Baby-led weaning

by DaniGirl on October 6, 2008 · 10 comments

in Baby days, Mothering without a licence

A couple of weeks ago, on my post about baby food and the culture of fear, Marianne left a little comment about “baby-led weaning.” (Don’t you love Marianne’s comments? Her perspective as a teacher is awesome!) She suggested I google the term, so I did.

And I was enlightened!

After doing a lot of skimming on the subject, I’ve gleaned that baby-led weaning (or, baby-led solids) is an alternative way of getting your baby to eat solids by bypassing the spoonfed purees and soupy cereals stage. Instead, from as early as baby is able to hold up his (or her, but I’ll stick to the male gender because it’s all I know!) head and grasp something the shape and size of your finger, you provide baby with an array of finger foods and let him pick and choose whatever he wants.

The theory says that baby will first lick and then start to chew on and eat food when he’s biologically ready to do so. The benefit is that baby will learn to listen to his own hunger cues and regulate his intake accordingly. Babies are also (they say) less likely to become fussy because they are exposed to a wide variety of textures and flavours right from the beginning. And finally, they profess that baby will be happier eating at the same time as and the same food as the rest of the family.

I’m skeptical of the latter points above, but have nonetheless embraced a baby-led weaning for most of Lucas’s meals. In fact, I’d been leaning toward this anyway, without being aware of the theory. (Kind of how I stumbled into attachment parenting, too.) I posted before about how happy I was the day that Lucas was able to cram his own Cheerios into his gob, if only for the liberation it allowed me. Now, I find that the ideas encapsulated by baby-led weaning mesh rather nicely with my own new eating habits and ideals. I think a lot of this is strongly influenced, too, by the fact that as a family we are eating much more healthily that we were back when Tristan and Simon were babies. Baby-led weaning liberates me to eat my dinner while it’s relatively warm AND saves me preparing a completely separate meal for him. In other words, it’s better for me, and it’s ALWAYS about what’s best for me, right?

The result is that Lucas’s introduction to the world of solids has been considerably different than that of his brothers. For one, I waited a little longer. (Tristan and Simon were both on baby cereal at four months.) Second, I’m offering him foods that I would never have thought a baby of not-quite eight months old can eat — cucumber spears, potato chunks, kidney beans, raw apple slices, broccoli and cauliflower florets, diced ham and chicken and steak, even bits of spinach. And he eats it all, with gusto. There’s nothing that I’ve offered him so far that he’s refused. As a matter of fact, that’s where the baby-led weaning theory falls apart for us. His satiety cues seem to be broken, or maybe he’s still recovering from his early hunger issues, but he will eat and eat and eat until he’s eaten the cubic equivalent of his body weight and then go back for more!

I haven’t completely abandoned the spoonfeeding, though. For one thing, I think one of the great joys of life with a baby is watching that round little mouth in an O of expectation as baby waits for the next spoonful. Second, I’m rounding out his veggie intake with purees because he doesn’t have any teeth yet, and even steamed veggies are a little tough to masticate without them. And third, I still want him to have iron-fortified cereal every couple of days (although he eats tonnes of bread — it’s his favourite!) and we’ve just introduced those fromage frais minis that babies love so much.

But I wanted to say a public and thorough thank you to Marianne for opening my eyes to baby-led weaning, and to let y’all know about it, too. It’s a direction I was drifting on my own, but after a spin around the interwebs I found lots of stuff that’s helped me implement the majority of the theories of baby-led weaning.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Javamom October 6, 2008 at 6:35 pm

This is interesting, isn’t it. I found it very, very different with the second one. For one, I thought she wasn’t hungry since she would constantly turn her head everytime I tried to feed her. WELL, guess again mommy. The baby, at 6, 7 and 8 months, INSISTED on helping herself to food. I tell you, she wasn’t, and isn’t, much into puree. The only way I got pureed food into her was if she had a baby spoon in each hand, a plastic bowl with food in front of her, and I sat with her with a separate bowl and a spoon. As she tried to feed herself, I would wait for a window of opportunity, tap her mouth, and during her concentration to feed herself she opened her mouth and ate some of the food I put in there.
My. God.
The. Mess.
The vacuum cleaner and Swiffer are permanently parked behind her chair.
But now at 11 month, she is feeding herself basically what we eat, with her own spoon, and mostly when we eat. But it takes some planning….

And the mess? Oh well. This baby stage will be over before I can blink…

Enjoy your little Lucas’ eating habits! Because you might blink too…

2 Elise October 6, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Funny how I did that too not even knowing.

My son never liked pureed food, and once I figured that he wanted the real thing, he started to eat steamed chunks of carrots, sweet potatoes, anything, as long as it’s not puree. He was 7 months when I figured that out and ever since, he enjoys solids. He never ate any jars, not that I didn’t try, because sometimes it would have been really helpful… it’s just that he wants REAL texture, for God’s sake !

And now he’s 11 months and he’s eating the same things than we do for half of his meals… beef stew, risottos, fish stew, soups (not pureed soups, but soups with chunks of vegetables and meat)…

He’s trying to feed himself too, he’s not quite mastering that, but it gives us time. We usually give him his meal before our meal starts and then he pokes into our plates or we give him some pieces on his tray and he picks them up with a fork. It’s the best way we found to have nice WARM meals TOGETHER ! !

Now when I give him a piece of melon instead of giving him a full slice, or a piece of cookie instead of the whole cookie, he refuses until I give him the whole thing. He keeps wanting the real thing, funny how their will is very very strong even when they are so tiny 🙂

The only thing though, is that I don’t see weaning in the near future. He’s still very very much into nursing. And I love it !

3 Rev Dr Mom October 6, 2008 at 10:02 pm

Who knew? I basically fed my kids this way years and years ago. It always horrified my mother that I put food on their high chair tray and let them finger feed themselves…but hey, they all grew up to eat well AND use silver ware.

4 Barbara October 7, 2008 at 7:26 pm

We offered Reid cereal at 6 months and she enjoyed it twice but then turned her nose up when it was presented after that. Since she was nursing lots I didn’t really worry. Dr. Jack Newman wrote somewhere that babies wake up at meal times because they need to watch their mothers eat so that they will learn how to feed themselves (I’m paraphrasing information learned nearly 4 years ago) and that made sense to me. We put small pieces of whatever we were eating (that wasn’t a choking hazard) on Reid’s tray and she slowly began eating solids. At a year, her favourite food was madras curry and broccoli. She didn’t eat a lot compared to some kids but continues to nurse. At some point she began to nurse less and eat “real” foods more. It was a gentle transition on her schedule instead of mine or a book’s.

We gave Reid a spoon but didn’t make a big deal about using it but since she wanted to be like us, she did. Sometimes she’d pick something up with her fingers and place it on her spoon but still … Now she is working on learning to use a knife. Everything in its turn, eh?

5 roary October 8, 2008 at 6:21 am

Longtime reader, never commented before – am a Canadian living in England, home of BLW! My baby girl is about a month younger than Lucas. We are confirmed fans of the method, it’s absolutely brilliant. We took tthe little possum out for fancy lunch on Sunday and she had a side of steamed cabbage which I chopped up a bit more for her and she sat at the table eating with all the grownups, who were hugely impressed.

I’m assuming you’ve checked out which has some amazing recipes. On the veggie front, I find that anything steamed in baton shape works, but I also make very mushy baby casseroles with whatever chopped veggies I have on had, pearled spelt (like pearl barley) and stelline pasta, and thicken it up with baby cereal so it can be rolled up into little balls or stuck on the spoon so T can feed it to herself. She loves it! Also esp with parmesan cheese grated on top. If the veggies are smaller than raisin sized in the casserole no choking hazards. Here the advice about what you can feed them after six months is essentially everything but honey, peanuts and citrus, so we can go to town. Although I have not yet done hard scrambled eggs yet they’d be brilliant.
And yes, it is very messy!

I’ve enjoyed reading your blog because Lucas is just ahead of my little one!

6 Marianne October 9, 2008 at 7:17 pm

You’re very welcome! I know Baby led weaning just made really good sense to me when I heard a friend talking about it when I was expecting. We too still spoon-fed — it helps to round out her food intake, plus there are lots of yummy foods (like yogourt) that just need a spoon!

7 Chantal M November 9, 2009 at 6:33 pm

@LiteMochaMom sorry to barge in but @Danigirl posted about Baby-led weaning ages ago and there are links in there too.

8 Christine LaRocque November 9, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Good post by @Danigirl I was successful with similar approach with first, struggling with my second, need to step it up

9 Christy November 10, 2009 at 1:11 am

I'm really intrigued by this … must read up! @Danigirl posted about Baby-led weaning ages ago links too

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