Picture this: Zoe (or any baby for that matter) sitting in a high chair with me flying the spoon around like an airplane trying to entice her to eat mush. She refuses, shakes her head avoiding the spoon, and cries.
Countless parents have done this. I did this while babysitting. And I have to be honest… I was secretly dreading it. As Zoe was getting older and almost ready for solids, the thought of pureeing everything sounded daunting. Then I heard about baby-led weaning – let the baby feed herself. And instantly, mealtime sounded fun again.
I quickly read up on other people’s experiences and decided to buy the book. It just made sense to me. And sounded fun and easy. Let the baby feed herself. The main principle is that babies are getting most of their nutrition from breastmilk; but once they are ready for solids, it’s up to them to decide what and how much.
The signs that she was ready to eat were all there – Zoe could sit up straight on her own; and she was starting to grab my food. Finally, at almost six months, she stole my banana and put it right in her mouth. I knew she was ready for more.
Since California is king of avocados, we naturally started with those. A little slippery, but she loved it. We steamed some veggies for her and cut them so they were easy to hold. Zoe ate broccoli florets at six months; and the best part was – no force feeding. It was enjoyable. Fun for her to explore; and fun for us to watch her explore.
The book goes into great detail about how and what. I highly recommend reading it. Starting out, I was a bit nervous about the gagging. Thankfully it doesn’t happen that much. But when it does, it sounds a little scary. The author reassures that it’s normal and safe.
A great benefit to baby-led weaning is Zoe learned to chew before she swallowed. She used to spit everything out after she swished it around on her gums for a awhile. It has been very amusing to observe how she’s learned to eat. She gets better at it every day.
Trust me; it really is as easy as it seems. We just feed Zoe whatever we are eating. There are some restrictions, of course. Before they are one year, babies can’t have that much salt or sugar. And so I cook with less salt – it’s helped us be a little healthier. Especially since I’m always mindful about incorporating fruits and veggies Zoe can eat in every meal.
Zoe has tried all sorts of fruits and veggies. Besides those that I have already mentioned, she eats – strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples, pears, peaches, asparagus, squash, cucumbers, peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, carrots, celery; and I’m sure I’m forgetting something. She also eats rice, eggs, pizza, chicken, etc. It’s not like she scarfs it all down – we are simply exposing her to the many textures and flavors. Cherries are her new favorite – I think she ate about a dozen for lunch the other day.
Letting babies eat whatever you’re eating is a not a new idea. It’s what families used to do before the convenience of jarred food. I’m not really sure why they thought it was more convenient to buy a special food when they just want to grab off your plate anyway…
The motto of baby-lead weaning is “Food before one is just for fun”. Basically, don’t worry about whether or not baby is getting enough to eat. Zoe still nurses on a regular basis. The rest is just to prepare her for when she’s ready to eat more food. I’m so grateful I heard about this because now, instead of spending time preparing two separate meals, I can spend that time watching Zoe eat. And we all eat together as a family.
Have you heard of baby-led weaning? How does mealtime work in your family?