed up rice on Aiden's tray and laughed (in an encouraging, "you can do it!" way, of course) while he smooshed it around.
+ Baby carrots. They're easy to grab and good to gnaw on. (Though if your baby has teeth, which Aiden doesn't, then keep an eye out to make sure they aren't biting off choke-causing chunks.)
+ Peeled cucumbers cut into sticks.
+ Peeled apple slices
+ Banana chunks
+ Sweet potato fries (these are great because you can bake a TON of them and have extras on hand!)
+ Watermelon chunks
+ Pancake bits
+ Peeled peach slices
+ Bits of cooked chicken/red meat (especially since they need iron!)
You should also check out Olivia's post on why baby-led weaning makes your life simpler, and if you're doing a mix of purees and BLW (which is what we're starting to do now), you should read Kelly's recipes for making your own baby food.
What's worked for your baby? :)
Check out more tips + tricks for life with a baby, like shopping with a baby, date night with a baby, and beach trips with a baby!