Baby-Led Feeding: My Solution to Starting Solids

I’m a sucker for early gratification, (you know, the opposite of delayed gratification, really not as unseemly as it sounds…). I have been known to give birthday presents early and often insist people open their presents on Christmas Eve. Basically, I have a hard time waiting when I know someone I love is going to love something I can give them.

Starting Eloise on solid foods has been no exception. While our laid-back pediatrician gave us the green light to start solids between four and six months, I wanted to be cautious, especially since the general recommendation for beginning solids is now six months and Eloise had colic (which can be an indicator of stomach sensitivity). I also wanted to be careful not to let food crowd out the nutrients and immune protection of breast milk prematurely.

Still, she was showing the signs of being ready earlier than six months– particularly a strong interest in what we were doing during mealtime. While this is not the most crucial sign, I started researching and came across baby-led weaning (or baby-led feeding in the states). Instead of spoon-feeding “solids,” babies are given food to feed themselves that is of appropriate size and consistency to prevent choking. The idea is that babies will only eat as much as they actually need/want and solids will remain more of an exploration than a replacement of breast milk in the beginning phases.

This seemed like the perfect solution– if Eloise was not ready for solids, she would hypothetically be unable to get (and keep) the food in her mouth on her own. A little more research showed that beginning this exploration at five and a half months was not dangerous. So, we set her up with smushed avocado and let the fun begin. We hovered to make sure she did not put more in her mouth than she could handle, and sure enough, she had a blast while only consuming a small amount. Now we have a way to keep her occupied during meal times that is teaching her fine motor skills while also giving us a little quiet (and entertainment!) while we eat.

Even though I’m not sold that baby-led feeding has to be an all or nothing endeavor, I am excited to introduce more foods as she continues to grow in her readiness for solids. And, the pictures below pretty much say it all. I guess I should also add it’s a little on the messy side…

Baby-led Feeding Baby-led Feeding Baby-led Feeding

4 thoughts on “Baby-Led Feeding: My Solution to Starting Solids

  1. I am so glad to hear you have tried this! I recently just heard about this for the first time and found it interesting…and as anything baby related…surprisingly very controversial! I know there are all sorts of age appropriate pros and cons but selfishly, the idea of a baby that feeds themselves from such an early age, sounds like I could get a few extra dishes clean! 😉 Looking forward to hearing how you like this strategy.

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    1. You are right, it is so funny how controversial all these things turn out. We’ve adopted a hybrid approach, with some baby-led feeding and then also a little spoon-fed purees here and there. So far, my take-away on the pros and cons of baby-led feeding:

      Pros: Baby is content while mommy and daddy eat dinner! This one is key. I don’t have to worry about simultaneously feeding both of us or keeping her entertained. She enjoys picking at her own food and working on her coordination to get it in her mouth. I also feel like she’s not crowding out the nutrition of breast milk by overeating something I would be feeding to her. Instead she (or her coordination!) decides how much food she gets. She’s happy with it and it is allowing us to introduce solids slowly, which is a major plus. Also, it is so easy to prepare, I just grab an ingredient we’re eating with our own dinner (avocado, cucumber, sweet potato, etc.) and make sure it’s in a size or cooked form she can access independently. She’s also already getting pretty good at using her own spoon! Pretty cool!

      Cons: Definitely messier than spoon feeding for now. A big wipe-able bib and just a diaper seem to make the clean-up a lot easier, but she still manages to get it in her hair. She and daddy clean her up after dinner, so that part is nice, they bond and I get a moment to take care of our kitchen. The only other con we’ve come across so far is the worry about choking. We are really careful only give her tiny bits of soft food but even so she gags a bit from time to time which makes my mommy heart go crazy!

      All-in-all, I’m so happy I discovered it. Like anything in life, I’m finding that a mix of strategies works well. I still like to spoon feed her a little here and there to get her probiotics mixed into her diet and to keep the process a little cleaner when we visit other people’s houses!

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      1. Thanks for the info! I really find the concept fascinating! Now we have more to chat about the next time we hike! I really appreciate learning from your new mommy adventures. I think we both have a similar outlook in life on figuring out what works best for our unique family and situation!

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