Good-bye, Gerber

July 26, 2010 at 10:25 pm

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Last summer, when my son was approaching six months old, a friend introduced me to the “baby-led weaning” concept, and I was almost immediately sold. Basically, baby-led weaning approaches the introduction of solid food from a developmental (and common sense) standpoint. Its proponents argue that a baby shouldn’t be given any food other than breastmilk (or formula) until that baby can feed him/herself (usually this doesn’t happen before about 6 months). Or, in other words, babies’ digestive systems will be truly ready to process solid foods when they are physically able to pick up food, take it to their mouths, chew/mash it, and swallow it. Makes sense, huh? No doubt it’s the way human babies began eating food for thousands of years. At least until rice cereal appeared on the scene.

In the beginning, baby-led weaning isn’t so much about “eating” as it is about practicing fine motor skills and trying out different flavors. It’s important to always ensure that the first foods introduced are in big enough slices or chunks for your baby to easily grasp, but not small enough to choke on.  No “baby food” involved.  Really.  No interrupting your meal to spoon-feed your infant.  All you have to do is watch your baby explore while you eat your own meal.  It’s awesome.

The day before my boy turned six months, we were sitting around the table, eating dinner, munching on some red pepper rings in our salad, and I decided, on the spur of the moment, to let him have one. Here is a photo of his first “meal”…

Bubs licked and gummed that red pepper ring without actually swallowing anything solid. But he definitely found the flavor intriguing and loved holding it in his own two hands. Over the next several weeks, he tried licking/gumming apples, bananas, steamed broccoli, cucumber, and avocado. He also tried his hand at feeding himself a bit of oatmeal with a spoon. The few specs of soft food he managed to get into his mouth were mostly spit back out. He wasn’t really “eating” much, but that was fine with me.

Many times I had to restrain myself (and my girls) from trying to “help” my son eat. It was an adjustment from the way I fed my girls when they were his age, but I loved it. It just made so much sense to let him take the lead. And who wouldn’t love not buying all that expensive babyfood?  It took some time for my boy to get the hang of it, but once he had teeth to chew with he was filling his stomach in no time.  He still has occasional homemade purees like applesauce and fresh/raw fruit and vegetable smoothies, but he almost always feeds them to himself.  Now, ten months later, no matter how crazy my extended family members think I am, I’m so glad we were converted to the baby-led approach.

Chowing down on “green smoothie” pasta

Good-bye forever, Gerber.

If you’re interested in learning more about baby-led weaning, you can look here and here. If you want to read more about the excellent reasons to wait until at least 6 months to introduce solid food, here’s a good site.