This is only my experience with BLW, for a complete description and full info on BLW, please refer to http://www.babyledweaning.com. There are also tons of books you can read about BLW.
“Would you like to see the kids menu?”
This has been our answer since Coco started eating solids at 6 months. It wasn’t the answer because she had eaten already, or because we were carrying her own baby food, it’s because of Baby Led Weaning.
Before Coco was ready for solids, I made some research and was intrigued by BLW. It seemed VERY different from what “everyone” was doing, from what my family and friends were doing with their kids, from what pediatricians recommended me, even from how I had always pictured myself making my own baby food and playing airplane with the spoon to get Coco to open her mouth. BLW is about letting the child introduce solids at their own pace and in their own way: exploring the textures and flavors themselves, no spoon feeding! It’s about letting them choose the quantity, and about letting the child discover table food from the beginning and skipping purees.
“WHAT? Skipping purees!? What do you feed then!? What if my baby doesn’t have teeth yet!? Doesn’t she choke!? Aren’t you worried about allergies!?”
Yes, skipping purees and going straight to table food. No, teeth are not needed, gums are hard and strong enough. No, she will not choke and I will explain why. No, I am not worried about allergies. Coco ate everything except honey before one. Yes, everything.
Something to have in mind when starting BLW is that food before one is for fun, NOT for nutrition. Nutrition comes primarily from milk, be it breast milk or formula.
We started BLW by sitting Coco in a highchair and placing some food in front of her. Food was something she could grasp (actually, the grasping ability is required before you start BLW), the size and shape of a french fry. It was either soft like avocado, baked sweet potato, papaya, soft pear, steamed carrot… or really hard like apple, celery, steak, raw carrot… If it was something slimy and hard to hold like the avocado, we would leave the skin on it. Coco would see the food and play with it. I would first worry about her not eating. Then I remembered food before one is for fun, nutrition comes from milk. She played with her food for about a week before attempting to put something in her mouth. When she did put it in her mouth, she would just experiment the flavor but wouldn’t swallow anything, she would suck or gnaw olny. This is because at 6 months, their gagging reflex is very very sensitive. Food that touches their tongue halfway in their mouth makes them gag. The reflex slowly moves backwards, and the baby has learned to swallow or spit up big sized food that is hazardous by then. Gagging is NOT choking. Gagging is good. This is why BLW babies do not choke.
When my sister saw videos of Coco eating table food at 7 months, she decided to give it a try with her 10 month old. He had been eating purees for 4 months, so he had never experimented, he’d never had the need to chew, he had only learned to swallow whatever came in his mouth. So my sister got the scare of her life when she placed a piece of table food in his mouth and he tried to swallow it whole. If your baby has started purees and you’d like to start BLW you CAN. Go to the BLW website, there is tons of info there.
In a few weeks, Coco started eating and not just playing with her food. We always fed her table food. Yes, we did modify our menu so it would be something she could eat (not so spicy, the right shape for her, etc) but I never cooked something just for her. She would eat ANYTHING. Before 9 months she had already tried capresse salad, indian food, pizza, tuna salad, salmon, shrimp, crab cakes, cochinita pibil, pita chips and humus…
Another big benefit of BLW is Coco has also learned to know when she is full. BLW is about letting them do it at their own pace, remember? So there are no “you have to finish this”. She has learned to listen to her body and stop eating when she is full, not when the plate is empty. Which, nowadays I think is needed considering the portions served everywhere, don’t you agree?
BLW is messy, and patience is required. You have to be ok the mess and with giving control to your baby too because it’s about the baby going at his own pace. I used big sized shirts for Coco instead of bibs, and would not clean up until she was done because if you want to clean up after every time your baby tries putting food in his mouth you will never finish. At the end, the messiness pays off.
Not only did BLW mold her eating habits, but because she always fed herself she has amazing hand/mouth coordination. We would always place the spoon and fork close to her to experiment if she wanted to. She mastered the fork at 13 months, the spoon and cup at 16. (We also skipped the sippy cup.) We can go out to eat and not worry about the kids menu, carrying her own food, or her liking what we’ll find. To this day, I am grateful we chose to do BLW with her. She is the healthiest baby, and she is SO much fun to watch in the table!