What is Baby Led Weaning ?
Baby-led weaning is a child directed limiting (or weaning) from mother's milk to a diet of table foods. This is not a new concept, and many cultures around the world have done this for centuries, but it is gaining traction in America as the hip thing that all the crunchy moms are doing.
Why I wanted baby led weaning for my son
When a researching mom is researching food, she is bound to come across baby led weaning or (BLW as it's commonly referred to on a variety of social message boards). I will admit this is not a topic we went over in graduate school. I believe it was a short video clip and not much more information. This was something I had to learn about on my own; just like any other mom. The research was there, the reviews were in: Baby led weaning had benefits such as:
The moms who did baby-led weaning were adamant that it was an amazing experience, just a tad messy in the beginning (nothing I couldn't handle, right?) The moms who did baby-led weaning were enjoying dinner out a restaurants with their family while baby practically took care of themselves. This was something I could really get behind!
How we started
Once the criteria are met, you have the green light to go!
our first experience
I was putting a lot of pressure on this moment. I was expecting too much. He mostly just squished the avocado in his hands and got a few specs in his mouth. Here are some of the foods we started with:
The peanut gallery
As you might expect from your own parents, mine thought I was crazy. Ugh, they were so old fashioned! Did they seriously think babies still ate baby food? So naive! After I sent a video of my son eating broccoli, I got an angry call form my father, "HE is going to CHOKE! I never want to see him eating food like that. He doesn't have any TEETH! It's just basic common sense!" Please dad, what do you know about feeding babies? I got this! I read the book, did you? In the back of my mind, the words common sense stuck in my head. It did seem like common sense that you needed teeth to chew food....
gagging, or choking?
There is a distinct different between gagging and choking:
I feel like he was doing better with food at the beginning. At one point, it seemed he wasn't really gagging anymore. He would spit out pieces that were too big. Perhaps we did too many spoon foods? I don't recall it being a rule that you couldn't do a lot of spoon foods? We did foods that were naturally puree like mashed potatoes, oatmeal, yogurt, and guacamole.
I felt like the more I tried, the more he was struggling. He was gagging more and I felt like sometimes he was skipping gagging completely. The pieces he was sucking into his mouth were just too big! I would gingerly place the food down. Then, as he brought it to his mouth,
I just held my breath ....
Now a rule about BLW is that you are not supposed to intervene unless the baby is showing visible signs that they cannot breathe, otherwise this could result in them choking. So then he would starting gagging and spit out some food, okay, fine!
As a mom, a new mom, to literally sit there and try to 'wait out' a potential choking episode when your child is buckled into a chair is beyond anxiety provoking. BEYOND!
There were 3- heart stopping times -that I felt I needed to intervene. Before I had him out of the chair, he had cleared it on his own (which is what the book told me would likely happen, by the way). HOWEVER, even with that being said, by the third time, I truly decided that this wasn't for me. I just couldn't handle it. I was a nervous wreck eating and I didn't want my fears and anxieties to be picked up by him. I wanted mealtimes to be enjoyable for everyone.
finding a middle ground
I tried to keep as many elements from BLW as possible as we closed the book on that technique for this baby in this moment. Some things that I took from it that I think are important!
what we eat now...
Now at 7 months, we have really been able to incorporate more finger foods. Bananas are no longer mashed with my fork, I pull off small pieces for him to pick up on his own.
At 8 months and 9, we continue finger foods and some spoon fed foods as well. The pieces of food got a little bit bigger too to be more manageable for him to pick up. He amazes me what he is able to pick up with his little fingers! He strips a spoon like a pro! We are starting drinking from a cup and straw too!
What I would do differently next time
I might start a little after 6 months. Even though he had all the signs of readiness, maybe he just wasn't ready. Another side of me thinks, he might have needed to go through the struggle to be the great eater he is now.
If you tried BLW and feel like you failed, don't feel that way. You tried something that just didn't work well for you. It doesn't mean that it wouldn't work well with a different baby. It doesn't mean you did something wrong. Baby just wasn't into it and they will do better later.
Focus on making mealtimes about family and enjoying good food!