(This post has been in the making for the last two months! But between travel and life and dragon, it’s been a bit tough. But here it is, finally!)
And suddenly the six month old figure looms in the horizon and the biggest, most stressful decision of the moment is: How will I introduce solids?
And that is not the only question to be asked. How will I do it? What foods will I introduce? How many days will I give my baby to see if she has a reaction or not? What utensils do I need to make the said food? what items do I need to store the food? What time of day will I feed? How much? will my milk supply evaporate if she starts eating? does she really need to eat? Am I not enough? are my boobs not enough? wait, what? did we go from having a productive conversation to talking about me and my boobs again? ok. sorry.
Let’s go at it again. How to feed the tiny human. It is an exciting time! it really is. it’s the first time you are really showing her part of the world, and allowing her to interact with it (via her mouth, of course) And, no pressure, but the way you introduce food, the kinds of food you give, etc, does pave the way for what kind of eater the dragon will become. Nervous yet?
I was. a bit. I have never been a picky eater, but my husband was. Just a bit. He still is, very little. He will eat most of the things I make for dinner, except Brussels sprouts, or artichokes. But I understand, the deliciousness of brussel sprouts is not for all.
I do know other picky eaters. A cousin would only eat white food, white! like white bread with white cheese and mayonnaise. Another cousin’s husband will only eat hot dogs and hamburgers. An acquaintance from olden days will not come near anything resembling a vegetable. My mother’s husband feels veggies and fruits are to be looked at but not touched. And the children’s menus! Ugh! Who said fried things and hot dogs are what children eat? They are if that’s the only thing you give them… but it doesn’t need to be that way.
I, the eternal salad lover would deem a nightmare to have a picky eater in my midst. It is of the outmost importance to avoid that.
You’d think there are easy, well established ways to do so. Well, there are. Like a gazillion of them. You and I are were fed mostly with purees. Nowadays there is this way of doing things (which I don’t think is that modern, but more of a return to nature) called Baby Led Weaning.
The name is absolutely deceptive since weaning usually is taking breast away from baby and this has nothing to do with breast or breast milk. Some people call it Baby Led Feeding. I think that makes more sense.
The core of it is that basically the baby leads the way. You provide the food but don’t feed, don’t shove in mouth, don’t decide how much the child eats, etc.
There are many things to consider if you decide to go this way:
You can’t start too early. Rules for baby:
- Your baby needs to be able to sit up by himself.
- He needs to have lost tongue thrust reflex (when you put something in their mouth they don’t push it out with the tongue).
- He has a good gag reflex.
- Can hold something in her hand and take it to her mouth.
Baby Led Feeding can be scary, most parents and friends ask me if it doesn’t scare me that my baby will choke. The truth is, no. Rules for you:
- Never leave child by itself. Ever. Ever.
- The baby may gag if it shoves a big piece in its mouth. Gagging and choking are very different. Choking is when the baby can’t breathe, she becomes very agitated. Gagging, well, like when you stick your finger down your throat, see your reaction, it’s exactly the same. Baby will push food out, spit it out, etc. sometime mini human might need help.
- You need to know how to do baby CPR just in case. It is mostly for your own tranquility and peace of mind.
- It is very very messy. Don’t do it over carpets. Take as much clothes off as possible. Sit back and enjoy. You can clean up after. (If you have a dog, the puppy will be very happy). There are many people who do this outside, in the garden, and with the least clothing possible.
How to start:
- The food needs to be much bigger pieces than you would think. A tiny human at 6 months has a palmar grab, not a pincer grab, this means that he holds things with the palm of the hand all the fingers. So the piece of food needs to be big enough for her to hold and to put in her mouth.
- The food needs to be fork soft. This means you need to be able to pierce it with a fork. For example: steamed broccoli. It shouldn’t be too soft because it will become mush in her hand.
- Variety! Of course when introducing allergenic items you need to introduce one at a time and wait a few days (such as strawberries, apples, nuts, nuts and nuts). Everything else I didn’t really wait long to mix things up. Of course, ask your doctor first!
- Variety again! The whole purpose of introducing foods this way is for your baby to experiment with taste, color and texture. So provide foods that will do that.
- Many people who want to try this way of feeding their child are very scared about chocking. Be aware. Ask your doctor. Be present. Don’t give your baby food pieces that are too small. Really. Bigger is better.
