Months ago, I was being weird about introducing solids to little G. My, how things have changed!
The term baby-led weaning is stupid… if you’re American. The term originated in the UK, where weaning just means introducing food, as opposed to the in US where it means
We started with mashed up roasted sweet potato. I just peeled and cut a bunch of sweet potato into cubes, tossed them with a little olive oil, and roasted them at 425 for about 20 minutes. I then put everything in my mixer with the whisk attachment and it took about 3 minutes for the machine to mash everything while still leaving it decently chunky. Then we put her in the high chair with a little pile of sweet potato mash in front of her and just let her do whatever she was going to do.
Like all the crap in our kitchen?
For the first week, she just squished and squashed and moved the mush around with very little making it to her mouth. At that point, we added in avocado and that’s when she moved from just playing to playing and eating a little. I offered her dice that was fine enough if she put a whole chunk in her mouth, it wouldn't choke her. In retrospect, I should have just offered her a BIG chunk, they work so much better for her! Avocado was the first food she really started to go for once she could hold a big piece of it and gum it like crazy.
Choking is less of an issue than you might think. Eating this way, the baby gags a LOT and if you don't know what you're seeing, it can scare you. A baby's gag reflex is MUCH more forward than an adults, so they will gag when something isn't anywhere near the back of their mouth. Of course, you want to know about how to respond to a choking baby (youtube videos helps me refresh from my old infant CPR certification) and there are theories that babies who self feed are safer eaters in the future because they have more experience with chunks. Here's some good info on gagging versus choking.
Meal times take a LONG time and it can take her a LONG (10+ minutes) to get something to her mouth. I look at time in her high chair as more sensory play time than meal time and I just don't let myself stress about how much food actually gets into her belly. If I only gave her 5 minutes in her high chair, she would not learn how to self-feed. She probably spends 30 minutes in her high chair at a feeding but she is working the whole time. Yes, a lot of it ends up on the floor. Yes, the dog is getting fatter.
It is really important to be thoughtful about what kinds of foods you offer. First, it’s important not to offer things that are too slimy or soft (cantaloupe is a notorious choker.) Then, as you select foods, you have to ride the line between soft enough to gum but firm enough to hold.
Avocados are great because there is a natural "handle" where the pit was. Other foods I cut into shapes that are easy to grab—a bow-tie shape works really well. I also offer her foods cut into finer dices and she seems to really respond well to the variety.
We also will load a baby spoon with some food and put it on her tray. She loves to feed herself with the spoon! Very neat. We also offer her water in a little cup a few times during her meal. This encourages her to swallow if she's shoving and gumming a lot without actually swallowing.
I love this style of feeding because she can eat meals with us without DH or I having to spoon feed her and we can just eat as a family. She's eating more every day and her fine motor skills are getting to be really awesome. Yesterday, she picked up peas with her fingertips! When you’ve got a baby to watch, who needs television?