Six months after our daughter was born, we started her on solid foods. We waiting until then for various reasons, but seeing as she was doing fine on breast milk, we didn’t see a reason to hurry. Really, though, those six months flew by and I couldn’t believe that we were starting solids already! Where to begin?
A few months before this, I was introduced to the concept of baby-led weaning (or baby-led solids), and I was hooked.
So what is baby-led weaning? The concept is simple: Let babies feed themselves. Now before your mind is filled with images of babies choking, let me make you feel more at ease it’s actually quite safe. The idea is you give them foods they can hold and gnaw on, of all different textures and tastes, to expand their palate and teach the baby how to eat by itself. Contrary to popular opinion, babies do not need to start on pureed foods because they are quite capable of handling foods without being spoon-fed.
How did we begin? Around six months, we started giving our daughter soft foods to eat. The first two foods we gave her were avocado and sweet potatoes. The avocado was easy because it’s already soft, we just cut it lengthwise so she could pick it up easily and stuff one end in her mouth. We cut the sweet potatoes into long fries, again, so she could pick it up easily, and then we baked them until they were soft.
From there, the whole world of food exploded before us. Now, we didn’t have to make a separate meal for her. One of us wasn’t trying to feed the baby pureed food while the other stuffed dinner into their mouth, ready to take over when they were done. No, our daughter ate what we were eating, with some exceptions (wrong size, too spicy, etc.). She is thirteen months old now and will eat almost anything, and feed herself at each meal. It’s amazing!
You can get started on baby-led weaning at any point, even if your child is eleven months old and has been eating pureed foods for the whole time. Start slow: soft foods, like I mentioned before. Offer easy grasp fruits like strawberries, apple slices, and bananas. You can shred chicken, tear up lunchmeat, or cut up a hard-boiled egg for your baby, too. The foods you should avoid are any that they are allergic to, or food they can’t chew easily like nuts or things with large seeds. Other than that, follow your instinct and have fun! Remember, food before one is just for fun.
As for choking, my daughter never choked, not once. She did gag once or twice, and you will need to learn the difference between the two. Every parent should take an infant CPR and first aid course, anyway.
Chantal Shelstad, a self-proclaimed “crunchy” stay-at-home mom who lives in Alabama with her daughter, Penny and her husband, a pilot in the Army. Chantal is more than happy to own up to the fact that cloth diapering parents have to face plenty of difficulties, transitions, stigmas (and yes, plenty of poop!) …but it is still worth it in the end.