I’ve had a lot of requests for more details on how our experience has been so far starting to feed Riese solids (using a baby led weaning approach), so I wanted to talk more about that today, including what is baby led weaning, our baby led weaning first foods, best books about baby led weaning, and more.
A couple disclaimers before I get into this post:
1) This is our experience and it may or may not be appropriate for you/your baby.
Talk to your pediatrician before trying anything you read about on the internet with your own baby. 🙂
2) While I am a dietitian, I am not an expert in baby feeding or baby led weaning obviously… this is just our (very limited) experience so far.
We are taking a baby led weaning approach with Riese, where she feeds herself vs. us feeding her.
We aren’t totally skipping purees – we are doing some mashed/pureed stuff as well just for texture variety – but regardless of what she’s eating she’s feeding it to herself (and I use the term “feeding” loosely right now – basically this has meant her smearing food all over her face and/or dropping it on the floor for the dog), either with her fingers or her own baby spoon.
I know the baby led weaning approach may not be right for everyone, and that’s totally okay. Do your own research and feed your baby however you want! You do you, friends.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
If you are interested in a baby led weaning approach, or want to more about teaching your child to be an intuitive eater and promoting a body positive approach to their relationship with food, I would highly recommend the book “Born to Eat“.
It is authored by two fellow Intuitive Eating dietitians, and it has been by far my favorite of the baby led weaning books I’ve read because it’s really approachable, not preachy, easy to read, and not long winded. Lots of easy recipes ideas too! It’s wonderfully non-judgmental and compassionate, and supports making the eating experience as minimally stressful as possible for both your baby AND you.
Other books I have on hand that I also found helpful as resources but haven’t read all the way through:
- The Parent’s Guide to Baby-Led Weaning
- Baby Self-Feeding (this includes a bit more of a hybrid approach – all self feeding but with some purees and more of a progression)
- The Baby Led Weaning Cookbook
We went with the baby led weaning approach for a number of research-driven reasons (again, read the books for more on that and do whatever feels right for you… this isn’t meant to be a blog post debating or promoting baby led weaning vs. other methods), but also because I like that you just feed your baby whatever you’re eating (in appropriate sizes/shapes).
It seemed a lot more natural to me and less stressful overall to be feeding Riese whatever I happened to make for myself that day vs. spending hours making separate food for her, and then spending the whole meal actively feeding her.
Solid food for babies under 1 year old is more just for developing skills/getting them used to eating and trying different tastes and textures vs. them actually getting lots of nutrition from food (that should primarily still be coming from either breastmilk or formula), so I’m not worried about Riese actually eating much of the food we give her. At this phase I just want to get her used to trying different tasting food, to exploring different textures, working on motor skills related to eating, etc.
When to start baby led weaning?
We started giving Riese solids right around 6 months (a couple weeks ago).
The books I’ve read had some good things to look for to see when your baby is ready for baby led weaning. A big one is being able to sit up/support themselves in a high chair (this is the one we have – affordable and does the job… plus no fabric to clean), and actively showing interest in your food/trying to grab at it.
A month or so ago Riese became REALLY interested in watching us eat, and then more recently started trying to grab at all our food.
Riese’s unofficial first food was actually a big slice of yellow bell pepper – obviously she didn’t actually eat it, but she kept trying to grab at mine when I was eating one so I let her hold a piece and suck on it a bit, and watched her closely to make sure no bits of it broke off.
Baby Led Weaning First Foods
Her first official food was mashed avocado!
I bought this fabulous ChooMee Baby Starter Spoon, and at first we just gave her the spoon without anything on it to practice with, and to our surprise she brought it right to her mouth! Guess all her attentive watching of us eating paid off. 😉
I love that the spoon is bendy and that food sticks to it a bit. We just “load” the spoon for her with a little bit of mashed whatever, and then hand it to her or put it in front of her for her to grab and do her thing.
After a week of a lot of really messy cloth bibs, I also just picked up some waterproof silicone bibs that have a little shelf at the bottom that catches things she drops. Freyja the dog is sad… our washing machine/carpet is not. 😉
(Don’t worry, she can’t reach the glass bowl in the picture below – I just loaded the spoon for her and handed it to her with the avocado on it.)
