The One Tip That Will Make Feeding Your Baby Easy

Simplify Your Life with Baby Led Weaning ~ Plumfield Dreams

When we had our first child I read everything I could about everything baby-related, and one topic that kept coming up was this thing called “baby led weaning”. Simply put, baby led weaning is a feeding philosophy that allows babies to be in control of their eating from their very first foods. I delved deeper, and was quickly converted to a believer. We fed Aria this way, and nothing could have been easier. We don’t have food power struggles, I never have to cook or puree anything different from what we’re eating, I don’t have to pack extra food when we go out to eat, I don’t have to spoon feed while my meal gets cold, and Aria has learned to enjoy the flavors Andy and I enjoy – there are no separate meals in our future. Sound too good to be true? I assure you, it’s not!

Previous medical knowledge dictated babies might begin to be spoon fed from three or four months old. We now know that, not only is this almost never necessary (regardless of the size of your baby – mine were both born over 10 lbs), it can actually be harmful because their little digestive systems are not yet equipped to handle more than milk. There is no reason to feed a baby earlier than six months (that’s at the earliest – you can wait longer). If you wait until six months, your baby is likely to be sitting up and able to move food to his mouth on his own – the only skills he needs to begin eating finger foods. So, simple as that – wait until at least six months – and spoon feeding becomes unnecessary (and you’ve already simplified your life just by waiting a bit longer to get started!).

With baby led weaning:

  • Your baby eats along with the family. He’ll observe you eating, and be part of the social aspect of the meal. As with every other developmental milestone your baby hits, when he gets to the appropriate point in his development, he will eat on his own as long as he’s given the opportunity. Think of it this way – if you give your baby the opportunity, he will simply start crawling on his own when he is ready. We all know this, but when it comes to feeding it’s become the cultural norm for us to interrupt their development by spoon feeding. Life is so much simpler and happier for everyone if you let your baby follow his instincts!
  • You give your baby the same food you are eating, and he chooses what to eat. This approach gives him control over his eating, removing the need for the spoon-feeding power struggle (and your confusion regarding when the baby is full). There’s no more coercing the baby to eat the food you are offering. Just offer a variety of foods, and your baby will eat what tastes good to him. You’ll be amazed at the variety he gets in a week.
  • Because you are waiting until your baby’s digestive system is prepared to digest solid foods, there’s no need to offer only bland foods. Offering the flavors you prefer from the outset teaches your child that those are the normal flavors to expect. You are less likely to have a picky eater, and you will not have to stick to the bland (and often unhealthy) kids menu options at restaurants.
  • You want to nurse or offer formula to your baby before he eats a meal. You can simply have him eat at his regular times, but make sure he’s not hungry when you offer table food. Since he doesn’t realize it’s intended to stop his hunger, he’s likely to just get frustrated.
  • Begin with foods that are larger, that your baby can easily guide to his mouth. It may take him a little while to move from experimenting to eating, since at first he really doesn’t associate food with hunger. At first it’s best to offer food in larger strips that will stick out beyond your baby’s fist. As long as you are eating a healthy diet, the size of the food is more important than what the food is. (In the photo above, Noah is eating half a banana. That photo is literally from his first meal – notice how good he is at it already. He doesn’t need our help.)
  • There are a handful of unsafe foods, such as honey, nuts and excessive salt. And, of course, if you have allergies in your family you should keep that in mind when deciding when to introduce those foods. Our family philosophy is that if one of us can’t eat it, none of us eat it. It’s simpler to just not cook with those foods.
  • Teeth, or lack there of, are not relevant. Your baby will be able to gum far more than you would think possible.
  • As long as you eat healthily, they’ll eat healthily. A side benefit of this approach to feeding your baby is that your entire family will likely eat more healthily! Back when we were starting babies on food before they were truly ready, we had to offer them things like rice cereal, which we now know is really not a healthy first food. Aria has never eaten rice cereal, and we don’t buy any sort of teething or dissolvable food. I don’t buy any baby food, period, and we’ve never missed it.
  • Nope, your baby isn’t going to choke! This was my main concern when I started researching, and what I learned really surprised me: when we are under a year old, our gag reflex is far forward in our mouths. So, if your baby starts eating solid foods immediately, he may gag, but he is extremely unlikely to choke. Instead, he’ll gag the food out (my kids have both done this, and it doesn’t phase them), and keep right on eating. It’s part of the learning process, and it’s as safe as anyone can be when they’re first starting to eat. On the other hand, if we teach our babies to swallow pureed food first, then later they have to relearn how to eat – oh, hey, suddenly you’re supposed to chew before you swallow! Not only are we working against ourselves, but we’ve waited until our kids gag reflex has started to move back, making them actually more likely to choke. Is it just me, or is that shocking?

