Baby Led Weaning – High Chair versus Weaning Chair

As I mentioned here, after much discussion and general wishy-washiness, we ended up getting both a high chair and building a “weaning chair” (a weird name for a baby-sized chair).  Now that we’ve been using both for about a month and a half, I wanted to share our experience for anyone else out there feeling indecisive on the matter.

Weaning Chair

My husband built this little chair for James and I love it so much.  He usually eats breakfast and lunch in his little chair.

Some of my favorite things about the chair:

Independence: I love that James will be able to get in and out of his chair by himself when he’s a little older, since he’s not strapped in.  I also love that he’ll be able to help set and wipe the table later since the table is at a height he can reach.

Balance: I’m sure this depends on the specific chair, but ours does not hold him in as tightly as the high chair.  This was a challenge when he first started using it, but in a good way.  James is not too interested in sitting, always wanting to be on the move, so sitting in his chair for meals was one of the only times he really practiced balancing while sitting.  Will sit for food!

Food Waste: The way the chair is built with the tall sides, much of the food James drops winds up on the seat of his chair, rather than the floor, so that I can give it back to him.  This results in much less food waste and a less messy floor.

The things I don’t like as much about the weaning chair:

Harder to Clean: I love that it’s made of wood, but it is a lot harder to get it fully clean than his plastic high chair, especially after something like oatmeal or avocado.  I used a natural beeswax wood polish, but maybe I need to apply another coat?

High Chair

We have also been enjoying our Ikea high chair (only $20!).  We use this mostly for James’s dinners.  The things I like about the high chair:

Family Meals: As I’ve mentioned before, we aren’t really doing family dinners right now since James needs to eat early to protect his early bedtime.  However, my husband often gets home while James is eating dinner and comes and sits with us at the dining table.  I can easily sit on the floor at James’s little table, but it’s too small for two adults and a baby, so the high chair lets us all sit together for a meal.

Easier to Clean: The high chair is very easy to clean. It is a simple one with no fabric and not too many pieces, which makes it easy.  If it’s been a particularly messy meal, it’s easy to carry it to the backyard and hose it off.  I will say the food spreads out further on the floor though since he is dropping it from a greater height.  I also like that I can keep James in there while I clean up to show him more of the process.  He is not stable enough in his little chair for me to leave him there while I clean up after a meal.

All in all, while I definitely don’t think both are necessary, I love having both the weaning chair and high chair for James and think we’ll likely keep using both for years.  As far as I can tell, James doesn’t seem to have a preference – he’ll eat anywhere as long as sweet potatoes are involved 🙂

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Baby Led Weaning Update – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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.

The Good

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.

The Bad

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.

The Ugly

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!

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Weekend Highlight – Adventures with Watermelon

A lot of our weekend was spent at home, which was nice, but you probably don’t want to see photos of us lounging on the couch or playing on the floor 🙂

We did get out on Saturday for something really fun though.  My husband’s company had a “family day” event.  Their offices are in a series of old houses in a great Austin neighborhood, so the event was held in the front yards.  There was a summer camp theme and it was super cute.  They had a rock climbing wall for the older kids, a gourmet hot dog food truck, a smores station where you could roast marshmallows, crafts, etc.  There was also a photographer, so I’m excited to see his pictures of James soon.

We had such a nice time chatting with everyone, introducing little James, and meeting others’ children.  James saw another baby, got the funniest surprised look, and insisted on reaching out to touch her.  She did not seem pleased.  I thought his look of surprise was funny since he sees lots of babies at story time every week, but I suppose it was out of context and he wasn’t expecting it.  I imagine him saying, “Oh look!  One of my people is here.  Thank goodness, I thought I was alone.”

When we were sitting down to eat, we noticed someone with watermelon and looked at each other.  I hadn’t thought of watermelon when brainstorming first foods for James, but it’s easy to hold, easy to eat (this one was seedless), so why not?!

I think it’s safe to say that this was James’s favorite food so far (although he seems to really like broccoli too).  Usually he’ll explore the food for a little while and eat some, but then be decidedly done and ready to move on.  With the watermelon, he clutched it tightly, protecting it, and ate almost the whole big slice!  I was amazed.  One of the guys at the party mentioned that cold watermelon is great once they start teething, so I’m going to keep that in mind as well.

We are still very early in the process, but so far, are loving baby led weaning!  It’s so fun to be able to make James healthy meals at home, but also see him enjoying impromptu treats when we’re out and about, just part of the family enjoying a party on a Saturday afternoon.

 

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Baby Led Weaning – The Beginning

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!

The Chair

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.

The Set-up

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).

The Food

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!

The Experience

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.

Resources

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?

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James at 6 Months

I have all sorts of thoughts and feelings about the six month mark.  I can be overly sentimental and six months sounds SO old to me right now.  Halfway to a year.  Is one year the end of babyhood?  I’m not sure, but it sounds dangerously close….

I must say though, it has been a wonderful month.  We’ve gone on lots of little adventures and also had many quiet days at home and in the backyard.  Now that it’s so much easier to get out of the house, I really enjoy the days we spend at home too.

Before we had kids, I told my husband I thought six months was the cutest age for babies, and I must say, it’s pretty darn adorable.

Enough sappiness though.  What has James been up to?

Stats:

Weight: 17 lb 10 oz (53rd percentile)

Height: 27 1/2 inches (85th percentile)

Head circumference: 44.6 cm (85th percentile)

It always makes me laugh when the doctor says he’s a “long and lean” baby…his thighs!  This is actually the highest his weight percentile has ever been though, so that made me happy.

