Good morning and happy Friday!
It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over a month since James has started eating solid foods. It’s become such a part of our daily routine and he’s become so much better at it, I can barely imagine our day without it.
Overall, I’ve been a huge fan of baby led weaning (BLW), or really the hybrid approach we’ve taken (James eats with a spoon too – I put the food on the spoon, and he holds the spoon / puts the food in his mouth). Here’s a little bit about our experience so far.
Fun: I’m sure feeding baby any way is fun, but I am seriously loving meal times with little James! He gets this extremely serious look every time I bring him to his chair. He eats so eagerly unless he is tired, and has started making little “mmm” noises, it’s just too much 🙂
Same meals: While, as I mentioned, we don’t often eat dinner together at this point due to timing, it’s getting to the point where I can sometimes give James some of what we had for dinner the next day for his meals. I just put aside a portion before adding salt / anything else he can’t have. I know this will be more and more true as he continues to try more foods and I love the convenience of it.
Social Eating: I love that I’m able to sit across from him and eat with him or chat with him while he eats since I’m not focused on getting a spoon in his mouth. I like being able to model table manners and how to have a conversation. I think these things are best taught by modeling, so might as well start young! Along these same lines, I love that there is usually something we can offer him (sometimes just avocado) if we go out to lunch.
Fine Motor Skills: I can’t believe how much James’s ability to use his fingers to pick up small things has grown this past month. I’m sure some of this is just due to his developmental stage, but I think part of it is also due to BLW because, apart from food, it’s hard to give babies opportunities to develop these skills since they want to put everything in their mouth and many tiny objects are unsafe.
He currently uses his thumb and two fingers to pick up little bits of food. They don’t always make it into his mouth, but it’s amazing to watch him concentrate on picking them up and holding them steady.
Drinking from a Glass: This is a little random, but watching James drink from his tiny glass (a shot glass from Ikea) has become a favorite pastime in our house. I think it’s pretty much the cutest thing in the world. When I first gave him the glass a month ago, it seemed like he would never be able to use it on his own, but just in the last week or so, he’s become so proficient with it. He still spills of course, but is able to successfully hold the glass on his own and drink from it – and he loves it!
I did three things to help him with this skill:
1. I sit across from him and model drinking from a glass, holding it with two hands, before giving him his.
2. I hold his glass out to him, with my fingers on the very bottom so there’s plenty of room for his little hands. When I just put the glass on the table, he knocks it over, but he can take it from me with great success.
3. Lastly, I started holding the glass up a little, by his nose, so he would lean his head back when he drank. He’s still practicing this, but it has helped him actually drink the water instead of just blowing bubbles in it or sticking his tongue in the glass. Now that he can use his glass, I’m excited to make him a smoothie soon! Just in time for summer.
Food waste: This is absolutely the number one downside we’ve seen. It makes me sad to see all of the food that goes onto the floor and can’t be eaten.
I do try to minimize this in a few ways. With something like a fried egg or pancake, where I could just hand him the whole thing, I cut it into strips. This way I can put one strip at a time on his tray and if he drops it, the whole thing hasn’t gone to waste. In generally, I only put a couple of pieces of food on his tray or placemat at once, usually one of each thing he is eating, so he can choose. I think this helps him concentrate on picking up a specific piece of food instead of just swiping around aimlessly and knocking food onto the floor.
Mess: Ohhhhh the mess, my friends. This depends on the day and what he is eating, but especially if he’s using his spoon for something like avocado or oatmeal, he is usually covered in food by the end, not to mention the chair and the floor.
As my friend Natalie wrote here, I do not think mess is a bad thing. Mess is part of the process and I involve James in the only way I can right now – showing him and talking to him about how we clean up after eating. As he gets older, I’ll involve him more as he becomes more capable of helping. But despite the beauty and learning opportunities of a big mess, it can be a little tiresome at times 🙂
Fortunately though, there are plenty of foods I can offer him that are less messy (pancakes, banana, zucchini, egg, etc.), so I sometimes group messy foods together at one meal so, for instance, lunch cleanup will be super easy and dinner will require a more thorough effort. He loves oatmeal for breakfast though, so breakfast is always super messy.
Gagging: I had read that gagging is a normal part of baby learning to eat, but it still terrifies me every time it happens. Babies’ gag reflexes are further up on their tongues at this age to protect them from choking, which makes gagging happen more frequently. From what I’ve read, this is a safer time for them to learn to eat finger foods because of this extra protection…but it’s still not fun to watch! James has only ever gotten upset at all by this once though. He normally just spits the offending food out and keeps on eating.
I’ll probably post soon on our experience with the weaning chair versus a high chair and on Jame’s favorite meals so far. Let me know if you have any other questions about baby led weaning!