The concept of introducing food to a baby pulls out LOTS of opinions and different approaches. Make your own baby food, start at 5 months, start at 6 months, add baby cereal to bottles and they will sleep better, eggs are good, eggs are bad….you get the idea.
Honestly, before Oakleigh, I just assumed we would just make all our own baby food at home. Wiz up some peas and sweet potatoes and have a freezer full of yummy things to offer her. Then I learned about the approach of baby led weaning. In contrast to purees, this approach introduced whole foods that the baby takes initiative on trying, and prioritizes learning to chew over just swallowing purees. I have learned that I like rules, and appreciate the guidelines that go with this style of feeding to keep it safe. I won’t detail them all here, but highly recommend checking out other resources dedicated to BLW. In short, the rules are pretty smart and straightforward:
- Baby must be at least 6 months old and ready for food (there is a list of criteria)
- Baby is given what you eat, and eats alongside you at mealtimes
- Baby feeds themselves…even though this may result in not much “eating”
- Breastmilk or formula is still their primary source of nutrition till age 1…the food is exploratory and for fun to introduce flavors, textures and positive habits around food. You give a full feeding of formula or breastmilk 30 minutes prior to a meal.
- Foods are cut in appropriate sizes to encourage easy holding and minimize choking. Baby is responsible for learning what appropriate sized bites are (aided by their very astute gag reflex!)
- Parents and caregivers should know the difference between gagging and choking.
- Only foods off limits are honey and added salt.
- PS – it is messy!
This approach really resonated with our family, so two days before her 7 month birthday, all three of us sat down for breakfast together. On the menu: scrambled egg, sausage, buckwheat pancakes and banana. This first meal was quite entertaining, and a totally new experience for Oakleigh. She had been reaching for our food and plates for weeks, but this was her first taste. She was curious, and obviously learning what to do with this pile in front of her.
Day two: whole new story! She knew what to do this time! Meal two was also a breakfast: eggs, sausage, banana, avocado and corn muffins. Corn muffin was the clear favorite.
Day 3: Bring on dinner! Curry coconut rice, grilled zucchini, grilled shrimp, avocado and garnishes of jalapeno, lime and cilantro. Since our jalapeño was diced finely, we gave Oakleigh a long strip (like any other pepper strip) and she loved it! I think the texture felt good in her mouth. The robust flavors did not phase her at all! Only a small % actually makes it into her mouth and then is successfully swallowed, but that is expected at this point.
Day 4: This girl has figured it OUT! As soon as we started putting food on plates she was making it clear that she was ready to eat! Matt made fried rice with pineapple. Another messy hit.
I am pretty sure that from now on we will be hard pressed to keep her to one meal a day. She sees us eating and wants to try it all! We could not be happier with how this introduction of food is going, and are looking forward to watching her experience so many new flavors over the next few months!