- Ask your doctor. Even if you are feeding your baby this way, you can always wait two or three days before introducing a new item.
- Is my baby eating enough? For the first few weeks the baby can’t really digest the food. It is more about the taste, the texture, the hand to mouth coordination. Your baby is getting what she needs from the milk. The digestive system starts to get adjusted to digest these things, but it is a process. If you are concerned about quantity, check the poop! You will see how it changes.
- Always ask me!
- When you start giving solids to your tiny human, they learn many things. When you do chunks of food, baby will learn how to chew and then swallow. When you give puree, they learn how to swallow and it is harder for them to learn how to chew. (No worries about no teeth, those gums are hard! You will be surprised how much chewing can happen).
- It fosters independence. If a miniature person decides how, the pace and how much to eat, it fosters independence. It’s too soon for that you say. I say it is never too early. And your child will give you queues, when my dragon plays with her food and nothing goes in, she is done!
- It allows for family meals! Since we started feeding our dragon, I have breakfast with her every day and most evenings we have dinner with her. The fact that I don’t have to fill up a spoon, put it to her mouth, fight with it, etc. allows me to be able to eat at the same time. We are creating, from this early on, a habit of a family meal.
- Texture, play and coordination. My dragon has been eating this way for a bit over two months. It is incredible to see how she has developed from the palmar grasp to using three fingers and soon she will have the pincer grab. She used to miss, at the beginning, her mouth. Now she doesn’t. And to see her discover new textures is so good for her development!
- I love feeding my baby this way. I am not shy with foods nor spices. I give her everything except honey (and I try to avoid as much salt as possible) and I don’t use anything to make things sweet. Fruits are naturally sweet, and life has enough sweetness around, so she will get to that eventually.
- I try and try again. She didn’t like eggs at the beginning, so I tried different ways of cooking them. Now they are her favorite. So when introducing something new and they don’t like it, wait a few days, cook it differently, try again.
- I give her things most people wouldn’t think of feeding their tiny persons, like liver (she loves liver!) and it is so good for her. She also eats lots of greens. Like a lot: broccoli, broccoli rabe, kale, spinach, asparagus, celery, etc. I did start simpler, with one or two things on her plate, and have gone on from there.
- It is so easy. Whatever I eat, she eats.
- Colors! Since the beginning I am very careful about giving my dragon lots of colors to choose from. She should see how food is not only white.
- I try to mix protein with veggies and a cereal for every meal, and a healthy fat, of course. Some cereals are too cereal-y and its hard for them too grab, so I will mix it with avocado, banana, cottage cheese, ricotta, etc. that way the quinoa will be easier to grab.
- I am as creative as I can be! And I use lots of spices. If I like my food with flavor, why shouldn’t she?
- Example meals: overnight oats with chia in almond milk + avocado with ricotta; sautéed bok choy + home made almond butter + baked salmon with mint + red rice; home made veggie bread + celery + hummus. Asparagus or broccoli + chicken breast + quinoa; fresh mozzarella + tomatoes + amaranth; greek yoghurt + oranges + oatmeal; softened muesli + scrambled eggs with spinach.
- I also make her bone broth to help her gut. She loves it. you can find my recipe here:
There is so much gear out there and I think that whatever works for you is best. This are the things I use:
- We have this chair, which we like because it can be set right at the table, so the dragon eats with us. It does create more mess, but that’s life.
- We use these mats, since she eats at the table. They have dividers and they stick to the table, which allows for breathing space and for no plates on the ground!
- We use these spoons. She loves them. One has holes, which makes the mush stuffy get stuck and easier for her to eat. Also a bit hard to clean, but that’s ok. The other spoon is flattish, supposedly good for liquids, but how to get things to stay! They are very short and great beginner spoons.
- She loves these sprout spoons too! And so do we.
- We use this mat on the floor, since cleaning after each meal is a hassle.
Lastly, I know, this is a looooong post, you should always ask your doctor what to feed your miniature person, you should only do what you are comfortable with, not what your neighbors, sister or friends are doing, you should have fun! Food is too yummy and important to take it too seriously.
In case you are still wondering how a mini person eats this way, take a look at my Youtube Baby Led Weaning channel!
Also check out the tag #babyledweaning and #babyledfeeding here on my blog. I post different recipes I make and how they work for the dragon.
Enjoy, comment and share!