I remember feeling really overwhelmed before we started weaning – I felt confused by the whole thing and didn’t really know where to start. I went to a weaning talk a few months beforehand but came away feeling like there was just to much to take in and having no idea where to start.
I did eventually decide to go with baby led weaning after hearing about a friend’s positive experience with it and thought that we’d give it a try.
What is baby led weaning?
Baby led-weaning means letting your child feed themselves right from the beginning. By waiting until your little one is 6 months old, they should be developmentally ready to handle eating solid foods – they say there’s no need to start with purees or mushed up food and no need to spoon feed. As long as the food has low salt content, doesn’t contain whole nuts, honey or certain types of fish, you can pretty much go ahead and let your baby get stuck in. Eating begins as a sensory experience, with the idea being that babies learn to handle food themselves and emphasis is not on how much they eat. It’s all about letting them try different types of foods – the difference being that they learn to chew food first rather than swallow. Babies still need milk (breast milk or formula) up until a year old so food is seen as an addition to their main diet instead of a replacement.
With BLW it is very important to read up on the differences between gagging and choking. As a baby’s gag reflex is so sensitive, gagging is seen as a normal process which allows your baby to deal with the food they are eating and send any food that is too big back out again. Yes it can be scary and there are times where my heart feels like its stopped whilst he’s coughed on a piece of food but then he’s sorted it out within seconds and gone back to happily eating – not bothered in the slightest by it. Choking is very different and they do say its quite rare but its important to know what to do if it does happen – there’s some great advice from the St Johns Ambulance on what to do and they also put on infant first aid courses.
How is it going so far?
Nearly 3 months in to weaning and I am really glad that we decided to go ahead with baby led weaning. The amount of food that our little one eats is increasing and he loves trying new foods. Its great to see him developing new skills and taking part in our family meal times. I find the hardest part is thinking of new meals to make and always thinking about what he can have, particularly if we are going out. I’m going to try and be more organised and get meals planned beforehand so this should make this a bit easier!
Favourite Foods – We started off giving steamed vegetables (sticks of carrot, sweet potato and broccoli.) Then we tried him with things like banana, avocado and porridge and then we started giving him bits of what we were eating for our own meals. Strips of chicken and vegetables from a roast dinner, shepherds pie, pasta etc. His favourite food seems to be strawberries at the moment so they are always good to have in the fridge.
What do you need? The main staples:
- Bibs – baby led weaning is messy! Lots and lots of bibs – the best ones are long sleeved with a front pocket to catch the food that gets dropped.
- A good highchair – we use the Ikea Antilop which seems to be a BLW staple – cheap and very easy to clean. The tray is great and can be removed to go in the dishwasher
- A wipe-clean table cloth for underneath the highchair – I picked up a couple of these from our local bargain store and they work really well for catching the food that dives off the edge of the highchair!
Other things that are useful
- The Baby Led Weaning Cookbook by Gill Rapley – this is the ‘go-to’ book for BLW and contains a great introduction at the beginning which explains it all really well. The recipes are split into useful sections – breakfast ideas, lunch and dinner and have good indications of how little ones will deal with the food at different ages. I have found other more traditional weaning cookbooks useful too but have used recipes from the later sections aimed at older babies.
- The Summer Infant Tiny Diner – we’ve recently started going out more for meals with our little one. As most restaurants seem to have wooden highchairs without trays, this ‘placemat’ sticks down onto the table and provides a clean surface to put your baby’s food on. It also rolls up nicely and small enough to fit in your change bag. We’ve also got the Chicco Pocket Snack which you can put on a normal chair to turn into a highchair which is great if we’re going over to family or friends for something to eat.
- There are quite a few Facebook groups for weaning (there is a Baby Led Weaning UK group which is really useful) and there are so many blogs out there with brilliant recipes – two of my faves are My Lovely Little Lunchbox and Feeding Finn. Groups on things like Facebook are useful as a supportive community to ask questions, pick up tips and see how other people are getting on.
I think the most important thing to remember with whatever type of weaning you choose is to enjoy the process, try not to stress and just follow your baby’s lead.
Did you do baby led weaning? I’d love to hear from you about your experiences!