I honestly have no idea where I first heard about baby-led weaning...maybe it was one of the natural mom's groups I'm in on facebook...but wherever it was, I'm SO thankful! Baby-led weaning is basically skipping the stage where you spoon feed your baby purées. It's a way to introduce solid foods that allows them to feed themselves. They sit with the family and eat whatever they're having (within reason of course) but the pieces are just cut into easy to grab chunks.
You start baby-led weaning at 6 months of age or whenever your baby is able to sit upright, pick up pieces of food and take them to their mouth and "chew" them. I put chew in quotations because I know there are some babies that don't get teeth until later on but they can still gum things...you would probably just want to give them softer things like steamed veggies, potatoes etc...although their gums are really hard so you can even give them apples and other hard things too.
A few benefits of baby-led weaning from some of the research I did and from asking the opinions of other mama's:
* allows babies to explore taste, texture, color and smell
* encourages independence and confidence
* helps to develop their hand-eye coordination and chewing skills
* makes picky eating and mealtime battles less likely
It actually makes a lot of sense because as their teeth come in, it produces saliva which contains digestive enzymes and this generally happens along the same time line as digestion and intestinal development of necessary enzymes. Eli is exclusively breastfed and gets all the nutrients he needs from that for right now so eating food is really just for fun and learning! "Food before 1 is just for fun" is a quote I heard somewhere and it's stuck with me for some reason. It helps me to remember that I really don't need to be super concerned with making sure he's eating a lot at every single meal.
If you eat mostly whole foods, this should be pretty easy for you. If you don't...maybe it's a good time to make the switch!! You'll get healthy and feel so much better while making sure your baby does too.
I know what you're thinking...won't he choke?? There are definitely things you need to be aware of and safety precautions to take, but nope...we've never actually had a moment where we thought he was going to choke or be in any danger! The video below was as close as we came to "choking" but in everything I read, they said to just sit on your hands and let them figure it out!
Obviously if he's actually choking and not gagging, or blue in the face then YES, you will step in and help...but if it's a little gag or cough, just chill out. They will actually LEARN how to take smaller bites, spit out things they can't swallow and maneuver foods inside their mouths...it's pretty amazing watching Eli do this...so all we have to do is sit back and help as little as needed.
We started him with sweet potatoes, apples (he had about 4 teeth when we started), avocado, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, bananas, red peppers, cauliflower, cucumber, watermelon, celery....and have gradually added in eggs and a few pieces of meat lately. We also did puffs on a flight to Cancun...because HELLO...3 1/2 hours on a plane with an 8 month old is just scary. They kept him super occupied and he did great! We also have been giving him veggie straws for little snacks in the car.
You should stay away from things with lots of salt, sugar, fast food, honey, shellfish, shark, marlin and under-cooked eggs...but that's about it!
This kid LOVES food which makes this mama (and his dad too of course) SO HAPPY. I would HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend baby-led weaning if you have a little one that's about to start eating real food. Seriously. If you've never heard of it, check out this book: Baby Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods. Or google it obviously, there are loads of resources out there. I'm also part of a baby led weaning group on facebook that really helped me get over my fears of him choking and to just GO FOR IT.
I'm happy to answer any questions if you have any...just shoot me a message or leave us a comment!
The Cook & The Coach
Healthy is a LIFESTYLE.