Let me just start off by clarifying that when it comes to the baby led weaning movement, I am not an expert.
Not only am I not an expert, but I’m also not here to stand on a soap box, bossing anybody around and tell mamas how to raise their babies. The only thing I’m an expert at and the boss of are how I raise my babies. And even at that, the words “expert” and “boss” are questionable. I’m just a mom whose babies became old enough to be introduced to solid foods and sharing my story on how I did it, and what I’ve learned.
I start off with this disclaimer out of my own feelings of judgment from the Social Media Moms that if I didn’t do things their way, I was going to be looked down upon, disgraced, shunned, and whispered about at the park. I already had a C Section, so I needed to tread carefully.
Here’s what BLW means…..
From the website, babyledweaning.com, “baby led weaning, quite simply means letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning.”
Let’s talk about that word, weaning. You know how in the UK they call soccer football, and here in the US, we have soccer and actual football? Well our UK friends (and in other countries around the world) define weaning as “adding complimentary foods.” Whereas here in the US, it means, “cessation of breastfeeding or bottle feeding.” What BLW is not, is ending the relationship of breastfeeding or ending the bottle feedings.
Why isn’t it just called, “baby led feeding?” I don’t know why, it’s just not. Nobody bothered to ask us what we wanted to call it, and so we just have to accept it and move on.
“So what is it, exactly, that the child feeds itself?” you ask? Literally, what you eat, baby also eats.
“How is that even possible, because I eat _fill in the blank_.”
Mmm, hmm, yes, I know. And so will baby. No purees, no jars, no weird smelling rice cereal involved. Apparently the cave mamas were the original experts of baby led weaning because they didn’t have a VitaMix or a special food processor with a cute little veggie face on it. They fed their cave babies cave food. And it must have been OK, because here we are. The same goes for the pioneer moms & their pioneer babies.
In a Baby Led Weaning class I took at Modern Milk from Registered Dietitian Megan McNamee MPH, RDN, CLT, and co-founder of Feeding Littles, I learned that with BLW, babies learn to chew first, then swallow. I also learned that a baby’s gag reflex is in the center of their tongue, whereas an adult’s is in the back. So food is going to gag baby until they develop that reflex better. Also, gagging does not mean choking. It was listening to Megan speak that BLW started to make a lot of sense to me, and I decided I was going to give it a go with my second born.
Our first-born was a product of me painstakenly roasting, steaming, pureeing, mixing different foods, and then occasionally I’d go for a pouch, or give him something super soft by nature that it was practically already a puree. I was so proud of how I made all his baby food. I thought for sure the Social Media Moms were nodding in approval. But honestly, I enjoy cooking, and basically, I was taking whatever we had for dinner that night and making it into a puree. It was also more cost effective on our grocery budget for me to make homemade baby food, than it was to buy it at the store. My first-born did so well with his food, I confidently bragged all about him and his acceptance of all foods. Then one day, he decided that all he was going to eat was beige foods. You know the beige food group, mamas; Banana, toast/bread, graham cracker, applesauce, & chicken nuggets, and French fries. And just like that, shunned by the Social Media Moms whose babies were busy eating every color under the rainbow. He’s four, now and still very much a picky eater. Although he will eat carrots if prepared to his exact specifications, which he seems to change daily.
Our second-born refused to be spoon fed, and at the time, what I knew about baby led weaning scared the living daylights out of me. Plus, at 7 months, this baby didn’t have any teeth! So I took that class at Modern Milk and it all JUST CLICKED for me. We started feeding him foods that he could easily hold and that were soft for him to chew with no teeth and then swallow. Again, banana & avocado. We gave him spoons of hummus that he could hold onto and feed himself. He would gnaw on chicken & roast beef (cooked fork tender in the crockpot). There was not a food that I put in front of that kid that he would not and could not eat. It makes going out to eat and eating at our families’ so much easier now that I don’t have to prepare and pack up a whole bunch of purees. He’s 14 months old now and he literally eats everything that we eat. Every. Thing. Even spicy food. Even sushi. His gag reflex is so much better now than when we first started on solid food, but he still gags and my heart still stops until the gag clears up. But I know that he’s still learning how to eat people food, and I love watching him react to new things, or recognizing a favorite. And if he doesn’t like something, he is not shy to let me know and just won’t eat it. The key is to keep offering a variety of things and repeating the offerings. Babies are just like us grown ups. We get tired of the same old thing every day and sometimes you’re just not in the mood for roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce.
So that’s my experience with baby led weaning so far.
I still nurse, in case you’re wondering. Having spaghetti and broccoli hasn’t made him want mama’s milk less. That bond is very much going strong. But I’m a lot more relaxed about feeding my baby this second time around, and I contribute it to two things.
- Unfollowing those Social Media Moms.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about baby led weaning and if you have questions, (again, not an expert) I’d be happy to try to answer them for based on what I’ve learned and experienced. The most important thing to remember (and I am over here cheering you on), is that there is no one-method on how to raise/feed your baby. Give them food and love them. That’s the best any of us can do. We’re all on the same team – Team Moms.