Last Saturday, we began the journey of solid foods for James. This was something I had been looking forward to all month and it was just as fun / entertaining as I thought it would be! After reading a lot about it, we decided to try “baby led weaning” (BLW) where you basically skip spoon feeding baby purees and go straight to finger foods, allowing them to feed themselves.
When I was researching and trying to decide whether to try BLW, I loved reading specific examples of how different families did it. I found a lot of the information out there to be theoretical and vague, and this type A mama wanted specifics. So I wanted to share our BLW journey as we go along, in case it’s helpful to anyone else.
As a disclaimer, if BLW doesn’t work for us, I’ll definitely try something different. I’m open to everything at this point!
Are you familiar with weaning tables / cube chairs? They are baby sized chairs and tables, low to the ground, that can be used instead of high chairs. They allow baby to sit close to the ground and use furniture that is just his size (a big thing in Montessori).
Also, when baby is a little older, he can get in and out of the chair independently. I think this is great practice for staying seated during a meal. Using a table low to the ground can also be a lot less messy because if baby drops (or throws…) food off of the table, it doesn’t go as far as if it were dropped from a great height. Physics, my friends.
For all of these reasons, I really wanted a cube chair. I almost ordered this one off of Etsy. But we decided we also wanted a high chair, because I think family dinners are important and I want James to be able to join us at the table for dinner. I plan to use the cube chair for breakfast and lunch and the high chair for dinner. Since we were getting both, I was hesitant to spend too much on a cube chair.
After a lot of indecision (story of my life), we made it to this past weekend with neither a cube chair or a high chair. Whoops. We had been planning to go to Ikea Saturday morning to get a high chair ($15 and I’ve read good reviews!), but I thankfully checked their website before we went and saw that it was out of stock at our store. I’m glad I checked because Ikea is quite far from us. I ordered the high chair, but it won’t arrive until April 4.
After looking forward to this all month, I really didn’t want to wait an extra week, so what to do? Enter my husband, saving the day once again 🙂 He is an excellent creative problem solver and can always seem to make what we need from what we have.
He quickly made James a little table and chair like it was no big deal. We had an old Ikea table and he sawed the legs off to make it 11 inches tall. He then followed this tutorial to build James a little cube chair. I love it all the more knowing he made it for little James. I read that you can use beeswax and coconut oil as a natural wood finish, so I just need to find some beeswax to coat it with and we’re good to go! At this point, James is just as interested in licking the chair as he is in tasting the food, so we definitely need a safe, natural finish.
As my friend Natalie writes about beautifully here, grace and courtesy is a huge part of Montessori. One small part of this is mealtimes. In Montessori, meal time is a lovely ritual where set-up, clean-up, and conversation are all just as important as the food. I’m trying to keep this in mind from the beginning.
One part of Montessori mealtime is using real dishes, even for babies. I do plan to do this with James, but wanted to introduce the food first so he’s not too distracted by the plate, etc. We’re using this place mat. I like that it’s white because the food really stands out. It’s also large and stays in place well. I have also used a ramekin when I gave him mashed sweet potatoes and it worked well. We’re using a little shot glass for water, which may sound funny, but they’re the perfect size and are thick, so less likely to break if dropped. Using real dishes (e.g., small glasses instead of sippy cups) helps the child learn control of movement – they know that if they drop it, the water will spill, which is hard to learn from spill-proof cups.
I also place a little sponge in the top left corner for spills and a wash cloth to wash his hands before he eats….and his entire body after he’s done. I want to involve him in the clean up as much as possible from the start to show him it is part of the process. Right now, that looks like keeping him at the table while I wipe it and say “when we’re done eating, we wipe the table”.
I was tempted to add fresh flowers to the table, but decided it would just be a distraction at this point. Let’s face it, he would probably want to eat them. I definitely plan to do this once he’s in the groove with eating though.
