How We Introduced Solid Food to Cillian
One thing that people never fail to comment on is C’s love of food. Also, his belly, which is proof of his love of food. He can belly up to the table and shovel down food with the best of them. I like to attribute his impressive eating to Baby-Led Weaning – the style in which we introduced solid foods.
From day one, I decided to look at C not just as a baby but as a tiny human, as a person, an individual. Of course, he is my baby and always will be, but that does not mean I need to baby him to the point of expecting less from him than he is able. I try to always speak to him in full sentences with real words about any given topic. I know, he hardly speaks English yet, but he will not ever speak proper English if I just goo-goo and ga-ga at him all day. He will learn words like facecious the same way he learned dog – from hearing it used.
When it came to solid foods, my husband and I decided to take that same approach – if he is able to hold it, he can feed it to himself.Chili like a pro – 13 Months
I stumbled upon Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) when I was looking into other crunchy-mom things like med-free birth and cloth diapers. They all seemed to go hand in hand, but the more I learned about BLW, the more I knew it was the route we wanted to take.
The concept of BLW is not a new one, but Gill Rapley seems to have popularized the idea in the early 2000’s. It basically means you feed the baby solid foods in their natural form rather than pureeing or mushing them. The idea seems to get complicated when professionals start talking about baby’s pincher grasp and thrust reflex or cutting the food into pieces of a certain size. I joined many Facebook groups and even read a book or two about it until I realized the idea was quite simple; feed baby what you are eating. Or, as my mother’s Grenadian doctor put it in 1993, “Baby should eat from the family pot.”
When Cillian turned 6 months old (and still did not have a single tooth), the recommended age for introducing solid foods, we sat him at the table with us and handed him anything that he could get his not-so-coordinated hand around. His first foods were pancakes and green beans!
We bought this chair to keep C at the table with us
and because it can be used as a booster as he grows
With foods that are naturally long and thin such as green beans or carrots (cooked soft), we handed them right to C and let him figure them out on his own. Foods that where harder to navigate, like a large, round pancake or a piece of bread, we cut into strip-type pieces about the size of our finger. The only thing we avoided were coking hazards like whole nuts and un-cut grapes and honey which should not be given to a child before one in any form.
And that was it. It was truly the laziest route we could have taken for feeding a baby.
Our only rule for family members, baby sitters, and even his teachers at school was that he was not be spoon or hand fed. He needed to be left to feed himself or starve trying! No, of course I was not going to let my child starve if he was unable to feed himself, but with the amount of breast milk C was still consuming at that age, solid foods were more for fun and practice than they were for nourishment.
It was hard, at times, to watching him struggle to find his own mouth or chase a slippery bean around the plate when all I wanted to do was help him, but as a mother, it is not my job to keep my child from failing. It is my job to teach him the skills he needs to succeed and allow him to use them. It was far more rewarding to watch him master these things on his own than it would have been to do it for him. The sweet smile of pride he would give me when I cheered him on was worth the aggravation.
The down side to this whole “he eats what we eat” style was that C understood it as, “I eat what you are eating” and would not, and STILL does not, hesitate to snatch anything you are currently putting in your mouth or ask for what is on your plate. Even if that is the exact thing that is on his plate. I guess it just taste better from someone else’s fork.
One reason this style of feeding intimidates parents is because of baby’s gag reflex. Their mouths and throats are not used to the solid textures of foods (they’ve had liquids their whole lives) and in the beginning, nearly everything makes them gag. If you are not prepared for it, it can be a little unnerving to watch. I made sure my husband and C’s grandparents knew thedifference between gagging and choking and did not jump to his rescue every time he gagged.
There were multiple times when C would begin to gag and everyone at the table would stiffen in anticipation, just waiting to rush to his rescue should the situation call for it. But every single time, C figured out how to swallow or spit out what was in his mouth. Like everything involving an infant, parents need to be aware while they are trying and learning new things but BLW does not have to be scary!
The main reason I loved BLW was that it followed my minimalistic mom-style that I have mentioned in previous posts likeAll I Want for Christmas . It allowed us to eliminate buying jars of baby food or using some fancy baby bullet to make our own purées. We hardly even used bibs! We just embraced the mess (and it is quite the mess) knowing that little boys are washable. We tried to make meal time fun for C and for mom and dad by offering a variety of colors, and textures in his food and watching his face each time he tried something new. Is there anything cuter than a baby discovering food?
I highly recommend trying this style of introducing solid foods if it sounds right for you!