Where to Begin
When it came time for our son to start solids, I wasn’t quite sure where to start. I vaguely remembered the rice cereal and jarred purees from babysitting in college, but other than that, I was clueless. I decided to do some research about how to get started online, which lead me to something I had never heard of: Baby Led Weaning.
There is a lot of information out there about BLW, but to sum it up, it basically means you go straight from formula/breastfeeding to finger foods, bypassing traditional purees. This really intrigued me, as my husband and I really consider ourselves “foodies” and love to cook and try new foods! I hated the thought of my baby eating cold, flavorless mush every meal, so this seemed like a genius idea.
When we first started the process, I set a goal for Bryant to try 100 foods by the time he turned one. This was a big challenge, but I was up for it! Once our doctor cleared him to start solids, we got straight to work. His very first food was avocado. We sliced it up, put him in his high chair, took a million pictures, and then…he barely ate a teaspoon. Ha! What a letdown.
However, the thing with BLW is that it isn’t just about what they actually consume. Bryant played with the avocado, he picked it up and then put it back down, he put it in his mouth, he spit it back out, and he even chewed up a little bit! All things he would miss out on if I was feeding him traditionally with a spoon. I tried not to get discouraged by this anticlimactic start and stuck to the plan.
Trust the Process
Once we really got into a routine of BLW, I was 100% confident that we had chosen the right thing for our family. One of the most exciting parts of BLW is that it gave me the opportunity to try new things myself! We were eating lots of new foods, and buying things we usually didn’t keep in our pantry and refrigerator. Barley, kiwi, sardines, tahini…you name it, Bryant probably tried it! He was eating such a variety of foods, and I felt a sense of accomplishment each time I wrote a new food down on our “master list”.
Even though I learned a lot during this process, one thing that was very difficult for me to overcome was my fear of choking. Teaching kindergarten for four years has given me major meal time PTSD! I really tried to educate myself on the difference between choking and gagging. Watching Bryant gag was really hard, and it went against every momma instinct I had to not lunge forward and scoop the food out of his mouth… But what I learned is that gagging is a necessary and normal part of a baby learning how to eat! Bryant self corrected every time and it usually didn’t even phase him.
Now, I’m not even going to lie, the worst part of BLW is the mess. When I tell you invest in a good vacuum, I mean it. Ha! Since Bryant was eating mostly with his hands and part of BLW is letting them “explore” their plate, it took everything in me to not get upset during mealtimes…but reminding myself that he was really learning and absorbing so much information during that 30 minute meal time, made it a little bit easier to wipe up the yogurt off the floor…and Bryant’s face… and the high chair…and probably the wall.
Our New Normal
Another thing about BLW that really sold me is Bryant’s ability to eat what we eat. It has saved us so much money, because buying pouches and baby food on top of your regular groceries can really add up depending on how much your baby eats! Also, going out to restaurants or to other people’s houses is not stressful to me, because I know that I can pretty much make anything work. Now, I’m not judging any child for eating chicken fingers and fries, but I’m really proud that my son is 14 months old and will eat salmon, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, quinoa, and so much more!
Another thing I’m really happy about is Bryant’s motor skill development. Since BLW encourages your baby to feed themselves using either their hands or small utensils, he has gotten lots of practice! Of course it took some time to master it, but he eventually got it! And I’m really happy to say he was using utensils, drinking out of an open cup and had eaten over 100 foods before he even took his first steps!
Before I began my journey, I did LOTS of research both online and on Instagram. I took notes and really tried to learn as much as I could. I also talked to our pediatrician about it, and I am thankful that he encouraged me to go this direction.
Below are some of my favorite Instagram accounts that really taught me a lot:
@FeedingLittles – Account run by a dietician and an OT feeding therapist; offering great ideas for how to serve food, recipes and graphics full of information! Lots of BLW information as well as “picky eater” guides!
@BabyLedWeanTeam – Nutritionist who documented her twins’ entire journey with baby led weaning. She shows their first encounters with over 100 foods and explains how to serve them with videos!
@MSDawnSLP – Speech therapist with a lot of science based information about eating and oral development
@MamaKnows_Nutrition – Dietician mainly focused on toddlers and help for picky eaters
@MyLittleEater – Nutritionist with lots of information about how/when/how much food for babies and toddlers.
@NewWaysNutrition – Dietitian with tons of easy to understand graphics all about feeding babies and toddlers, and she also does regular Q&A’s!
Note: I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, so please remember this is my family’s experience, and you should consider talking to your child’s pediatrician for more information.