To introduce solid foods, we're trying "Baby-Led Weaning". It's not terribly common (at least I don't know anyone else trying this way), but we love it. In this situation, weaning means introducing solid foods, not cessation of breastfeeding. It aligns with our overall parenting approach (in that it's both lazy and uncontrived). The basics for starting are:
- Prepare food for your own meals and use some version of that to feed your baby (you may need to chop differently or cook a little more or less initially).
- Give your kid 2 inch long pieces of food (one inch to hold and one inch to eat) while they are learning.
- Let them figure it out. They get to figure out how best to hold the food. They also get to perfect their aim. Once they get it into their mouth, it may involve activating their gag reflex, which is not the same as choking. In infants, the gag reflex is further forward in their mouth, just for this reason, to protect them from choking when they learn to explore foods.
- Food is fun! Since he still gets most of his nutrition from breast milk, he doesn't need to eat any particular amount. In fact, some days if we're really busy we just don't get around to it and he's fine.
It's been going really well for us. Our little pumpkin head loves it. Here are a few things we like about it:
- He feeds himself. This means we can all eat at the same time.
- He feeds himself. Definitely worth mentioning again. His dexterity has remarkably improved after just three weeks of introducing solid foods. He uses his hands to explore the food, turn it around and aim it at his mouth. He has so much fun eating.
- He feeds himself. Yes, again. Another benefit is that he regulates which foods and how much food he puts in his mouth. I think this will help with portion control.
- He eats almost anything we offer him. He'll try it, move it around in his mouth, see what he thinks. It's a fun way for him to discover all sorts of flavors and textures.
- Mouthy manipulations. Soon, about two days after he started solid foods, he started saying many, many more consonant sounds. The timing may have been a total coincidence, though I think having greater control over his mouth and how he uses it may have helped.
- Chewing. Yes, at 6 and half months, he had only been "eating" for three weeks, had no teeth, but already started to chew his food! I'm kind of amazed.
- It's convenient. When we go out to dinner or eat at friends houses, I don't need to worry about packing food for him, I can just give him something from my plate.
- The magnificent gag reflex. I actually think it's fascinating to observe your child's built in features working well and the way they ought to. It's interesting. He infrequently gags, but when he does, the food just comes back up quickly. He's not at all bothered by this and will pick the same piece of food right back up and try again. For him, it's just part of the learning process. Ooops, I put that one in too far. Ooops, too many at a time.
Here he is in action!
Here's another video where you can see him loving the ever so unhelpful bananas. He gags a bit in this clip, at about 37 seconds. You can see how little he's affected by it.
As much as we love this, it's not for everybody.
- Gagging. If you're a nervous person, the gagging might worry you. We're pretty laid back, so have accepted that this is just part of the natural learning process. And Ollie isn't damaged by it at all, not even a little. If it bothers you or your kid, then it's not for you.
- Constipation. We accidentally constipated him. Whoops. That was a mommy fail. Somehow, I've lived my entire life without knowing that bananas stop you up. Since they were easy, I gave him bananas every day in the beginning. We resolved this with a bit of (diluted) prune juice and also give him a bit of dried plums with every meal. He loves them and has no problem navigating the skins.
- Mess. At first, there's a lot of it, especially with avocados. It's so much fun for him and I have the time, so I don't mind cleaning up with him afterwards.
- Time. If you don't have time, it's quicker to just feed your kid yourself..
- Allergies. If you're introducing one food at a time and are worried about allergies, this may not be the best approach for you. You can still make it work, but some of the convenience factors disappear.