I've had a few peeps ask me about Baby Led Weaning (or BLW), so I thought I would take this opportunity to share with y'all how we did it.
This is particularly topical since I just weaned the Boobla off the boob this past week. It happened naturally. He seemed to be less invested in the boob as his source of morning and night time milk and so I just replaced it with a bottle and he was fine. Pretty painless for the both of us, although I was sad to see it go. I'm not going to miss the biting but I will miss the smushiness of it all. He's pretty content to be held during the morning and night time feeds though and it's been a nice augmentation to night time stories. When he brings his book to the pillow-fortified corner we've designated as the lounging space in his room, he pats the floor, I give him his bottle, and he settles into the crook of my arm and we read stories together. It's pretty sweet.
We've also snuggled him up beside us on the couch with his milk and a blanket over his legs and the sight of him like that just slays me for some reason. I can't believe we have a little Big Yam couch potato buddy. The look of him is at once older than his years and younger than his years and it just gets me.
BLW was spear-headed by Gill Rapley, a Brit in the grand tradition of Brits who are more into earthy mama-dread granola stuff (see: Brits and the animal rights movement, Brits and midwifery.) I've linked to her site under her name above. It basically comes down to this: instead of spoon feeding your kid purees, you let your baby feed themselves. There are several guiding principles:
1) BLW is not about "how much" your kid is eating. You let the baby guide the process. You're still breastfeeding and offering breast milk or milk before meals, so meal times are about letting your kid explore tastes, textures, and the social conditions of eating. The tagline is "just for fun, before age 1" (the idea being, that you don't stress about nutrients that your kid is ingesting before you wean them off of milk - they're getting everything they need from the breast milk, food is exploration time.)
2) Your baby knows what's what. You put our unseasoned, steamed or raw food and let your baby go to town. There's no pressure on your baby to "finish" anything. The baby will explore and play and taste what they want and eat more of what they want and reject the stuff they don't like. This isn't about force-feeding or shovelling food down a baby's throat. The underlying assumption is that your baby knows what they need (similar to how pregnant women crave foods that meet some dietary/nutrient deficiency they're facing) and you let them do their thing.
3) The food should be easy for the baby to handle. Sticks shapes (like beefeater french fries) or long strips are best at first. If your baby doesn't have teeth, just let them gum at the food - we had T working on chunks of steak and mashing avocado and sucking on pork chop bones - as long as there's nothing that can break off and cause a choking hazard. Sweet potatoes were steamed and then presented as disks or in two-finger width wedges or batons for him to eat.
4) GAGGING IS NOT CHOKING. You have to be pretty confident and know the difference. Our bodies are pretty well designed. Kids can gag up stuff pretty effectively, as long as the item in question isn't the exact perfect shape/hardness to obstruct their airway (that's choking). We were understandably nervous at first, but we just watched him and let him do his thing. Our confidence was also bolstered by taking the CPR course, where we knew how to resuscitate an infant and how to position them to free a blocked airway. The Big Yam gagged all the time. We became more nonplussed with it when we saw how good he was at it.
5) Offer sips of water. This goes along with #4. Give them sips of water and have water ready at hand so that if they are having a problem getting something down, they can flush it down with water.
6) Food shouldn't be seasoned with salt or sugar, etc.
7) Baby should be able to sit up unassisted and have the interest in food and motor skills to maneuver food to their mouths (or close enough.)
Ultimately, we did a modified version of the baby-led weaning program. I bought one box of cereal cuz I didn't trust myself and we supplemented that with the sticks of food. I pureed stuff that I wanted him to try but that I didn't think made good BLW sense - stuff like kale, rapini, turnip greens, etc.
I was pretty strict about things. The Big Yam got cereal and vegetables and I didn't do fruit for a very, very long time, because I know that we as humans are programmed to enjoy sweets and I wanted him to gain an appreciation for the full spectrum of flavours, not just apples, bananas, etc.
His meals went something like this: morning was a carb, some cottage cheese (or egg for protein) and a fruit. Lunch was all vegetables. Dinner was a carb, protein, vegetables, and a fruit for "dessert" (sometimes). I've loosened up on the fruit front but I am still willing to starve him into submission if he starts getting too picky. Last night he didn't want the spelt salad I made and only wanted a banana. So I stopped feeding him (he was just throwing stuff on the ground) and he got his milk (no banana!) This morning, when he was (obviously) ravenous, I offered him bites of the spelt salad again and only after he had eaten that, did he get his regular breakkie. So yeah, I can be a bit of a monster, but I justify it by saying that choice in food is a luxury, and he's not allowed to turn down perfectly good food. What if he was living on Red Cross packages?!? He's lucky he has spelt salad to eat!
BLW isn't as effortless as people claim it is. People are all like, "they just eat what you're eating!" Which I guess is true, if you're okay eating UNSEASONED FOOD. I am not. So there was a bit more work to it, but not much. I would just start with the food he was going to eat or put aside a portion before I seasoned at the end.
Here's a link to a BLW website (with a message board! Populated mostly with crazy Brits!) In the end I feel like our modified BLW approach made the most sense for us. There's no way in hell I'm making unseasoned food. And pureed veggies and some rice cereal was handy when we were travelling. BLW is a messy process. I do like not fussing about "how much" the baby has eaten. And I like the element of enculturating the baby into the process of eating.
In the end we approached it the way we seem to approach a lot of our parenting - we read a bit, got bored, polled some friends for anecdotal advice, did what made sense and what worked with our lives and were disciplined and systematic in the application of the methods, didn't stress, and were willing to be mean to our kid and not negotiate with terrorists. That's basically our style, in a nutshell.
This is the Boobla in his FOB-tastic "Boo Boo Town" vest. The Dotytron loves nothing more than when the Boobla is dressed like a new immigrant from mainland China. Also, there's nothing better than the words "boo boo town" in combination. Literally, the best.
Last night's dinner was poached salmon, with chimichurri, and the spelt salad, which had: roasted butternut squash, baby spinach, red onion, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, and a maple-cider dressing. It was hella tasty:
Tonight is the outlaw sis' CD release party at Lee's. We're having the roomie come over and watch the Big Yam. She goes on at 11pm and I'm loathe to keep a preggo up super-late, so I think we'll just end up catching a wee bit of her set and then heading home. It's too late for us! On a work night? Forget about it.
Tonight for dinner we had freezer tuna noodle casserole and sautéed rapini with lemon & garlic.
I had a realization today that I've got a lot on my plate. Sometimes, I'm such a driven maniac and I thrive on being pushed so much that it feels like it's NBD. But then I realize that I've got a lot going on. Full time work and school and parenting and the all-around hustling/life management I do in general is kind of a big deal and I feel like I downplay it a lot. This is just me taking a moment to give myself some daps. To me, from me.