This is part two of a 3-part series on baby-led solids/weaning (BLW) in honour of Lady Fair’s half-year birthday and consequent move away from exclusive breastfeeding. In part 1 we talked about some of the great reasons to do it, and now we’ll go over some practical tips. The thing about BLW is that it really doesn’t require instructions beyond “give food to the baby”, but people who are used to pureeing usually want some more details, so here they are.
Size & Shape
The main thing about BLW is that the kids are putting the food in their mouths themselves, and they’re starting well before they work out that little pincer grip. In other words, dicing is no-dice. It’s all about the long-skinny so that they can wrap their whole adorable little fist around it and still have an end poking out to get in their mouths.
My favourites for novice eaters are bananas halved lengthwise, avocados cut into longitudinal wedges and broccoli trees. Once they get older and more coordinated, brussels sprouts and scrambled egg yolks are pretty grabable.
Meat always seems to present a difficulty. Some people cut it into really narrow long strips, but my kiddo couldn’t figure out how to flop it into his mouth. He also had front teeth very early, so he’d bite a chunk off and then not be able to chew it and problems would ensue. So I went Alicia Silverstone on it and pre-chewed, then propped it up in a little pile on his plate. Gross, but effective.
As scary and weird as it seems, try to leave peels and rinds on when possible. Bananas are a perfect example. If you take the peel off, that nanner will fly out of baby’s hand like the escargot out of Julia Roberts’ in Pretty Woman. Apples with a skinless landing strip around the equator and peel at each pole are easy to hold onto and run your gums over. If you’re into grains you can also try dusting food with some sort of cereal crumb.
Out & About
First off, BLW makes travelling way easier, and being lazy, that makes me very happy. But what you need to plan/bring changes more rapidly than with pureed food.
If baby is only a few days/weeks onto solids then the biggest question is really whether or not baby actually needs to eat (other than nursing, obviously) while you’re out. Remember the rule of thumb “before 1 it’s just for fun.” Kids really don’t need to be having three squares a day. In fact, in the first couple of weeks they’re unlikely to swallow enough to make the endeavor calorically worthwhile anyway. So there’s the nothing option.
But if your wee one is firmly into the eating world, avocados, bananas and brussels sprouts all travel well and make relatively little mess. For more adventurous babies, order the soup and bread and share dipped bread with them. Alternatively, bits from a garden salad or side baked potato do wonders. And my all-time food court favourite? Sushi rolls. They’re mouthful sized, nutritious and TIDY.
And speaking of tidiness… you know all of those little wee bibbies you were given? Forget them. Truly. So useless. If you must use a cover, then the IKEA full-body smock is the only rational option, but I prefer to strip baby bare. Much easier to swab a baby than wash and fold a stack of smocks. And while we’re at it, the more elaborate your high-chair, the more crevices there are to stick food in. IKEA comes in handy here again with their smooth plastic, single piece, TWENTY DOLLAR high chair. Can’t be beat.
These really should go for all early experiments with food, no matter how you introduce it. The first item on the safety list, is to know the difference between gagging and choking. Both look horrible and can make you panic. One – gagging – tends to be noisy, while the other – choking – is silent. So don’t ever turn your back on baby and assume you’ll hear her choking because you won’t. Ultimately, the qualifier is air. If baby is gagging, he can still breathe in between gags, which makes noise. If baby is making noise (and thus breathing) you should NOT go smacking her on the back because that could make the offending bit of food block the currently unobstructed airway and cause choking.
Item number two is to leave baby UNBUCKLED while feeding. This probably seems a bit counter-intuitive, especially since highchairs these days come with enough snaps and harnesses to rival a carseat, but the reality is that if baby does happen to start choking, you can’t help without removing her from the chair. The harder it is to get her out of the chair, the longer it will take to help her. Here is where we loop back to the previous paragraph and remind you not to turn your back while baby is eating, lest she somersault over the tray.
The final item on the list is to master ye old finger swipe and it is a bit more BLW specific. If a bad gagging fit does hit, or even if you foresee trouble clearing an item from the mouth, the easiest way to help is to reach into the mouth and clear it with your finger. Don’t be alarmed if this actually triggers gagging – you would too if someone reached into your mouth. Also don’t freak out if all of this gagging triggers puking. That’s the body’s way of making sure stuck objects get pushed up and out.
So there you have it. Baby-led weaning in a nutshell. What tricks did you use to make it even easier?
BLW Part III: The Cuteness