EATING!

More on this soon, but we gave James his first solid food last weekend.

We went with avocado for his first food and it was…messy.  So much fun though.  My sister was in town for the occasion, which made it extra special.

He’s been grabbing for my food the last few weeks and he really seemed to enjoy having some of his own.

Gross Motor

How I found him in the morning….

James is still all about learning to move.  He can quickly roll across the room now and also spends lots of time on his tummy “air swimming” and getting frustrated that it’s not getting him anywhere.

He’s been a proficient roller for quite a while, but I feel like he just realized that he could use rolling to move around the room and get where he wants to go.  There is no stopping him now!

On that note, does anyone have a natural floor cleaner they love?

I’ve seen the most change this month in his ability to bear weight on his legs while we hold him.  This kid is ALL about bouncing.  Bouncing while we hold him up is his number one hobby (in conjunction with spitting…).  It is his happy place.  He gets the biggest grin and sometimes sticks his tongue out while he bounces up and down.  It’s pretty great.

He is not, however, very interested in sitting up.  When I sit him up to practice, he’ll often rock back and forth, trying to scoot, as if to say, “this surely must get me somewhere, or why would mom insist that I try it?”  Sometimes he’ll just bend down and suck on his toes lol.

Lately though, he often lunges back or to the side as soon as I sit him up, clearly making his opinion on sitting known.

The exception to this is when we’re at story time, where he easily sits by himself.  He once sat up for like twenty minutes there, I was shocked.  I think it’s because he was busy watching and listening, and so was not jerking around trying to move.  I try to mimic this by sitting him in front of the mirror so he has something interesting to look at, which sometimes works briefly, but he’s really not that into it.  I suspect that as soon as he’s interested, he’ll be able to sit unassisted no problem.

Fine Motor

James now passes objects back and forth between his hands.  He’s also able to pick something up and rearrange the way he’s holding it to get the desired part in his mouth.  It amazes me to watch his little hands at work when it seems so recent that all he could do was ball them up in little fists.

Personality

James is so happy and funny!  He cracks me up every day.  He is a little scientist, so eager to explore his world.

He takes solid naps more often than not, but hangs in there really well if we’re occasionally off schedule when we’re traveling or have a busy day.

He loves being sung to, playing with scarves, looking in the mirror, and playing games like peekaboo or making silly faces together.  He also tolerates long walks on the beach..er around the neighborhood, which has been great since I love to walk and to be outside.  I worry that it’s already getting hot for long walks though; he’s so warm when I take him out of the stroller!

He has a little baby friend from the library and they are so cute together.  They don’t interact too much, but he definitely seems to recognize her and they reach out to touch each other and smile at each other.  It makes me happy to see him with a little buddy.

He is super chatty when we arrive home after going somewhere new.  He’s often silent when we’re out, just taking it all in, but then he tells me all about it when we get home.

Things I Want to Remember

How he gives me the biggest smile when I go in to greet him in the morning.

How he goes about life with his tongue sticking out, hoping to taste something interesting.

How he sleeps in the strangest position with his little butt in the air.

How he grabs my nose while he’s nursing or while I’m singing to him before a nap (LOL).

How soft his skin is.

How he grabs his belly rolls in the bathtub.

How he looks in the smallest little swimsuit I’ve ever seen.

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Preparing for Solid Food

Preparing for Solid Food

I can’t believe it’s almost time to start giving James solid food!  While our pediatrician said it would be okay to start now, we’re following the WHO guidelines and waiting until six months (or at least close to then).  I want to wait until he’s sitting up on his own anyway.  That doesn’t mean we haven’t started preparing though!  I’ve been doing several things to start familiarizing James with food and the eating process, and so far it’s been lots of fun.

Grocery Shopping

For a while, I was grocery shopping on my own, usually early on a weekend morning while James was asleep.  This was certainly easier and quicker.  However, I do think that involving children in grocery shopping and cooking can really encourage them to be adventurous eaters, so why not start now!  I admit, I feel a bit spacey when I take him grocery shopping, mainly because I’m trying to get it done quickly, but I do try to talk to him a little about what we’re buying and show him some of the beautiful produce.  I may get some crazy looks from other shoppers as I talk to little James about sweet potatoes, but that’s okay 🙂  I’d like to make it to the farmers market with him soon too, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Including him in Cooking

I love to cook and can’t wait for the days when James can help me in the kitchen!  For now though, I try to include him by placing him on a blanket right outside the kitchen, in a way that he can see me.  If he’s not busy doing something else, I’ll bring over the ingredients, especially fruits and vegetables, for him to look at.  I also talk to him about the smells and sounds he may be noticing.

Including him at Meal Time

We do not always manage to eat dinner before James goes to bed, but at least a few nights of the week, we try to have a “family dinner,” where James sits on my lap.  It’s so sweet to watch his eyes intently follow my fork to my mouth as I eat.  He’s just started trying to grab my food off of my plate too (though he grabs everything, so I’m by no means assuming that he’s trying to eat it).  This may be a less relaxing way to eat dinner, but it is definitely entertaining.  When we don’t manage to have family dinners, I at least try to eat a snack while sitting with him at some point during the day.  He always seems highly interested.

I have no idea if any of this makes a difference, but I enjoy it and see no reason not to include him in daily life as much as possible.  It seems to me like maybe eating will be more fun and make more sense when the time comes if he’s already somewhat familiar with how it works.  I would also love to find some beautiful photos of food to give him, or a book about food with great pictures, but haven’t done that yet.

Does anyone have any tips on including babies / children in meal time and preparation?

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