As a first-time mom (and an exclusively breastfeeding-on-demand one), just the thought of introducing solid foods to my son made me shudder. Breastfeeding on demand was the easy part, I thought. Baby led weaning hadn’t even crossed my mind at this point.
No alarms to wake me up in the middle of the night because feeding time has arrived, no massive equipment to take with me anytime I had to run errands with my little one (I was all he needed at the time).
Solid Foods Were in Sight
But then the 6-month milestone was already at sight and I was terrified. I had seen experienced moms mash the exact 3/4th of a steamed carrot with 1/8th of a Greeny Smith apple into what I thought was the perfect portion of baby food.
I was sure I would never be able to remember all the rules for pureeing baby food, keeping a diary of introducing each food on a different day, etc.
I mean, if I give him a spoonful of pear puree and he keeps it in his mouth for about 2 seconds before spitting it on his only clean onesie? Could I mark the pear as an “introduced food” and go on with my list?
Related Reading: Six Feeding Tips For Parents with Infants Turning Six Months
The Baby Led Weaning Approach
Then, one day, I heard about this “baby led weaning” approach and I beamed with joy. Skipping the spoon-feeding altogether? Simply offering my baby whatever we had for dinner, provided it was appropriate for his age and cut into manageable sticks? Yup, that was my thing!
I have to tell you, breastfeeding on demand and baby led weaning are the perfect duo. There’s no stress, you just offer some new foods to your little one, then breastfeed, following the mantra “Food before one is just for fun” and you’re all set.
Here’s how baby led weaning helped my whole family have a healthier (and stress-free) life:
It Saves Time
What, with coming up with an entirely separate menu for your baby, pureeing, freezing and defrosting mashed pumpkin and everything… With baby led weaning, you have only one meal plan to stick to.
My number one rule when baby led weaning was “Whatever he is having, we are having”. It was a bit awkward during the first month but my husband soon started appreciating the banana buckwheat pancakes he got for breakfast.
It Teaches You to Eat Healthier Food
When you decide to teach your baby to self-feed, you also decide to throw away all the crappy food you store at the house. If your little one is given free access to anything that is served at the table, it better not be crappy food, am I right? We were already following the healthy food path but baby lead weaning helped us make the last sprint.
You Don’t Have to Feed Your Baby, He Does it for You
To clear up any doubts you might have about baby led weaning and messiness, I will have to tell you that baby feeding and mess go hand-in-hand. Period. It doesn’t matter whether you are spoon-feeding or letting your baby self-feed. The mess is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere.
When you let your baby feed himself, though, your hands are free! A bonus – he is sitting in his own chair while eating so you can actually do other stuff with your hands.
It’s amazing, I’m telling you. You get to hold your own fork and everything! I missed this.
Family Meals Are Fun
Trust me, when you put that food on your baby’s tray, you’re in for a show. You would probably want to keep your camera in sight if you want to capture some of the sweetest moments of you little one learning how to eat.
What’s more, making food for the whole family and serving it at the same time for everybody, means having a real family meal. That’s a meal during which each family member if doing their best to eat what’s on the table while cherishing this time together as a family. Priceless.
It’s Your Best Weapon Against Picky Eaters
Today, your baby is this sweet little milk-sucka that would gnaw at everything in sight (including old keychains and the ear of a stuffed teddy bear) but soon toddlerhood will step in and you may end up with a picky eater.
Now, I don’t have any evidence to support my point of view, but, judging by experience and observation, I have come to the conclusion that picky eaters are more often puree-fed than self-fed.
My point is that if you are given only purees as a baby (and often in strange fruit-vegetable mixtures at that), you don’t get to know what you are actually eating. So, when the time comes for you to see a carrot in its entity for the first time, you are frustrated. “What is this? I haven’t seen this before. Why does mom want to feed me this strange orange stick?”
Self-fed babies have the privilege to meet food in person, meaning the food is in the same state they will see it for the rest of their lives. This gives them the feeling of familiarity that is very helpful during toddlerhood.
On Baby Food and Good Sleep
If you have a tough sleeper, these healthy foods may come in handy as promoters of better sleep: bananas, milk, turkey, chicken, eggs, beans, fish, cheese, salmon, lean beef, etc.
Note: Always give you baby foods that are appropriate for his age!
Related Reading: Will Babies Sleep Longer If They Get Formula At Night?
A Few Last Words…
Baby led weaning (just like spoon feeding for that matter) is not for every baby and every parent. If you are not comfortable with letting your little one self-feed from day one of the weaning process, just don’t do it.
There is no right or wrong way to feed a baby! Follow your instincts (and your common sense) and you will be just fine. Remember, this is not an exam you can either pass or fail. It’s your baby and your rules. Do what you feel is right and it will be.