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During homemade baby food week, I decided to ask two people to help me out a bit. The first being Brittany. Brittany writes the blog A Healthy Slice of Life and I’ve been following her journey with Baby Led Weaning ever since she introduced solids to her adorable daughter Hailey. She immediately came to mind when thinking about this series and this topic. So I’ll hand the microphone keyboard over to Brittany and let her tell you all about Baby Led Weaning!

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I was so honored when Rachel reached out to me to ask me to post about my experience with baby led weaning. I used this method of transitioning my daughter, Hailey, to solid foods and quickly became a huge fan. Though it is growing in popularity, I’ve realized the ins and outs are still relatively unknown, as evidence by the quizzical faces I get when I tell people we never gave Hailey purees. So let me take a minute to explain what it is, why I chose it and how it works.

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What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby Led Weaning is the idea that by 6 months old babies are developmentally capable and willing to feed themselves. You simply give babies foods that are appropriate for their age and developmental skills and let them learn to self feed.

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Why I Chose Baby Led Weaning

Honestly, it first sparked my interest because it sounded easy. Purees just sounded so time-consuming. I was hooked on the idea of making my own food, so the thought of steaming, pureeing, freezing, defrosting and then spoon feeding sounded like a lot of work.  I decided to give baby led weaning a try and was adamant that if it wasn’t working, I’d quickly switch the purees. Luckily we ended up loving it and never looked back. I loved that I could plop food down in front of Hailey and work on cooking our dinner while watching her take feeding into her own hands.

Another reason I chose baby led weaning was the exposure to new textures. Being that I love a lot of different kinds of foods, I wanted Hailey to be an adventurous eater as well. I felt that exposing her to a plethora of textures, as well as flavors, would better prepare her for accepting different foods down the road. So far, it seems to be working.

Finally, the practice of reaching and grabbing food helps babies develop fine motor skills. I credit Hailey’s early development of the pincer grip to those pesky peas she was determined to learn to pick up.

When should you start with Baby Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning experts strongly suggest waiting until 6 months old. At this point most babies are able to sit up unassisted and can reach out and grab things. Science also points to six months old as an ideal time to introduce solids since it is when babies’ digestive systems are mature enough to handle food and most babies are showing interest in eating (reaching for food). Furthermore, at this age babies’ gag reflexes are positioned further up on the tongue (closer to the front of the mouth). This is nature’s safe guard against choking, since a baby will gag and spit out a food before he is able to choke on it.

Once a baby demonstrates all the sign of being ready, the fun begins!

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What foods are appropriate for a new eater?
Our favorites were baked sweet potato sticks, banana and steamed broccoli which all were easy for her to grab and maneuver to her mouth early on. You can read more about Hailey’s first experience with solids here. From there, the sky was the limit. We moved on to steamed green beans, black beans, peas, sticks of cheddar, scrambled egg, sliced tomatoes, and on and on. To learn more about what foods I gave Hailey each month and ideas from other moms, visit Munchkin Meals, which is a monthly link up I host where moms come together to share what their kids are eating and get new ideas.

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What about choking?
As with any solid foods, you want to be with your baby whenever he is eating. Choking is a hazard that scares most people off from baby led weaning. Make sure you offer appropriate foods and your child is developmentally ready. Also, don’t forget that gagging is NOT choking. The gag reflex is further forward on the tongue as a safe guard. Hailey gagged on her first experience and quickly spit out the food. She gagged maybe once more and then she got it. No gagging scares since.

Is my child getting enough to eat?
Have you ever heard the phrase Food before one is just for fun? At this age breast milk or formula is still providing all the nutrients a child needs to thrive. There is no need to fret if your child is only able to manage a few bites down the hatch at a time. I wondered if Hailey was getting anything down at all, but within a week I saw the proof in her diapers (ew, sorry).

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Would I do it again?
YES! Oh my gosh, yes. We loved it. It was so much fun watching Hailey explore new foods. We could take her out to eat and all enjoy a meal together without one of us having to sit and spoon feed her. Instead, she had small bites of our meal. She has always eaten what we were eating, even Indian food. At 21 months old, Hailey is an incredibly adventurous eater. Perhaps we just got lucky, but I credit her early exposure to a variety of flavors and textures with broadening her horizons. I plan on following the same path with any future children.

Have you heard of baby led weaning?

What are your thoughts on it?

 

Disclaimer: Brittany and I are not a pediatricians nor a dietitians. Check with your doctor before introducing solids and definitely use this only as a rough guideline. Always trust your gut and do your research.