We always knew we would do baby led weaning when our son was ready to explore food. It fitted with our whole parenting approach of letting him show us the way. I was the first of my mummy friends at the time to have heard of the approach and they watched with nervous anticipation as I handed my son slices of melon when we sat down for lunch. He gobbled them up and by the end of our lunch, they had all decided to try it for themselves.
The principals of baby led weaning are to introduce your baby to finger foods and largely to give them the same foods as the rest of the family. Like any aspect of parenting there are many interpretations of how to do baby led weaning.
One debate that frequently arises is over the use of spoons. Spoon feeding is the traditional method of weaning a baby, generally starting with pureed fruits and vegetables and gradually introducing more ingredients and texture over time. Many BLWers believe that to use a spoon goes against the grain of baby led weaning (BLW) and so they only offer finger foods to their baby.
We took a more relaxed approach to spoons. We found that some of our baby’s favourite foods were things like yoghurt and porridge which although can be investigated with fingers, are best eaten with a spoon. At six months old he could feed himself with a preloaded spoon. Sometimes the food would go down his front and he wouldn’t get a mouthful. When he got frustrated he would refuse to take the spoon, instead grabbing my hand and guiding it towards his mouth. So I suppose you might say I spoon fed him on those occasions. But I was following my baby’s lead.
The other thing people seem to argue over is the use of purees, jars and ready made meals. The criticism being that your baby should be eating what you are eating. People also call these foods disgusting and claim that they are no good for their child. In the case of some of the jars on the market, I completely agree – there is no need for sugars, preservatives and unnatural ingredients to be given to a child (or any of us for that matter!) But these days it is perfectly possible to get convenience baby foods made with organic, whole food ingredients.
By alienating mothers who cant/wont/don’t have time to always cook from scratch, what are we achieving? By saying that they are not “baby led” who are we helping? I have given my son organic fruit pouches and ready made meals on occasions for various reasons – we have been eating something inappropriate, too salty, dairy based (he is intolerant) or I have needed to give him something in a hurry on particularly hectic days when dinner was not ready before he went to bed.
I have offered him a squeezy fruit pouch as a snack on the go, or a part of a meal and I have usually got an emergency one in my bag. I liken them to a fruit smoothie. They are made with only healthy ingredients and I would (and have) happily eat them myself. I do not think this makes me any less baby led. Of course the best food for your baby will always be home cooked, using fresh ingredients, but if you cant provide this all the time, you shouldn’t feel ashamed of sourcing a healthy alternative.
The rules may say no spoons, no convenience foods, but I say the rules were made to be broken, especially when it comes to parenting!
Follow your baby, don’t worry about the rest – you cant go wrong!