Now that Tycho is six months old, we’ve toyed with the idea of introducing solids. Since his diet should still be primarily breastmilk and formula, we’re not putting too much emphasis on the solids, but we are slowly starting to introduce them. Rather than strictly do purees, though, which we may add at a later date, we’re doing baby-led weaning to introduce new foods.
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is the process of adding complementary foods to a baby’s diet by “self-feeding”, or allowing the baby to explore new foods in a way that suits the individual baby and his personal development. The idea is that, instead of introducing purees via a spoon to the mouth, the baby is presented a finger food to explore and “eat” – it’s mainly licking and sucking on a food at first, but eventually turns to biting and chewing.
(Note that “weaning” does not imply that the baby should actually be weaned from breastmilk or formula, but simply means the introduction of foods other than breastmilk or formula. In the UK, this is referred to as “weaning”, which is obviously very different from the US’s definition!)
Tycho has been watching us eat for a while, and has recently shown interest in some of our foods, lunging for them or fussing a bit when we don’t offer any. So this past weekend, after a few attempts to grab a sweet potato fry out of my hands, I finally handed him one. And this was the result:
He went nuts over it! Over the course of about twenty minutes, he ate the equivalent of half a fry, and was more than happy to have had it. (Further offers were rejected, which showed that he was done, so we didn’t force the issue.)
We didn’t really offer solids after that until just last night. Tycho was sitting in his high chair, banging around some toys, when we noticed he was watching me intently as I ate some food. Teriyaki stir fry with rice noodles, in case you were wondering. We had some baby broccoli in the fridge, so I cut off a stalk, boiled it for a few minutes to get it soft, cooled it down with some cold water, then offered it.
And again, he went crazy!
I think at some point, he was frustrated that he wasn’t actually eating anything; I had made it to the point where no little bits would come off, but man, was he determined:
We’ll be playing with a few other things as we continue adding solids to his diet. Some basic principles to remember if you do decide to try out BLW:
- At the start of the process, the baby is allowed to reject food; it may be offered again at a later date
- The child is allowed to decide how much he wants to eat; no “fill-ups” are offered at the end of the meal with a spoon
- The meals should not be hurried
- Sips of water are offered with meals (better for older babies)
- Initially, soft fruits and vegetables are given; harder foods are lightly cooked to make them soft enough to chew, even with bare gums
- Foods with clear danger, such as peanuts, are not offered
- Non-finger-foods, such as oatmeal and yogurt, may be offered with a spoon so baby can learn to self-feed with a spoon (and if we do decide to incorporate purees, we may offer them this way)
- More information is offered at BabyLedWeaning.com
Introducing solids is a fun, if messy, way for your baby to explore new tastes and textures. BLW is especially fun as baby explores the food firsthand, and becomes useful when chewing and swallowing become learned skills and are applied to the foods being offered. As noted, “That’s the essence of [BLW]. No purees, no ice cube trays, no food processor, no potato masher, no baby rice, no weird fruit and veg combos… just you and your child, eating food that you enjoy with you and your family.”