Gill Rapley is the woman who coined the term Baby Led Weaning (BLW) roughly fifteen years ago. She openly encourages parents to allow their babies from the age of 6 months to explore food on their own without the use of spoons or purees. From what I gather (thanks to her website, books, and other moms I have talked to about this process), baby is offered various finger foods and given the choice about what he/she will eat. Now, with my first little this was not a problem. Sosi was easily able to manipulate food and had limited issues chewing and swallowing the smaller bites of food. Fast-forward to today with my second, and BLW is just not for her. She does not really chew her food, she is more of a down-the-hatch kinda kid and this results in choking sounds and her mother having a heart-attack at every meal. SO, we are officially combination feeders. I do not puree her food but I definitely steam, boil, or insanely chop it up into minuscule bits so that we both can enjoy her learning to eat.
Avoid Baby Led Weaning (BLW) Facebook Groups at all costs
This I am not kidding about. I joined so many different Baby Led weaning groups and I ended up leaving (or getting kicked out of each group) very quickly. I really wanted to find a group of supportive parents, offering ideas that I could adapt to suit our feeding choices. That group my friend, did not exist. Instead, it seemed that almost every. single. picture. anyone ever posted was flagged by “admin,” or a “moderator,” and was heavily reviewed (judged and picked apart) according to their own group rules. Well let me tell you, I felt so bad for the moms who were brave enough to post pictures of meals they were proud of – to be totally ripped apart.
Off the top of my head, here are some of the conflicting “reasons” a meal or snack would be belittled:
- too salty —kids need some salt.
- not cut appropriately — cut too appropriately
- not vegan — too vegan, where’s the meat?!
- over processed — did you know you could buy this ready-made?
- where’s the protein? —too much protein is bad.
- Is that homemade? — Make sure not to add too much sugar.
- There’s so much sugar in homemade jam.
- Holy mother of everything, IS THAT HONEY BEFORE ONE!?
- That toast looks too soggy, and it’s for sure not cut right.
- Don’t offer them seeds, nuts, apples, hard fruit. — Introduce nuts early to avoid allergies (eye-roll).
- That almond butter is spread too thick, but don’t put it on a spoon.
- Grapes are a choking hazard (OK – I agree with this one).
- Confused yet?
This was exactly my issue with these groups, so many mixed messages and people who claimed they were experts, offering opposing advice based on whatever “sources” they were using. Each Facebook Group had their own rules and guidelines that seemed to update often and without a clear memo sent to each member. I prefered to go with the true source (IMO), Gill’s website itself.
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A book I really enjoyed and reached for often was :
So what is better? Traditional Weaning or Baby Led Weaning?
I can honestly say, years after going with Baby Led Weaning with one child and the other a more Traditional route, there is no damn difference. Both of my children are healthy eaters who are willing to explore different food options when presented. They are equally interested in helping in the kitchen, chatting during family dinners, and drinking lots of water each day. So, whatever weaning and feeding route you choose, just be confident in your decision. Your child will eat when they are ready, watch for signs of readiness and talk to your family doctor or pediatrician before you start offering food. There are many, kind hearted parents who are willing to offer their ideas and support during this time. Sharing food with your kids is actually really fun and finding out their favourite foods is just the beginning. If you are looking for a fun group of parents, offering support and ideas, join our Facebook Group here.
My Favourite Baby Feeding Accessories
Now, in order to keep my sanity and to continue exploring new flavour combinations we relied on a few key products that I was absolutely obsessed with. The first (in no particular order) was The Nibbler by NUBY. This little gem made introducing different foods way less stressful. They have mesh nets that you place the food in,“Squeeze and Twist,” locking system prevents child from opening, that way baby can chew away without the fear of choking.
Both of our kids absolutely loved chewing on these when they were working on new teeth! Even a plain ‘ole ice cube did the trick when a little relief was needed. I really liked combining different ingredients into the cubes as well. All you need for the cubes is a blender or food processor, some yummy, organic (when possible), fully cooked food, and an ice cube tray. With some foods I added a little bit of water while processing, it helped the food slide into the ice cube trays and it froze more evenly. I liked to freeze my cubes for at least a few hours. Once they were completely frozen I stored the goods in a reusable freezer safe container. I read that they can stay in the freezer for up to three months but I prefered to use them within a few weeks.
Tip: make sure to clean the nets as soon as possible and try to avoid sticky foods such as baked sweet potato and banana. Also, you may want to order extra Nuby Replacement Nets now. I kept a few stored in the freezer, pre-stuffed with some of my ice-cubes-foods stash, so it it was easy to swap out foods as each net was emptied at each meal.
Frozen Baby Food Cube Ideas
Boon Silicone Teething Feeder
Our next must-have is The Boon Pulp Silicon Feeder.These are terrific for fruits, fully cooked meats, veggies or a combination of foods. We also like to throw in frozen options such as organic sliced banana, strawberries, and peas are among the favs! I also like the handle with the hole so we can easily use a soother attachment to keep it from falling from the highchair or stroller. What do you do to increase the healthy, non-processed food your baby is exposed to?