I first heard about baby-led weaning from my best friend who used it with her daughter. It sounded messy, and exciting. My jam.
As I scared and entertained myself in the last few months of pregnancy by Googling all things infants, I came across many discussions about feeding styles on the mommy forums. What stood out to me is how frequently the question posed was: “should I feed my child purees OR try baby-led weaning?”.
Whenever you see something set up as an EITHER OR, it often is a false dichotomy. The options and choices are much more numerous, but… we fail to see it that way. I started reading more on the topic.
Here are the three books that I consulted on all things feeding babies. They all suggested a very different approach, which in turn, allowed me to end up picking and choosing things from each.
Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods—and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
Baby-led weaning is a relatively new phenomenon, which has been gaining a lot of traction.
The idea is that, instead of starting your baby on cereals and purees, which has been THE way for my parents’ generation, you wait until your baby displays signs of readiness, and then start them directly on finger foods. No spoon feeding.
The grandparents were not thrilled with this approach. They were nervous about choking, they hated the mess, and it was just… different.
The main principles behind the approach definitely appeal to me, as a health coach – we encourage children to explore the new foods, the new tastes and textures, instead of grinding everything into paste. We also trust that they will self-regulate when it comes to the amount of food, instead of shoving spoonfuls of kale pear something-something in their mouth.
The Best Homemade Baby Food On The Planet by Karin Knight and Tina Ruggiero
Inspired by my mother and mother-in-law who would invariably show up to my doorstep with dozens of little containers of chicken soup for baby, apple sauce for baby, and all the things for baby. I checked this out of my local library.
Martha Stewart, specializing in baby food, I am not. It was helpful to read through a more traditional approach to feeding, just to compare and contrast it to baby-led weaning. The latter does make more sense to me.
I had two issues with the recipes in the book:
1. Either, they were so simple, it felt downright condescending… “Baby Whammy Avocado Pudding”. Take half an avocado, mash the avocado with a fork. Feed it to your baby! Voila!
2. Or, they were more involved, but… simply did not sound appealing. I could not bring myself to cook perfectly good chicken, and then throw it into the Vitamix with steamed peaches, cinnamon, and banana.
I am not a big fan of dishes with too many ingredients, period. High quality ingredients taste great on their own. And, if I can’t get jazzed about a dish, then… why feed it to my kid?
Baby Self-Feeding by Nancy Ripton and Melanie Potock
This was probably my favorite of the three. From the get go, the authors discuss the pros and cons of various feeding methods, and encourage parents to pick and choose aspects of each.
This book was mostly a guide with some recipes at the end. In direct contrast to the previous book, I found many recipes I was looking forward to trying – pasta with creamy avocado sauce, banana bread, energy balls, lemon basil hummus and more. Notice the trend here – those recipes sounded good to ME. I’d eat them. So… I’m happy to make them. AND eat them along the side of my child.
One thing that seems strange to me with more traditional methods of feeding is the separation between YOUR food and BABY’S food. I will eat this, and you will eat that. It seems to create precedent for similar separation in the future, where parents find themselves cooking multiple meals – one for themselves, and one for the child, or consume different foods.
For example, I have heard clients say: “I do have cookies and chocolate in the house, but I don’t eat them, those are treats, just for my kids”. I also heard clients say: “I do have cookies and chocolate in the house, but those are just for me, I don’t let my kids eat that crap!”. Both lines of reasoning strike me as inconsistent.
At the end, we settled on baby-led weaning about 80% of the time, and traditional spoon feeding, and baby purees 20% of the time. During the summer, Italian works long hours, but I try to have both breakfast and lunch with the baby. She sits in the high chair, I sit at the table, and we eat very similar things. I eat Greek yogurt and strawberries, and so does she. I eat scrambled eggs, and tomato slices, and orange slices and so does she.
Grandparents enjoy spoon feeding the baby, and it can be a convenient/less messy option on the go. Meanwhile, when I am not pressed for time, I let the baby go wild with strawberries, bananas, avocado, pieces of chicken, lentil curry, toast, and whatever else she seems to express interest in (which is… everything).