It seems like babies eating solid foods should be one of those things that comes easy and naturally, right?
After all, at some point, most of us learn to neatly consume regular food that doesn’t come in a puree form. I can tell you, though, as a mom of four, introducing real food that my kids could potentially choke on was absolutely anxiety-inducing. I *may* have cut the food into such small pieces that not only was there no way my kids could block their windpipe with it but also there was no way they could pick up the crumb I placed on their tray.
My first two kids definitely had baby food for longer than they needed to – making meals that were soft and bland enough for them to eat seemed like a huge hassle not to mention the mess it made all over my hard-to-clean white ceramic tile floors with white grout in our base house. But by the time my twins were ready for food, I had finally built up confidence (read: lowered my panic levels and let go of white-knuckled control tendencies) enough to try baby led weaning.
Let me tell you, this is no better or worse than purees.
There’s research that shows that babies who are introduced to different textures and tastes early go on to be better and more adventurous eaters. At least, that’s what the writers of the baby led weaning books tell me. Do you know what they don’t tell you? These handy tips. You’re welcome.
– Eat when you feed the baby (babies). After all, the idea of baby led weaning is that you can serve them most of the same foods that you eat! I AM KIDDING! More practical advice is to do what you can to enjoy cramming salt-laden convenience foods into your mouth while standing over the sink after you have served your little darlings a lovingly prepared all organic, well-balanced meal. I have found that either I can eat well or the babies can eat well, but it’s very hard for both things to happen.
– It’s an opportunity to show your older, perhaps choosier, children that they can, in fact, eat exactly what is served to them. I find phrases like “If your baby sisters can figure out how to eat a green bean without dry heaving, then you can, too!” to be particularly helpful. Maybe if I had tried baby led weaning with my 5-year-old, he would be eating that green bean without a fight now. It’s a little mystery we will never know, isn’t it?
– Make your peace with ants. Think of them as tiny little helpers carrying away small bits of the mess so that you have less to step in later when you’re trying to remove your little eaters from their high chairs. We have tried a variety of ant traps and deterrents, and of course, I clean the high chair, sweep, and mop immediately following each meal (give or take a couple of hours), but the ants are unphased. We’ve decided to just accept their presence as part of this season of life and honestly, they help with the cleaning more than a few other people around my house, so maybe they aren’t so bad after all.
– Find a good resource. I purchased a really helpful book on baby led feeding from Amazon, and then went through and bookmarked a few of the recipes they suggest to make once your baby has learned the basic task of picking up and swallowing food. These were totally untried foods for us, so it was a fun task to buy new things and a real thrill to throw them out after never making the recipe because HELLO, I do not actually have an abundance of free time to make things like a butternut squash galette, no matter how delicious and seasonally-appropriate it seemed. One day, I will make that tart and I’m sure it will be delicious. I predict my babies will probably be around 5 by then, so it will be their turn to pretend to dry heave after taking a bite like their older brother because I never served it to them as babes. Parenting really does give you so much to look forward to, doesn’t it?
– Get your spouse involved. Baby led weaning increased our grocery bill a bit because I did purchase more fresh fruits and veggies (and often organic) than I usually do. So when I invited my husband to sit and join us for the meal, it was a really sweet chance for him to see just where those dollars were going – onto the floor! Most of it directly there without ever even gracing our girls’ lips. Oh and he did get to watch some of it get carried out the door by my BFFs, the ants, so that was also neat.
– Invest in good bibs. Baby led weaning is so so messy. I really cannot emphasize how much mess this is. Did I say bibs? I meant buy a drop cloth and strip your baby to their diaper. My babies rip their bibs off seconds after I put them on. Once, I invested in a bib that they couldn’t rip off, so they pulled them up over their head, smearing the front of the bibs into their hair. So, the options are more, do you want to give your child a full bath including hair washing after every meal? Then get a good quality bib. If you prefer the ability to quickly use a washcloth or rinse them in the kitchen sink, strip your babe to their diaper and put out the ant welcome mat.
– My biggest, most real tip is actually just to keep things in perspective. This will be a relatively short phase in the grand scheme things. Before you know it, you’ll be serving them the same meals as everyone else in your home and they’ll be turning it down just like your other kids. That is, unless, there’s something real to this baby led weaning philosophy and maybe, just maybe, they will never refuse a meal you offer.
What do you think?
Yeah. I’m not betting on that horse, either.