I honestly hadn’t thought much about it until I was asked, but apparently she’s a bit ahead of the curve (whatever that means) as far as food consumption is concerned. By this I mean, that at barely 8-months old, she seems to be eating more “real food” (i.e. non-pureed food) than her similarly aged peers. People have been asking me about baby led weaning and I hadn’t really thought about it that way, since our foray into foods hasn’t been by the book baby led weaning and more of inadvertent pseudo baby led weaning.
As of right now, Fern can eat: scrambled eggs, black beans, watermelon, kiwi, banana, avocado, peas, seaweed, raspberries, corn, oatmeal, ground beef and quite a few other things I’m forgetting – all unblended.
Here’s how we got there…
I started Fern on solid foods when she was 5-months-old. I did a lot of reading beforehand and decided that I wanted to take the baby led weaning approach of skipping purees all together and letting Fern get started with “real foods” straight away. She seemed quite interested in our food, so we began by letting her gum on large (non-choke-able) chunks of whatever we were eating – carrots, cucumbers, watermelon… And Fern seemed into it. But, one day pretty early on she choked (really more of a prolonged gag, and when I say “prolonged” it seemed forever, but only lasted like eight seconds) and that was the end of that. I decided I didn’t have the nerves for baby led weaning and broke out my food processor.
For about a month I made pureed baby foods and we made our way through a list of fruits and vegetables, but then Fern started showing more interest in food. Whenever my husband Craig or I would be eating dinner she’d start getting grabby, but usually the items we eat, while healthy and balanced, have added salt and are often spicy, so they weren’t things I could really just puree up for her. But, then a few weeks ago she stopped taking bottles. I breastfeed and formula feed (due to supply issues) and usually I bottle feed her around 8-12 ounces of formula a day, but for about four days she would only nurse and wouldn’t drink more than a one or two ounces in a whole day. She still seemed interested in real food though, so I thought maybe this was just her way of telling me that she wanted more solid food. So, one day when we were out at a restaurant she started getting mad when I wasn’t sharing my meal with her, so I figured…”Why not?”. I broke off little pieces of what I was eating and the rest was history I guess.
I pretty much never blend up her food now, but rather just cut everything up into small pieces. The only thing I do puree are meats, and I actually buy those organic food pouches, because my meat purees never turn out very well and she doesn’t have any teeth yet so feeding her small pieces of meat is out of the question for now.
The approach we’ve taken with feeding has been led by Fern, so I suppose in that way that it technically is “baby led weaning”, but it’s definitely not by the book. With baby led weaning, you don’t do purees at all, which we obviously didn’t follow. You also allow your child to feed themselves, but since Fern hasn’t seemed to grasp the concept of picking up her food and putting it in her mouth yet, we just feed foods to her. We offer her a variety of foods, but we are still the ones actually feeding the foods to her. She has favorites and not-so-favorites, but we just keep offering her different things and a lot of the time I’ll give her little bites of what we are eating if it happens to be baby friendly. I obviously have to modify many of the foods in order to serve them to her still, like squishing up black beans and corn or sometimes even biting off small pieces and giving them a quick chew (which I swore I’d never do, but hey, it works!) before giving them to her as in the case of apples, carrots or other harder foods. Occasionally she still gags, but I feel like I trust her and know what she can handle at this point, so it’s a lot less scary now.
Overall, I think it’s just important to observe your baby and see what they’re into. If your baby digs purees? Cool – blend it up! If they want more solid foods? That’s cool too – start biting off chunks and share your meals together. Do what’s best for you and your little one!
Just wanted to share our experience, and feel free to shoot me any questions!
Lauren Hartmann is the founder of The Little Things We Do, a blog about life and adventures in Portland Oregon. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, or catch up on all of her posts here on Babble.