For a comprehensive look at Baby Led Weaning, I highly recommend this book (affiliate link). You can find more tips for getting started here.

An Intro to Baby Led Weaning ~ Plumfield Dreams

From left to right: Aria’s first meal, beef fried rice; one of Aria’s earliest meals, half a bratwurst, cut in half lengthwise; Aria at 10 months, eating an entire apple.

7 Quick Takes: The One with Noah’s First Meal

Each week I post seven “quick takes” of things on my mind. Topics are typically related to our family happenings or things I’m into right now.

  1. I apologize for the complete lack of posts around here. It’s on account of I was sick. You know how last week at this time I was all “thank goodness for next week, because I am so over being sick”? Ha! Joke’s on me!
  2. Saturday I went to see “Saving Mr Banks” with my mommy, sister, and some friends. It was wonderful. Wonderful. You should see it. By the time we left the theatre, I was freezing. Like, the whole way home my teeth were chattering uncontrollably. Within an hour or so I had a temp over 103. I felt just great otherwise. And so it went. Long story short, I became unbelievably miserable, Sunday night I went to the ER, they gave me fluids and potassium, which it turns out I sorely needed, and that helped, but I was still miserably sick until Tuesday afternoon when – poof! – it went away. It was not Influenza A or B, and it was not mono. The ER doc said it was an unnamed virus that was showing up a lot this season. So, I lost 72 hours and some moolah and am still extremely tired. BUT. No one else got it, praise God, AND I never vomited a single time. And to that I say woot.
  3. The lingering sucky thing is that the whole basically-no-food-for-3-days thing had a very negative effect on my milk supply. I have been forced to supplement with formula. It’s not making Noah sick to his stomach, thankfully, but his skin is drying out, and I don’t want him on it. I’ve just started taking an herbal supplement, fenugreek, which is supposed to help. Fingers crossed…
  4. I am sooo behind at work. We were closed right after we opened for the year because of weather. Then the week we all went back I had a couple days of being off for sickness, and then the following week I added a few more. Ugh! I have deadlines!
  5. Since being officially well (Wednesday morning) I have done five large loads of laundry, unburied my inboxes, caught up on grading, cleaned out the fridge, gotten a filling replaced, done assorted work chores, and generally taken care of the kids. It’s exhausting to be a mom. Seriously.
  6. The kids were fantastic while I was sick. It became increasingly frustrating for me as the days wore on and I felt so far away from them. They did impressively well with it. Now that I’m well they’ve both been clingy, but I’m not complaining. Today I realized all traces of baby Aria are gone. She is a little girl, and she learns more every day. She speaks in long sentences regularly (many of which are total gibberish). She remembers things you tell her. The other day we were discussing who in the family has an upcoming birthday, because she has a vested interest in birthday cake, and I was musing, mostly to myself, that Uncle Dave doesn’t eat birthday cake because he can’t have the gluten, so I’m not sure what he does for his birthday. I thought she had moved on to something else, because she appeared to be paying me no mind. Then, today, she suddenly informs me, “Dave…mmm…no birthday ceck!” with a decisive head shake. (“Mmm”, by the way, is what she inserts in a sentence when she knows there should be at least one additional word, but she’s not sure what it is. It is the most endearing thing.) She gives me lots of little hugs and kisses, and does the same with her brother throughout the day. Several times yesterday she gave me a hug and then tilted her head and smiled at me very tenderly, and her eyes got this soft look that I recognized as a reflection of the way I look at her. Oh my, make me melt.

    Aria's First Masterpiece ~ Plumfield Dreams

    Aria has started taking pictures with my phone. Here is her first photographic masterpiece.

  7. Andy switched sides of the bed with me while I was sick to take responsibility for Noah. The first night I was so relieved to be able to sleep without worrying about him, and the second night I was over it and wanted my baby back. The third night I took Noah-duty back, and he woke up at midnight and decided to be smiley and happy and awake as could be until 2:30am. And I wanted to give him back to his dad. I cannot be made happy. Wednesday evening we decided to have him eat with us. Now that he’s six months he can start eating solid foods. We had tacos for dinner, but the meat was too spicy for him and most of the toppings were cut too small for him to eat. So, we gave him just avocado. He smashed approximately half the avocado with delighted interest before deciding to try to eat some of it. He got some of it in his mouth, so it was quite a success. Eventually he became frustrated there was no more avocado to eat, so we gave him some banana, and he immediately took to that, eating bites. A lot of what he got in his mouth he just let fall out, but he was taking purposeful bites and doing some chewing. That’s an excellent start for the first time he ever tried food. He’s going to love exploring the new world of tastes and textures.

    Noah's First Meal ~ Plumfield Dreams

    Aria felt it was important we include a close-up of her sippy.