My views on parenting have definitely changed since I had Lilly. Before her, I thought mothers that baby wore, coslept and breastfeed for longer than a year were crazy hippies! Now that she's here, I am definitely embracing the natural parenting and gentle parenting ways of doing things and that now includes baby led weaning. I had read a little about it before Lilly was born and thought I might give it a go and mix it with some puree food. My online mother's group have been very supportive and we have all been learning about the ins and outs together and I eventually found myself in a Baby Led Weaning facebook group which taught me a lot.
So what is baby led weaning I hear you say? It's basically letting your baby feed themselves finger food without the use of any puree's. There's a big emphasis on baby deciding how much they want to eat (and how much to moosh). There are lots of benefits in doing solids this way. It teaches them fine motor skills and boosts their coordination. Baby led weaning also exposes them to lots of textures early on which is supposed to help avoid having a fussy toddler down the track. The chewing motions are supposed to help with speech development which is a big win too. But most of all, it's a whole lot of fun! Lilly is always so happy when it's time for food and we always know when she's had enough because the smooshing, throwing and smacking of food begins. She is learning how much food she can handle and when she's ready to stop eating.
With Lilly being a preemie, we weren't really sure when to start introducing her to food. Once she hit 6 months real age, we sat her up in the high chair and I gave her a little taste of my mango smoothie. To say she was unimpressed with being spoon fed is an understatement. The look on her faces says it all.
After that experience, I thought that maybe she wasn't quite ready yet. I did some more research and read that true baby led weaning doesn't involve any puree food. I read that babies are ready when they can pick up and move toys to their mouths very easily; can sit unsupported or with little assistance; and when they are making lots of chewing motions when playing. With this, I managed to convince my husband that we wouldn't know if she was ready until we tried. We decided to give her a little piece of toast one morning which she chewed and sucked on quite happily. Success! Later that day, we gave her some mango which she also loved. And so our baby led weaning journey began!
Over the next few weeks, Lilly tried lots of new foods. We had sweet potato, potato, pumpkin, banana, avocado, pear, carrot, spaghetti pasta and broccoli - her very favourite! I was very anxious watching Lilly eat. I would scoop any chunks out of her mouth that she happened to gnaw off. I knew it was the wrong thing to do but I was so scared, especially when she gagged. I tried to stick to relatively soft foods until we both built up our confidence. As you can see by the photos, she was always very happy as she ate.
We did have one minor set back when I introduced yoghurt. I was pre-loading the spoons for her and letting her feed herself. It looked as though she was loving it but a rash quickly developed. We raced her up to the doctors and found that she was allergic to something in the yoghurt. A few weeks later we sought another opinion and we are now waiting for further testing.
By Christmas, Lilly was 7 months old and we had been powering on with lots of soft foods and I had stopped scooping food out of her mouth. I trusted in her ability and she was doing so well! I even stopped cooking separate meals for her and embraced baby led weaning in the way it was meant to be.
We are now a month and a half into our baby led weaning journey (7.5 months old) and we now offer Lilly whatever we are eating most of the time. I have started packing lunches for her when we are out and about and we are generally having 2-3 meals a day and maybe a few snacks here and there too. I am mostly struggling with lunches though so I have started doing meal plans to keep me accountable and trying new things. At the moment, she is loving fruits!
To begin with, we made sure all foods either had natural handles (meat on the bone, broccoli, banana with skin on the bottom etc) or was cut into my own finger length sticks. This was much easier for Lilly to hold on to and bring to her mouth. Now that we have been doing this for a little while, we is much better at manipulating foods so we don't worry as much with this. In the last week, we have tried some different shaped things like strawberries which she has LOVED!
I am so pleased we chose this path and couldn't be prouder of our clever little girl!
Keep in mind that this is just my experience with baby led weaning. Please follow the advice given from your own medical practitioner and make sure to read up on the benefits and disadvantages of anything you want to try.