Baby Led Winning
I just want to start out by saying that I may be very experienced and knowledgeable in the arena of early childhood development but that I am the opposite when it comes to food for babies. I worked with children but never had to assist in starting them on solids, I was always told what to feed children from their parents, when they were under my care. I had NO clue how loaded this whole food experience was. Tess was born into the world a bit finicky from the start with feeding. My diet had to be adjusted while I was breast feeding and it was a struggle to get her to take her full bottles until almost 7 months.
When we introduced her to food at around 5 months old, I was shocked that she enjoyed her first bite. She also enjoyed her second, and third, until then, she didn’t. I knew it was too good to be true! That’s what started our next challenge (there’s always one isn’t there?!) which was how to get Tess to eat food. I had heard of Baby Led Weaning when I was a director at one of the daycares I worked at. I was a bit turned off by it and the full chicken wings and containers of pasta some parents would send in for an infant! But it kind of made sense to me. We all know I believe in child led everything, so why wouldn’t it also be the case for food?
So when Tess stopped liking her sloppy baby oatmeal with mushed banana and every other puree I tried to introduce, I started researching. I found that letting her play with, touch, feel, smell food was a good start. So I let her get messy, immerse herself in the food and even play with it. Unfortunately, that just became her new way of playing in the highchair and didn’t translate into eating. Then I read about giving her large pieces of vegetables to suck and gnaw on. We tried carrot sticks, celery sticks, etc. which she sucked on, but that’s about it. I tried other things like watermelon but one time she coughed so much that I got scared and became paranoid about choking. The only thing she actually liked eating were Bambas and smoothies. So I just told myself we had time and took a break. A few weeks later, I went to her 6 month appointment and was told that by 9 months she should be having three 8 oz meals of solids per day! Everyone told me my doctor was insane…
I realized now, that my doctor did the right thing by telling me that. Before that appointment, I was telling myself it was fine if Tess didn’t eat food because “food before 1 is just for fun.” Which it is, but not entirely. I realized that the actual food intake and number of meals isn’t so important before 1, but it’s the habits, routine, introduction and acclimating to solids that IS important. You can’t just put a plate of food in front of your child for the first time when they turn 1 and expect them to eat. So, instead, most parents start introducing it around 6 months before and work up to that.
Anyway, when I left that appointment I was determined. I needed to find an alternative to smoothies and Bambas. So, I started thinking about how Tess did better with actual solid pieces of food but that I was too scared to give her that. I knew I couldn’t have her live off of drinking or dissolving food either. So, instead of googling, I thought about what I could give her that would actually be feasible for her to pick up herself (because I knew she loved feeding herself Bambas) but that wouldn't scare me in terms of potential choking. I remembered that 6 years ago, my sister’s kids would eat these delicious patties of mushed up vegetables. Dr. Praeger’s spinach patties! So delicious that I loved eating them myself. I didn’t even want to know what was in them (I knew it couldn’t be all organic) but I wanted to give it a try. Sure enough she DEVOURED them. From there I just thought of other soft solids and actually had so much fun with it. I felt so empowered by coming up with my own ideas and then seeing her eat it. It was thrilling. I got more and more comfortable with pieces of actual food. So when my friends were intrigued that Tess ate legitimate food, I assured them it wasn’t because I insisted she be more sophisticated in her eating, but really because she led the way.
Some other soft solids we started with and still love - (most vegetables listed are cooked in the Beaba! order through this link on Pottery Barn, they always have sales) :
Grilled Salmon (it easily breaks into flakes)
Mashed sweet potatoes
Veggie burgers but I usually add beans
Soft cooked peas and hummus
Cooked butternut squash and tomato sauce
Chickpea pasta and pesto
Sauteed Spinach - by far her favorite food. I rip up spinach and throw it in olive oil. That’s it.
Cooked beans and rice
P.S. if I learned anything from this, it’s that trusting your baby is best. I could have easily tried to push the purees and it turn into a miserable experience for us both, potentially leading to eating issues for her down the line (which I almost did!!) but instead, I took a step back and met Tess where she was. I’ve come to trust that when making certain decisions for my daughter, Tess knows best!