• Meghan Douglass

Why I did not do Baby-Led Weaning

Updated: Mar 11

I want to preface this post by saying, I am not personally against baby-led weaning, it just wasn't right for us. As you will know from my previous posts I am absolutely pro parenting the way you need to parent. What is right for one person, will not be right for another, and what's most important is going with what works best for you and your family. This is just about our experience and why we didn't do baby-led weaning.

I also need to state that up until he started solids, our little man was exclusively breast fed. We never introduced formula because I was fortunate to have an ample milk supply and I personally found breastfeeding simpler than getting a bottle. I can definitely see how life would have been a bit easier at times if I had introduced a bottle earlier, as I could have shared some of the feeding. By the time I worked this out he absolutely refused a bottle and at 15 months now has never taken one. Again there are pros and cons to all of this, but this is what we chose to do.

Once baby's hit around 6 months old their iron requirements go up. Formula fed babies have less of an issue as the formulas for this age group are supplemented with iron at appropriate levels, but I knew our breastfed little man was no longer getting everything he needed from me so his first food was iron fortified rice cereal. I talked to his GP and paediatrician before we started any food to ensure he was at the right age and stage of development for it to be appropriate to start.

I had read a lot about baby-led weaning on the internet. My many hours of night feeding had left me feeling like I had pretty much read the entire internet. I liked the idea of baby-led weaning and the concept behind it, but the saying "food is for fun until one" didn't sit right with me. From all my research and talking to doctors I knew my breast milk could no longer supply all the nutrients my little man needed, in particular iron.

So I decided to start with purées. This way I knew he was getting the added nutrients he needed and thought I would then look at introducing some of the baby-led weaning principles down the track. So I started basic with rice cereal and then added in purred fruits, vegetables and meats as well as plain Greek yogurt. That all went really well so I thought I could try some small finger food.

One of the things I liked about the concept of baby-led weaning was the motor skill development. One of the first things we tried was grated cheese. It was super easy to give and he loved it. It didn't take long for him to learn where his mouth was and the dogs enjoyed cleaning up the mess as he learned. I was thinking, this is great, so started looking up what else we could try and saw people cut soft food into sticks like banana, cooked carrot, cooked egg. I also found the snacks in the baby isle designed for this purpose and saw recipes for egg based muffins for baby-led weaning. So we tried a few different things and found every time he tried he couldn't handle the mouthful and gagged. He was always a bit too eager and instead of biting just shoved it all in his mouth.

I looked up gagging with baby-led weaning and everyone online said it's perfectly OK and normal, it's their bodies way of clearing what they couldn't handle and they rarely will choke. There are videos of it all over YouTube as well, I can't say I enjoyed watching those. Well my fragile mum heart just couldn't handle seeing him gag/choke. I stayed calm on the outside so we wouldn't freak him out, but every time he gagged I thought he would choke and not be able to dislodge the chunk of food.

So we pulled the plug and stuck with purées, opting to wait until he was older to start introducing anything other than grated cheese. He eats fantastically now, I still cut up most things quite small for him but that's because he has no teeth yet so certain things he just can't bite through but he manages well with a lot of foods. He will quite happily sit and eat the muffins I make him, chomping away.

The slower gentler approach of purées, combined with introducing small amounts of finger food gradually, worked really well for us. He eats almost everything I put in front of him now with no complaints, so the delay with introducing finger foods has not showed any signs of causing fussiness with food (which is something baby-led weaning is meant to help eliminate).

Again my main message is to follow your gut and make sure you talk to doctors to get the right advice on when and what to start feeding your little one. Don't take everything you read on the internet as gospel, and just because some people swear by it, does not mean it is the only way to go, I'll be writing more about our journey soon so please subscribe if you'd like to hear more.

Fresh fruit, nuts and fish

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