So, for those who don't know what baby led weaning is, click this link. I found that website the most helpful. I have written other posts about my concerns when it comes to starting solid foods, it is a hard transition to make. However, when Squeaker was almost 6 months old she started to get interested in the foods we eat, she had doubled her birth weight, and she was sitting up without much assistance (comfortably in a high chair). So, that is how I decided to start experimenting with giving Squeaker solid foods. I heard about baby led weaning from a couple of different people, but didn't feel comfortable to start out with. Mostly this was because she was just getting used to different textures, I was afraid she would choke and I wanted to have more control of her food intake. Squeaker actually started eating solids very quickly and liked them almost immediately, so I wanted to be able to measure how much she ate of what. I started off with soft foods and would either mush them up with a fork or purée them with breast milk: avocado, sweet potatoes, and bananas mostly.
A few people have talked to me about mesh feeders, but I have not used them. This is mostly because we don't have any extra money right now to buy one, but I also figured that I could just purée the food or give it to her in small pieces. They do seem like a good idea though and a lot of people recommend them.
Now that Squeaker is close to 7 months old I have been starting, little by little, to give her pieces of food that are big enough for her to hold and that she can suck on. I do, however, purée a lot still. Today I gave her a cut pickle spear and she bit off a piece that was much larger than I thought she could bite off. Luckily she coughed and spit it out before lodging it in her throat, I am pretty sure she would have choked on it though because I left the skin on. I have a friend who baby led weaned her baby exclusively and he also had a close call with a piece of pickle with the skin, but that was the only thing that he came close to choking on. Recommendation: skin the food before giving it to them. Squeaker has also bit off a large piece of watermelon and it made me nervous, but she did gum it long enough before swallowing. In the end it seems to be teaching her to eat independently and like many different types of foods. I think that when Squeaker controls her food she is more willing to try different things, but she will also just smear food around a play with it. Since Squeaker has been teething she also likes biting down on the foods I give her, like the pickle, instead of just sucking on them. I think baby led weaning could help comfort teething babies by encouraging chewing, but it could also lead to inadvertent choking like I described.
My biggest reason for not exclusively baby led weaning Squeaker is because of the possible choking hazard. Another friend has given her baby bread with crust and two different times her baby has choked, so it might also be a good idea to take the crusts off the bread or only give your baby bread with a soft crust. I know that babies will cough or have difficulties with eating any different kinds of textures as they learn to properly work their tongues and swallow, but I hesitate to let Squeaker eat big chunks. I know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on babies, but never want to have to actually do it.
Another reason I have a hard time with baby led weaning: it is messy. When I give Squeaker juicy foods especially, I will strip her down to her diaper and let her have at it. I can imagine outfits getting ruined though, even when Squeaker wears a bib. It also takes me awhile to clean up afterword and she hates it when I clean off her hands and face after eating.
I also really like feeding Squeaker oatmeal, which I would have to give her with a spoon anyway. I guess that when parents solely baby led wean they don't give their babies oatmeal or other cereals, but I like to feed oatmeal to Squeaker because she gets her daily iron and fiber from it.
So, there are a few things to consider when deciding to baby led wean.
- choking possibilities
- parents are not as in control of the food intake or able to measure how much the baby eats
- hard to know if baby is done eating or has eaten enough
- messy/clean up
- limits food possibilities to things suitable for little fingers
- possible iron deficiency or inadequate energy intake:
"research is required on whether infants following BLW have adequate energy and iron intakes in particular."
- helps with interest in new foods/baby is less picky
- don't have to purée
- don't have to use spoons
- promotes the introduction of diverse textures
- baby likes eating solids more because they are in control and handling them
- comforts teething baby
- helps baby to develop mouth muscles and the fine motor skills of hands
- promotes independence in general
- helps baby to learn how to self regulate food intake
Best sources I found: