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Baby-Led Weaning Isn’t Just for Hippies

Photograph by Twenty20

Alert and excited in his high chair, my 7-month-old watches me like a hawk as I bustle around the kitchen. He knows what's coming and pounds his tray with a snort. Soon, I’ll sprinkle his tray with a portion of shredded chicken and sweet potato “fries.” That’s right, no purees for my guy — we’re following a baby-led weaning approach to first foods.

If the whole baby-led weaning is a new idea to you, I promise, it’s not just for hippies. Babies can 100 percent feed themselves. It just takes practice, patience and a little background information.

Simply put, baby-led weaning is the process of allowing babies, 6 months of age and older, to feed themselves real food in manageable sizes. It’s a step in giving them independence and ownership over their meals and begins with the baby being able to sit independently while exhibiting pincher fingers.

If you feel scared to offer solid food to your baby when all they’ve ever known is liquid milk, don’t worry, I did too. Choking is a real fear! But, here’s the thing: There's a big difference between choking and gagging. Choking is the real danger. That happens when the airway is blocked and immediate first-aid care is necessary.

Gagging, on the other hand, is part of learning to eat. You WANT your baby to gag (not with every bite, but sometimes) as they practice feeding themselves. Gagging is a natural mechanism that actually prevents choking. It will happen more in the beginning of food exploration and on occasion as you introduce new textures and increasingly larger bites. When it comes to gagging, stay calm, encourage your child clear their mouth (but don’t physically interfere), offer a sip of water once they do, and be educated and ready to act in the rare occurrence that true choking occurs.

It takes a little bit of research and sometimes a fellow BLW mama to give you the push you may need to give baby-led weaning a try, but I promise, once you do, you’ll be forever thankful that purees are behind you. With baby-led weaning, you’ll save time and money while giving your child a jump-start into the amazing world of tastes and textures.

Ready to forgo purees and simplify meal time? Take a peek at these easy recipes to help kick off your baby-led weaning journey today:

Sautéed Carrot Sticks

Slice carrots (or any other root vegetable) into thin sticks (the size of a french fry) and toss in melted coconut oil. Sauté over medium heat for 7-8 minutes or until softened. Briefly cool before serving.

Baby Quiche

In a mixing bowl, whisk together 4 eggs and an assortment of minced veggies. Our latest combo was red pepper and spinach. Add 1/4 cup shredded cheese, if you like. Pour the egg mixture into a greased mini muffin tin and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until each quiche sets.

Avocado Bites

Avocado can be super hard to pick up when cubed or sliced, so give it some “grip” by rolling each piece in wheat germ before offering to your baby. The same can be done with bananas.

Creamy Peach Toast

Mix equal parts peach puree (or any fruity puree you need to use up, now that you’re not spoonfeeding) and cottage cheese. Spread on a piece of lightly toasted wheat bread.

Mini Meatloaf

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, blend 1/2 pound ground beef, 4 ounces bread crumbs, 1 egg, 3 ounces breastmilk/formula/milk and a dash of garlic powder. Divide into greased mini muffin tins and bake for 30 minutes.

Taco Bowl

Shred cooked chicken or pork, drizzle with a mild salsa and top with shredded cheese.

Melon Smiles

Offer watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew in thinly sliced half circles, or wedges with the rind still attached for an easier grip.

Black Bean Cakes

Mash together one can drained black beans, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/4 cup chopped onion, and one small peeled and roasted sweet potato. Form cakes and pan fry for 8 minutes on each side. Cool and serve.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Always check with your doctor if you're feeling unsure about the whole BLW process.

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