Lazy Mama Manual: Baby Led Weaning

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baby led weaningConfession time – lots of my practical parenting decisions are driven primarily by a need to simplify my life as much as possible. I feel no need to martyr myself to motherhood. Breastfeeding? Easier than making bottles. Babywearing? Faster and less annoying than pushing a stroller.

So when my son started to become interested in food, I wanted to take the easy way out.  

His first bite of food was a piece of lettuce that he haphazardly picked off my plate at lunch one day. I happened to be out with some other mothers and their babies. Upon seeing my six month old grab food off my plate, all the moms at our table cringed and jumped to grab the lettuce piece of out his hands. “It’s fine,” I said, and kept on eating.  

This hadn’t been the first time my son had shown some interest in solid foods, but it was the first time he actually grabbed something and popped it into his mouth. He had four teeth. I figured he’d try and chew the lettuce, get bored, and spit most of it out. My prediction ultimately came true and my son managed to get some of the lettuce into his belly but most of it wound up on his shirt and my lap.  

At that time I didn’t know that going straight to finger foods and avoiding conventional “baby food” and other purees was actually a legitimate and common way to introduce solids.

Eventually, I discovered that this approach, known as baby led weaning (weaning as they speak of it in the UK, meaning introducing solids, not the way we think of it here as getting baby off the breast or bottle) could save me a ton of headaches in the meal department.  

As my son’s interest in food grew and his development advanced, I ordered the Baby Led Weaning Cookbook and set off to give him real, whole foods from the start. It was such a fun experience for my husband and I to watch our little boy explore food in a multi-sensory manner. Baby led weaning was a great decision for us, but it did require some preparation and a little bit of knowledge to do comfortably.

Here’s how you can get ready for the fun.

1. Take an infant CPR class. There, you’ll learn the difference between choking and gagging. Your instructor will equip you with knowledge and skills that will put your mind at ease when introducing solids. 

2. Start simple. Let your child explore the simple flavors of real whole foods without a lot of stuff added. Great first foods are just one or two ingredients. Prepare them in the appropriate size and texture (easy to pick up and hold in a fist) for a small baby to handle. Great first foods include roasted veggies like squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots cut into fry size, baked or otherwise softened fruit, avocado, and slow-cooked meat strips.  

3. Be prepared for a hot mess. There will be food everywhere. If you don’t have a dog, be sure to invest in something like this to make cleanup a little easier. Long sleeve bibs or bibs with pockets are also useful. Don’t stress over the mess.  

4. Take it slow. Your child probably won’t get much food into their belly in the first couple of meals. It may even take a couple of months for a significant amount of solids to make their way into the digestive tract. That’s ok. Offer a variety of textures, flavors, and food groups and let your baby explore with taste and touch.  

5. Consider iron. After six months, infants need iron in their diets. Try to offer iron-rich foods every day. Some great iron-rich foods include lean meats, dark leafy greens, and beans. 

You’ll want to avoid honey and cow’s milk until after your baby’s first birthday. Other than that, all foods are fair game! Old school recommendations were to avoid allergens early on in the baby’s life, but no need. New research suggests that an earlier introduction is actually preferred. If you have food allergies in your family, be sure to consult your pediatrician about how and when to introduce the potential allergens. 

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Amy is a Hudson Valley native and educator working in New York City schools. She has two little kids and one little dog. Before moving to her current home in Ossining, Amy attended college on Long Island and then spent most of her 20s in Brooklyn and Queens. New York is truly home for her, and she’s thrilled to be living closer to her hometown of Garrison and her extended family. As a mom, Amy believes in empowered parenting, and she’s passionate about raising her kids to be partners in the fight for social justice. When she’s not working or trying to figure out nap time, Amy loves hiking, yoga, swimming, and relaxing with her family.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Love this! Feeding your kid the lazy way lol we used to use disposable tablecloths from the dollar store under the high chair. Works like a charm.

    • No need to avoid nuts before a year, this is no longer recommended by the AAP. New research indicates it’s better to introduce stuff like this earlier rather than later. Whole nuts can be a choking hazard, but we’ve been doing all kinds of nut butters and chopped nuts since the start! If there’s a family history of food allergies, consult your pediatrician. Otherwise, go nuts! 🙂

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