I’ve been doing a mix of mashed food loaded on the spoon for her, and little finger-sized or smaller slices of other foods for her to grab with her hands and attempt to taste.
She always gets them to her mouth, but mostly just sucks on them a little and then throws them on the ground.
Freyja (the dog) has already gotten smart about lurking under the chair, juuuust in case delicious goodies come raining down. Who needs a vacuum cleaner when you have a dog? 😉
(Obviously we need to make sure no non-dog friendly foods get dropped, though!)
And yes, as you see in this photo we don’t have her strapped into the high chair. Since she’s not able to move around a ton/try to push herself out of the chair yet, I’ve read it can sometimes be best to leave them unstrapped, especially in the early phases of baby led weaning, JUST in case they start to choke and you need to rapidly remove them from the chair.
Baby Led Weaning Foods
So far Riese’s favorite food is plain Greek yogurt (I buy full fat + organic for both her and for us).
She has also tried hummus (loved it!), mashed lentils, chicken, scrambled eggs, strawberry, raspberry (that was a seriously messy one), small slices of my favorite protein pancake, string beans, sweet potato, etc!
Since she’s taking in so little of the food we offer her, I’m focusing mostly on protein and fat rich foods loaded onto her spoon so she gets at least a little nutrition from them, but I’m also offering some sliced fruits and veggies just to explore those textures and tastes, too.
Introducing Peanuts via Baby Led Weaning
Over the weekend, Matt and I decided to introduce peanut – we were really nervous about it but the more I’ve read research-wise says the earlier you introduce the better in terms of allergy risk, so we decided to go for it.
(More details on that research is over on PreventPeanutAllergies.org – but basically if your child has no eczema or other food allergies, the latest research supports introducing peanut foods at the same time as other foods are starting to be introduced.)
You don’t want to give a baby whole nuts (obviously) or peanut butter on its own (too thick/hard to swallow), so you’ll want to thin it out.
I mixed a couple spoonfuls of plain Greek yogurt with about a teaspoon of peanut butter and we let her feed it to herself with her spoon. (You can also just thin the peanut butter with breastmilk or formula if you’d rather.)
Both of us were on the edge of our seats watching her but thankfully she was just fine. I’ve also given her Greek yogurt mixed with a little almond butter and she enjoyed that as well.
(And yes, that’s a “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” bib for the occasion, obviously.)
So far we are having Riese join us at the table for brunch (or breakfast and lunch) on the weekends, and then during the week most often just for breakfast for now. We’ll start adding more meals as time passes, but that feels manageable for now.
Can Babies Have Water?
One other thing we’ve started to do is offer Riese some water when she’s “eating” solids – I double checked with my pediatrician and she said it was fine to start doing that, especially as Riese has been OBSESSED with my water bottle and always tries to grab it.
(I still have my huge hospital water bottle from when she was born and I drink from it anytime I’m breastfeeding her… she always watches me drink from the straw and often grabs the straw herself and tries to use it, so I figured it was time for her to have her own.)
My friend Janice is a speech language pathologist who specializes in feeding skills, so I asked her what sort of cup/bottle to use for Riese and she recommend this one to start working on straw sucking skills. Riese loves it and has already figured out how to drink using the straw!
(Janice said if she wasn’t sure what to do with it, we could try holding a regular straw, putting it in a glass of water, and then putting a finger on the end so the water stayed in it when we lifted the straw out of the cup. Then we could put the straw in Riese’s mouth and slowly let our finger go so the water trickled in to her mouth. That is a way to help them to understand straws – smart idea, I thought, so I wanted to share it!)
And that’s all I have for you today! Let me know if you have any other questions on our approach/if there’s anything I left out! I’ll leave you with a photo of her first taste of mashed lentils… NOT a fan, lol!
(I wasn’t actually eating lentils for breakfast… but had some leftover from my lunch salad the day before so decided to give her more mashed avocado and some mashed lentils to see how it went!)
Other posts that may be of interest:
- Best Natural + Organic Personal Care Products for Babies + Toddlers
- Products I Recommend for New Babies + Expectant Mamas
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