I want to sit across from him to make it more like a normal meal time and to help demonstrate how to hold and eat the food, but at this point, James needs some support as he gets used to his chair so I’m sitting next to him. He sometimes gets tired of sitting in the chair and winds up in my lap. He’s already looking more comfortable in there after a few days of practice though.
As soon as he can stay in his chair safely and comfortably, I’ll sit across from him and set a place for myself to eat with him. I really think practicing the mealtime ritual is just as important as the food, especially in our rushed culture where “lunch” is often a granola bar in the car for many adults. (Not judging…this is definitely me some days).
After scouring the internet and talking to our pediatrician, it seems like you can start with almost any food, assuming your child has no medical conditions and allergies don’t run in your family (most previous restrictions have been lifted, apart from salt, honey, and cow’s milk). With BLW, you just want to begin with something that will be relatively easy for baby to hold, and something that will be gentle on their digestive system.
We decided to start with avocado. I liked that I wouldn’t need to cook the avocado, so didn’t have to worry about getting it the right consistency before giving it him. While I’ve read that choking is no more common with BLW than with purees, I’m still a little paranoid and avocado seemed very low risk due to it’s squishiness. That’s a technical term.
So far, he’s tried avocado, roasted sweet potato, and pear. I plan to offer steamed broccoli next.
For the avocado, we simply sliced it and put it on his place mat. For the sweet potato, I’ve given him roasted strips (french fry sized), and also mashed sweet potato.
For the mashed, we tried “loaded spoons”. This is where you put a little on the spoon and put the spoon on the table for baby to use if he wants. I also put a ramekin with a little mashed sweet potato on the table. He used the spoon and also ate some with his hands. I was pleasantly surprised with how successful he was with the spoon! I plan to use loaded spoons for foods that adults would eat with a spoon – so yes to oatmeal, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, no to pureed chicken. That’s just my personal preference and could certainly change depending on how things go! I like the idea of him getting used to using utensils though, where appropriate.
For the pear, I gave him about 1/4 of a very ripe pear, with the peel on. This may have been his favorite so far.
It was a little slippery, but he tried different strategies for getting it into his mouth, including holding it on the table and bending down to suck on it.
I was surprised by how much of the pear was gone when he was through!
James had the funniest strategy for eating the first time we gave him avocado, it took me by surprise. Obviously avocado slices are slippery and hard to pick up. I thought he would just squish them and lick them off of his hands, which he did some.
He also though bent his head down to the table and sucked up the avocado like a little vacuum cleaner…it was quite entertaining and surprisingly successful!
He tried this same strategy with the sweet potato strips though with less success. He could pick up the sweet potato strips, but had some difficulty getting them in his mouth. I may have cut them too thin due to my fear of him choking. I also got a crinkle cutter to make the pieces easier to hold and totally forgot to use it. Next time.
He wound up holding one while he sucked his thumb several times. He honestly didn’t seem too pleased with the experience when he did get one in his mouth, but I have a feeling that will change with a little more practice.
I look forward to his meal times each day and I must say, it’s actually been less messy than I was expecting. Of course, he gets covered with food, but it’s easy to wipe him off with a wash cloth. Some gets on the floor, but we pick it up as we go and its no big deal.
I found Brittany’s post and others on her site to be one of the most helpful resources. She goes into the practical details that I found were missing on many sites, like what shapes to cut the food in and how big.
I also purchased this BLW recipe book. From the reviews, this cookbook sounded way more useful than their introductory book which it sounds like is mainly theory / the benefits of BLW. We’re starting with one food at a time, so I haven’t used any of the recipes yet, but they look great! There is a lot of variety and recipes from different cultures, which I love.
I also found this post comparing the Montessori approach to eating with baby led weaning. I read this after we already started, but it looks like we’re doing sort of a hybrid.
I plan to post updates on BLW and how it works for us. I’m curious to see what foods James will like and to experiment with new recipes. So far, we’re having a ton of fun with this new adventure!
Did you / would you try baby led weaning?
Were you a picky eater as a child or more adventurous?