Baby-Led Weaning: It's the new solids | The Life of K: Baby-Led Weaning: It's the new solids

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Baby-Led Weaning: It's the new solids

J and I are quite happy to take the lazy approach to parenting. Though, you could say we're just laid back. Yes, let's go with that. We're laid back parents. Hopefully our little one grows up with an easy going attitude.

With Baby J's 6-month birthday on the horizon, thoughts of purees invaded my mind. Obviously the easy way out is to buy baby food from the store but I was considering making it. Cooking, mashing, pureeing, storing... it all sounds like a lot of work.

Then I learned about baby-led weaning (also called baby-led solids). The premise is that when your baby is able to pick up food and put it in his mouth, he is also able to eat. You let the baby do the work and just provide him with different kinds of foods. Like the food you're eating. What could be easier than that?

Developmentally, humans are pretty neat. I'm always amazed that my body, with a little help from J, created a whole person! And this little person came out knowing how to eat and poop and cry. Every day he learns something new and his body - all babies' bodies - have built-in mechanisms to help them survive. They are born with tons of reflexes, some of them incredibly funny like the startle reflex where their arms and legs shoot out, often for no reason at all.

Hand-eye coordination builds slowly. First, it was "Hey! I have hands!" Hours were spent staring at those hands, moving them slowly around, sometimes FAST! sometimes opening and closing those little fists over and over and over. There was grabbing and reaching and eventually intentional movement - seeing a toy, reaching for the toy, grabbing the toy.

Now the toy goes in the mouth. Everything goes in the mouth.

At dinnertime, we put Baby J in his chair and give him a piece of broccoli or cheese, basically anything that isn't full of sugar or salt. He methodically grabs it and put it in his mouth. He licks and sucks and drools and is starting to chew. It's all very cute and picture worthy.

All the while he is learning what food is all about. Babies should get all of their calories from breastmilk of formula for now so solids are really just a learning experience. Learning about the colour, texture, taste, and how the pieces squish when you close them in a tight fist. And we're learning how to eat at the table as a family, something we rarely did before, and how to be patient while our little person explores. We're learning why parents generally bathe their babies at night and how to spot clean half the dining room.

Another interesting developmental thing is the gag reflex in babies is half way up their tongue. This prevents them from getting food too far back in their mouths and choking, but makes them gag a lot. Baby J will bite off a chunk of carrot and then shove the chunk back farther with the rest of the carrot. Then he'll gag. We sit there watching in case he's actually choking. He never is. He gags, his face gets red and his eyes water and then he's fine and shoving the next piece of food in his mouth.

Over time the gag reflex moves back into the throat coinciding with the ability of babies to chew and move food to the back of their mouths and swallow. It's all very interesting, at least to me. And it's a lot of fun seeing Baby J explore new foods. So far we've given him broccoli (his favourite), carrots, red and green pepper, cauliflower, cucumber, celery, tomato, rice, italian sausage, chicken, canteloupe, watermelon and cheese. I'm probably forgetting some.

When he starts throwing things on the floor without first putting them in his mouth, we know he's done. We offer him some water and boy does he ever love water! Water helps with digestion. After months of eating only a liquid diet, solids can really mess things up but water helps. So do prunes, but thankfully we haven't needed those yet. I'm pretty sure they would make me gag.

Letting the baby lead the way when it comes to eating solid food might be the easy way out but it's a lot of fun and makes sense to me. I recommend reading Gill Rapley's book Baby-Led Weaning: Helping your baby to love good food. Baby-led weaning may not be for everyone, but it's working for us. Feel free to ask any questions and I'll do my best to answer.


  1. Sounds like an interesting approach. I've haven't tried it but did find that by the time my babies reach 7 months they really prefer just to feed themselves anyway. If Baby J does end up needing "some help" rather than going right for prunes try watered down apple juice or apple sauce. That tends to help too...or you can get apple prune juice. Might help you with your gag reflexes!

  2. Awesome! I'm happy to hear you are trying out BLW! It seems to be a really natural approach to introducing real food, and totally makes sense.

    I'm not too keen on the idea of pureeing everything either, so hopefully when that time comes hubby will be onboard with it too. :)