Time to start feeding your baby something other than formula and breast milk!
Sounds easy, right?
Unfortunately… not so much.
Gone are the days where it’s as easy as mixing a little rice cereal into their bottle.
Now the big question is, are you going to introduce purées or baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is a method of introducing your baby to solid foods. As opposed to the traditional method of starting with traditional, puréed “baby foods”, BLW allows babies to self-feed with table food.
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Rachel says, “Stick to traditional purees”
BLW seems to be very popular at the moment, but I went the traditional “baby food” route for my son and expect to do the same for my second.
For my son, we didn’t introduce solids until just before 6 months. We still looked for signs of readiness, like being able to sit up and interest in food.
We began with super thin (aka mostly breast milk) rice cereal to get used to the idea of eating and spoons, then quickly moved onto pureed fruits and veggies.
Purees are less messy and wasteful
Ok, so babies are messy in general.
At least with purees I get some control over the amount of food that ends up on the floor, on the ceiling… or in his hair.
Starting out most babies don’t actually get much food into their mouths. The dexterity required to even grasp the food is just developing, let alone the hand eye coordination necessary to successfully place it their mouths.
That development, or rather lack of it, is totally expected in the BLW method. In fact, BLW promotes food exploration, which to me just sounds like playing with food.
Aside from just the food waste is the amount of time. Letting my baby decide how long they want to play with, throw, and potentially attempt to eat their food each meal seems like a lot of extra time.
Sure, it’s great when I’m trying to eat my own dinner, but what about when I’m trying to get us out the door in the morning? Using purees allows me to make sure something was consumed in our allotted time frame.
BLW may not meet baby’s nutritional needs
While infants are still getting the majority of their nutrition from formula or breast milk, they should begin to get some from foods as well.
I have heard the phrase “food before one is just for fun” many times, but that makes it sound like there is a sudden huge shift at one, which doesn’t really make sense.
Babies grow and develop a ton between 6 months and 1 year, so it makes more sense to me that their needs would follow a progression as well.
Some babies may take a long time to actually eat much food at all using BLW. As a result of this some critics of BLW have pointed to iron deficiency as a potential issue.
Babies usually get enough iron from mom for the first 4 – 6 months of life. After this they need to get it from iron-rich foods such as fortified cereal. Many foods high in iron (like meat) aren’t necessarily the easiest for baby to eat. Though these foods may be offered in BLW, since the baby is in charge they may not actually be eaten.
On the flip side is the possibility that if your baby is actually eating, they may be getting too much sodium.
The average American gets about twice the recommended amount of sodium each day.
We had to improve our own eating habits as my son got older and started to eat more table foods. Before he ate with us, we often relied on prepared and processed convenience foods, which tend to be very high in sodium.
We made most of our son’s foods using the Magic Bullet Baby Bullet as I talk about in baby feeding must haves. By starting out eating purees, he actually ate much healthier than we did by having more fruits and vegetables and no added sodium.
Like many parents, I am completely freaked out by the thought of choking.
While the risk of choking is always present, the fear is much greater with BLW.
Most mothers in this study did report their baby gagging during BLW. The gagging incidents are also consistent what I’ve heard from some BLW moms. And while gagging is not choking, it can still be extremely scary for parents.
Whether or not the risk is higher, the perception of choking is still terrifying.
For me, my fear outweighed any potential benefit of BLW.
Jo asks, “Did you have any problems transitioning to non-pureed foods?”
Nope. The amount of time that my son ate solely pureed foods was relatively short before we began to introduce finger foods as well.
While blending up purees did seem like a bit of a hassle in the beginning, that stage was over so quickly.
By making his own food with the baby blender, we were able to have control and slowly offer different textures – starting with very thin purees and getting thicker and more “chunky” over time.
By 1 year my son ate nearly everything that we ate.
Jo says, “BLW is the way to go”
Admittedly, I didn’t do true BLW until my second baby. But if I had another kid, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
I did everything the “right” way with my first.
I skipped rice cereal (because it didn’t have any nutritional value according to my pediatrician), I carefully choose the nicest-looking organic sweet potato before steaming and pureeing it for his first meal, then waited 3 days before introducing another food.
For my second kid? Well for starters she didn’t try solid food until 7 months.
Life gets busy when you have multiple kids, ok?? I kept meaning to… but I also kept pushing it off because I was already busy packing lunch for myself, my toddler, and my husband.
So one day I had some cooked sweet potato and decided that today was the day we’d try solids! I’d heard about BLW, so I just put her in the highchair and put a couple small (slightly bigger than pea-sized) pieces on her tray and let her go at it.
Mainly she played – I don’t think she actually ate anything that first day. But it gently introduced and exposed her to eating.
So why is BLW the way to go?
BLW is easier for the parent
For starters, it’s less prep work.
No more getting out the baby blender to puree foods, not to mention no more cleaning the blender parts. Just chop it up and throw it on the tray.
You also don’t need to prepare separate foods for baby.
When I was meal planning for the week, I would make sure that every night we had something that was “BLW friendly” to give the baby. Things like cooked carrots, sweet potato, tofu, pasta, etc. I just made sure not to add too much seasoning (especially salt).
And finally, it’s easier because one parent doesn’t have to be tied to the high chair for spoon feeding.
BLW allows the parents to eat and the baby to feed themselves at their own pace. Which leads me right into my second reason for BLW…
BLW is more comfortable for baby
Since baby is in control, they can set the pace.
They can decide how much, and how quickly, they want to be eating. No pressure like forcing a spoon in their face.
BLW introduces eating in a more natural way. By giving them chunks of food, they learn to chew before swallowing.
And yes, this even works if they don’t have teeth, those gums are strong! This will reduce the risk of choking in the future.
Baby sees that eating is a relaxed, family event because they are sitting around the table with everyone else. It starts to build that sense of family dinner time, rather than eating before or after the parents.
BLW exposes baby to a larger variety of foods
After baby is comfortable with simpler (ie. blander) foods, then the next step in BLW is exposing them to the normal, everyday foods you eat!
Yes, these means small pieces of curried chicken, coconut shrimp, farfalle pasta with pesto, popover rolls, etc. The sky’s the limit! (Just remember no honey before the age of 1).
This exposes baby to a diverse array of flavors and textures. You’ll be surprised at the flavors your baby likes, and you’ll be happier with a less picky eater later on down the road.
Rachel asks, “Did you have problems with gagging or choking?”
I wouldn’t say we had a “problem” with gagging, but she did gag at some points. My first (who we did traditional purees with) used to gag just as much.
Even though we were giving her foods with more texture, I think my second child was more comfortable with eating because she had the control over putting the food in her mouth herself.
While there may be different sides to the purees vs. BLW debate, any way you choose to feed your child works! Kids can be picky eaters, so even if you have your heart set on one method don’t be surprised if they don’t respond to it right away. Keep trying and change tactics if you have to. You got this, mama!
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