If you are about to introduce solids to your baby, you may be wondering where to begin. There is so much information out there and so many different opinions. What is the right way? There is no perfect answer and each approach has its pros and cons. The important thing is that you feel comfortable with whatever method you ultimately choose!
As a mum of two munchkins aged 19 months and almost 4 years old, I would like to share my experiences with you. The first thing I decided to do was to dispel any preconceived notions I may have had about weaning being difficult or frustrating. I thought to myself “does this milestone really have to be dreadful and awful? ”
My gut emphatically told me “no!” and so I did a lot of research online, read books and talked to other parents about their experiences. There are so many different approaches to parenting but I will outline what worked for us and what were the benefits.
A fellow parent and friend of mine told me about the concept of “baby led weaning” where you essentially present your baby with a variety of foods and let them choose what they want to eat. At the beginning, this is usually a spread of vegetables and fruits cut up into finger food sizes. The important point with this approach is that your baby be old enough to sit up in their high chair without falling over (which is usually when baby is around 6 months old) so as to minimize the risk of choking.
Where to Begin?
I started off with introducing solids at just one meal of the day for example a slice of cantaloupe, water melon and sweet potato at lunch time. Baby could then choose what he wanted to eat from this selection. I recommend breast or bottle feeding your baby just before this so that they don’t get frustrated with the food in front of them. An overly hungry baby will not be a patient baby! Don’t be concerned if baby does not swallow anything right away. They are just exploring the textures of the different food in front of them and with time, they will be curious enough to take a bite. I started solids with both my children at about 6 months old. My son played with a piece of cantaloupe for 2 weeks before he swallowed anything. My daughter ate the entire piece of cantaloupe by Day 2. Babies will respond differently to food and that’s perfectly normal.
But my baby has no teeth….
At first, I was concerned about giving my young baby finger foods at such a young age and I wondered how my babies (who were both late teethers) could actually eat food without teeth. But I was amazed at how industrious babies can be at eating with just their gums. My daughter did not have a single tooth until she was 15 months old but was able to eat a wide variety of foods just by mushing down on them with her gums starting at the age of 6 months.
But what about the mess…won’t food go everywhere if baby is feeding herself?
Yes! My babies faces were a big mess, the floor was a disaster, there was sauce in their hair, but they were having so much fun experimenting with food. I really couldn’t believe how well they both took to food. It became an adventure because they got to touch the different shapes and textures of food all while taking in the wide variety of colors (as well as testing gravity and flinging the food to the floor of course). To help contain the mess, you can put an overall bib that covers baby’s entire torso and put a plastic sheet under her high-chair so you can hand the food back to baby if she drops it.
To puree or not to puree?
This is a very personal choice and many of us were brought up on pureed foods and we turned out just fine. But I have to say that it made life so much easier to not have to puree any food. I simply cut up into small pieces whatever the rest of the family was having for dinner. Similarly, when we went to restaurants or friends’ houses, I did not have to worry about packing a separate meal for the kids to eat. They were so used to eating whatever the rest of us ate that they just went with the flow wherever we were. This doesn’t mean they liked absolutely everything we offered but they would usually eat at least one thing on offer. I have to say that introducing solids to my kids was one of the most fun experiences because it did not become a fight.
What about the risk of choking?
You may have concerns about choking like I did but this is not really an issue provided your baby is sitting up straight, you prepare the food appropriately and that you avoid certain hazardous foods. I will provide some resources below where you can read up more on this. A basic course in CPR is also a good idea regardless of what method of weaning you choose.
Develops fine motor skills
If you haven’t heard of the ‘pincer grip’, this is a relished moment in parenting when your baby can pick up a single pea or grain of rice with their thumb and forefinger. This usually happens around 9 to 11 months but I was astonished when both my kids were doing this at 7 months. This is not to show off their super fine motor skills. It is just to say that by being allowed to explore and touch the food themselves from the age of 6 months, they quickly developed the skills to pick it up and bring it to their mouths themselves. The same applied to the use of utensils which they became quite good at around 15 months old. At first, the spoon landed around the nose or cheek but it wasn’t long before their aim was spot on and food was going in their mouths. They were so proud of themselves!
Other tidbits of advice:
- If your baby hates the high chair (like my son initially did), try putting baby in for only a few minutes at a time with some toys or favorite stuffed animal. Gradually increase the amount of time spent in the high chair and once baby is comfortable, get baby started on the wonderful adventure of discovering food!
- You may be concerned about food waste since most babies play with the food initially. You could collect as much of the leftovers as you can and turn it into a soup or if you have a dog who can handle human food, you could give him a treat!
- With my son, he would start to throw food on the floor if there were too many options on his plate. If this happens to you, you can limit the choices so it doesn’t become too much of an overwhelming experience for your baby.
Once again, parenting is very personal and there is no perfect approach but I really wanted to share this because it worked so well for us and I know that it can be tough to fight with your kids over food. Here’s to happier, more peaceful meal-times with your little ones!
For more information on baby led weaning, you can check out this site. You can also buy the baby led weaning book and/or cookbook which gives you recipes that work well for the whole family (see picture below). If you have more questions about baby-led weaning or introducing babies to solid food, feel free to comment below. I hope this post has been helpful for you!
The next mom tip will be on potty training so stay tuned…..