Motherhood is something I thought I knew all about. I thought I knew exactly how I wanted to do things. And then I became one. And simultaneously became a crunchy, hippie momma. Lol! Ok, maybe not in everything, but in a lot of things. My husband and I are all about what is healthy and natural. We also followed the paleo diet strictly for three months when trying to get fit and LOVED it. We know it is the healthiest way for us to eat. It takes a little more planning and thought, so we are not always 100% paleo. But we had long ago decided that we wanted to start our little one out on a paleo diet. That didn't change.
What is baby led weaning?
Baby led weaning is a form of introducing solids, that I suppose was made popular in Europe. But baby led weaning in the US should be termed "baby led solids". Weaning in europe simply means, introducing solids. In the US it means ceasing breastfeeding. That's really not it at all.
It involves "skipping the mush" and going straight to whole, real foods that are easy for babies to grab and feed themselves. Foods we have tried with our little P: banana, sweet potato, broccoli, avocado, chicken (she loved the chicken leg!!), apple, green pepper.
Babies will surprise you with what they can handle.
When are they ready?
Ideally when they can sit up independantly and bring things to their mouth. An interest in your food is also a good sign. When they are watching you eat, smacking their lips and grabbing at your food, those are very clear signs. For us, we waited until P was 6 months old. She isn't totally sitting up on her own, but she is close. And everything else indicated she was ready.
Here are some of the reasons why we chose to use this method of introducing solids to our baby:
1) NO rice cereal or baby food mush.
This has to be one of my favorite reasons. I really despise rice cereal. I don't know why. I just think it looks yucky and it really doesn't have much (if any) nutritional value. No hate if you are one of the many who started your baby on rice cereal. It's totally up to you! And it is fun and exciting to watch them try it and to be able to start at 4 months if you want to. That just wasn't what we wanted.
Also, babyfood requires the time for you to sit and spoon feed and who hasn't tried to rush their baby to eat? I mean, let's be serious. We have things to do and there are some sloooooow little eaters out there. But I'm starting to get ahead of myself...
2) It teaches babies portion control and to eat as much or as little as their tummies tell them. This is also true of breastfeeding. Babies are more likely to self regulate the amount of food they eat, thus developing a healthy attitude about food and mealtimes.
3) Little to no food preparation. (Do I sound lazy yet?) It is so very easy. You simply plop the food in front of them and they go at it. No pureeing or freezing or measuring, etc.
4) Less picky eaters. Babies are less likely to have texture issues and less likely to be picky eaters when exposed to a large variety of real foods early on.
5) It follows a natural developmental progression. Babies first learn to chew and then swallow when starting with solid food. With traditional baby food, babies first learn to swallow and then later, to chew. All babies have a gag reflex (you know the one that makes people panic and leap out of their chair, in case baby might be choking). As scary as it looks sometimes, it's a totally normal reflex as baby learns to move food around in their mouth.
6) Low stress. I have a tendency to want to control my environment and what happens in it. This is something I am working on because it does cause me a lot of stress! And it is impossible to do (control everything). Giving the feeding control to my baby not only empowers her, but relieves me of any stress. How much do I have to get her to eat? None. She decides. But what if she doesn't even eat any? That's ok. And my next reason tells why.
7) It's more about experience than sustenance.
This is maybe one of the best and most stress relieving parts. My baby is breastfed and she is continuing to get most all of her nutrients and sustenance from breastmilk. And she will continue to until she is at least a year. This allows regular food to be a kind of experiment for her. She's getting used to it at her own pace and feeling like a big girl and capable because she does it by herself. But it doesn't really matter how much she eats right now. And then gradually as she gets better at it, she will eat more. And then she will nurse less. And voila! Baby led weaning.
Check out this video of P trying one of her first foods at 6 months old: avocado!