Why We Didn’t Follow Baby Led Weaning

I’m not sure if many of you knew this, but I once wrote for a parenting magazine. Being about a year out from actually deciding to try our hand at parenting, it was a great way to learn about the various topics top of mind for the modern parent. One being baby led weaning (BLW).

The concept is that babies are pre-programmed to feed themselves, and go straight to solid foods, skipping expensive purees entirely. There are a number of benefits to this approach including baby developing a healthy relationship with food (avoiding the tendency overeat, less picky, learning a positive association with food), and the bonus of mealtimes being a cinch for mom and dad (baby eats what you eat).

When researching and writing this article, I loved this concept, and fully intended to use it for our future children. But like many things people say before they actually become parents, it didn’t work out that way.

It wasn’t because Aubrey didn’t like feeding herself. Her little tiny hands went at anything I placed in front of her. Instead it was because I personally didn’t feel up to the challenge.

But I thought you just said it makes things easier on the parents, you’re thinking?

Right. While it is infinitely easier to place manageable pieces of your own meals on your childs tray and let them go at it, versus cooking and pureeing and freezing – or buying premade baby food, what they don’t mention is the BLW takes time, and it is MESSY.

Breastfeeding has not been the joyride I thought it would be, and because of that I couldn’t wait for Aubrey to start solids. I made myself wait until the recommended 6 month mark (I REALLY wanted to start earlier than that), but when that time came I jumped into the solids world head on. I wanted a little relief on the milk cow front, and I was so excited to watch Aubrey experience all the wonderful foods in the world. And I did start out with BLW.

Each meal I gave her a variety of things to hold and gnaw on, but as time passed I realized that the majority of the food was ending up on the floor, or her clothes, or in the dogs’ mouths instead of in Aubrey’s tummy. We were fast approaching a trip back to the states and a nearly month-long family trip through Europe, and I had hoped to have her firmly established on solids prior to those events. At the rate we were progressing, it could have easily been another 6 months before Aubrey was eating efficiently enough for it to count for some nourishment.

A rocked out mama’s old high chair while we were back in NC

It was in the moment that I decided to give myself a break. Sometimes (read: all the time) when trying to do the best for your kid and the earth, it translates to a lot more work. I told myself, “Lauren, you cloth diaper, you breastfeed (and that has been hellacious), and you work hard to maintain a schedule for Aubrey, so how about on just this one thing – we take the easy way out?”

And so I did.

And man, am I so glad I did. I soon learned my baby bird was starving for solid food, and even though it was some added work, I kind of love making baby food. Seeing the piles of fresh fruits and veggies (and now meat) going into her food, and watching her eat to her fill, gives me a satisfaction that’s hard to describe. I know I’m not alone in loving the feeling of knowing your baby’s tummy is full and satisfied (especially us breastfeeding mamas!).

So for anyone out there entering the world of solids, or trying to find some easy homemade recipes I thought I would share a few resources I’ve used.

The first batch I made, I followed this post on the Fitnessista’s blog. I think she forgot a few items/quantities in the shopping list, but in general it was a great start. Aubrey loves the oatmeal and apple combo. I was easily able to make enough food to fill almost half of our freezer with a variety of options, and even with the missing items and buying some ice trays to freeze it in, I think I spent around $25 total. Premade food is generally $1-2 a jar/container!

When we decided to incorporate meat I was still in the states, so for sake of ease we went with some store bought options first. Aubrey liked the Chicken and Sweet Potato Dinner, and the Vegetable Turkey Dinner by Earth’s Best Organic. But her favorites were the organic chicken, turkey, and beef (she LOVED the beef) combo squeeze pouches by Sprout. I knew immediately once we got home I would be back to the homemade version though, these babies were over $2 each!!

When we got home I referred to an old pin and got to work making some meat combos myself. I used this website for ideas until I could get a hold on the proportions of vegetables and fruits to meat. The first morning I got to cooking, Will came into the kitchen and inquired if I was working on dinner. I laughed and told him it was for Aubrey, and he left upset that Aubrey was eating better than he does (I tried not to take that as a jab to my normal cooking). With Aubrey’s first bite of Annabel’s Chicken (Turkey in our case) Delight, she was smacking her lips and smiling. It was full of flavor, which made me a little nervous that it would be TOO flavorful for her at first, apparently A loves flavor just like her mom and pop. Each of the meat recipes seemed to yield about 2.5 ice trays each, which equals a week and a couple of days worth for us. Aubrey eats 4-6 oz. at each meal, having meat and a vegetable combo for lunch and dinner.

Outside of the purees we generally give A bites of our food anytime we are eating. We want her to get a taste for a variety of foods, plus it’s a lot of fun, and a great source of entertainment for her and us at mealtime. I look forward to the days when we can give her a smaller portion of our meals for her own, but for now this has been a great decision for our family. Just like anything else, every family, and every baby is different, and sometimes it takes some experimenting to figure out what works for you and yours.

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