I remember the first food we gave Emily: a stick of fresh creamy California avocado. She grasped it eventually after chasing it around her tray leaving trails of green behind. She squeezed it in her little fist and brought it to her mouth, smearing it over her face and in her hair. I don’t actually think she ate any of it at all but she had fun exploring this new substance, this strange stuff called food.
I’m not sure when I first heard about baby led weaning (BLW). It was definitely before I was even pregnant. And I always knew it was the way I wanted to feed Emily, skipping the traditional baby rice and puree and moving straight to finger foods when she was about 6 months.
I was ready for it to be messy (a cheap shower curtain on the floor was essential for a while) and I knew she wouldn’t necessarily eat a lot to start with. But I also knew it would be a fun and a low-stress way of introducing food for all of us.
Yes, she gagged. And I did have a couple of freak-out moments when I pulled her out of her high chair fearful she was choking. This is the number one concern all parents have when it comes to food, and baby led weaning, I think. But their gag reflex is so strong that they figure out how to handle food pretty quickly, how to move it around their mouth, how to mash it with their gums and how to swallow it.
She also quickly learnt how to feed herself with a spoon. To start with we’d give her spoons loaded with yoghurt or porridge but by the time she was about 10 months she was scooping it out the bowl herself.
I loved (and still love now) that I could give Emily the same food that we were having (provided there was no honey in it before she was one and that it was low in salt) and she could experience mealtimes in the same way we did. It makes eating out easy too as we just give her food from our plates. Although she’s getting a pretty big appetite now so we may have to start shelling out for her own meals before long.
One more benefit of cooking and eating this way is that I don’t take it personally if Emily doesn’t eat her meal, or only eats a little. I haven’t spent hours preparing something special for her only for it to be ignored or dropped on the dog.
There are of course days when she only eats porridge (oatmeal), banana and yoghurt and that’s fine. Over the course of the week she’s probably eaten courgette (she’ll gnaw it raw), chickpeas, salmon, quinoa and broccoli. We follow the principle that we decide what food to serve and when and she decides how much of it she eats.
Please remember this is our personal experience with BLW. How you feed your baby their first foods is very much a decision for you and your family. If you have any questions or experiences to share I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Finally, here is one of our favourite recipes that is great whether eaten in fist-fulls or with a more conventional fork.
Green mac ‘n’ cheese (adapted from weelicious)
- 1 pound elbow macaroni (or any pasta shapes you have)
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup packed fresh spinach
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups grated white cheddar cheese
- 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
- 1 cup peas
- 1 cup grated zucchini (courgette)
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Cook your pasta as per the instructions but take a couple of minutes off. Reserve some of the pasta water
- Blend the milk and spinach together.
- Quick cheesy sauce: put your green milk, butter and flour in a large microwaveable bowl. Whisk together and cook on high for one minute. Whisk again and cook for another minute. Repeat.
- Mix in the cheese and whisk until melted.
- Stir in the pasta, broccoli, zucchini and peas. Add the reserved pasta water if necessary.
- Transfer to a greased baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and the pasta is set. I’ve also eaten it without the baking stage – just cook it on the stove for a few minutes instead.