UPDATE: BABY-LED WEANING PROGRESS

Enjoying elk flank and broccolini at a restaurant.

Oliver is almost six and a half months old now, and we’ve been at the baby-led weaning game for about six weeks. Slowly but steadily, we are making progress.

Here is a list of foods he has tried: Beef Steaks • Chicken Thighs • Lamb Kebabs • Ground Bison • Elk Steak • Bacon • Sausage • Whole Egg (fried and scrambled) • Broccoli • Broccolini • Cauliflower • Asparagus • Bell Peppers • Tomatoes • Carrot • Salad Greens • Avocado • Apple • Pear • Strawberry • Watermelon • Cantaloupe

He has tried drinking: Broth • Coconut Milk • Mint Tea • Water

He loves (and I mean loves) sucking on pieces of medium-rare meat! He’s also particularly fond of bacon (shocking, I know), broccoli, bell peppers and cantaloupe. Thus far, he seems to have enjoyed everything except the broth, and in retrospect I am certain that his refusal to drink broth was a refusal of the bottle itself, not its contents. From the standpoint of successfully exposing Oliver to a variety of tastes and textures, baby-led weaning has been a resounding success.

At six months old, Oliver sits quietly and patiently at the table for the entire meal, as long as he, too, has food. Unless he is particularly tired or cranky, we can eat at a leisurely pace and even enjoy adult conversation. When we go to restaurants, we bring our portable high chair and Oliver is able to sit independently, just like he does at home.

His fine motor coordination (manual dexterity) has improved significantly since the start of baby-led weaning. He is able to grasp many different shaped, sized and textured pieces of food with ease. He no longer brings his head down to the table to put food in his mouth; rather, he sits up straight and lifts the food from the table to his mouth. He can pass his food from one hand to another, and put down one piece of food in order to pick up another. He definitely has far fewer incidences of accidentally dropping food than he used to.

We have been working on getting Oliver to take water and expressed milk from his Doidy Cup instead of a bottle, and he is actually getting liquid into him now (in addition to onto him :))! We are still very much assisting the process. Oliver puts his hands on the cup and pulls it towards his lips, but he doesn’t yet possess the motor skills to tilt the cup without spilling on himself, nor to put the cup back on the table.

Some things are not progressing as quickly as we’d have liked. Although Oliver is very competently sitting up without assistance, he does not yet seem to have lost his gag reflex (in terms of infant development, one usually correlates with the other). Either that or he has a particularly sensitive one. In other words, he is really not swallowing much, except for very small bits of soft fruits or vegetables (I will admit to having seen evidence of broccolini being swallowed ;)). Sometimes he gags hard, which can be difficult — even scary — to watch. Although I know intellectually that he is not choking, I still have to override that instinctive maternal response to jump in and assist him. We deal with gagging by remaining very calm and speaking softly to encourage him to spit out whatever is in his mouth. It always comes out eventually, and Oliver never seems any worse for the wear.

Every meal we share, I keep hoping it will be the one where Oliver can swallow food without gagging, but I guess he’s just not there yet. I know that it will happen when he is ready, just like any other developmental milestone. In the meantime, for all intents and purposes, Oliver remains 100 percent breastfed.

Have you tried baby-led weaning? When did your child truly start to take in (rather than just taste) solids?

13 responses to “UPDATE: BABY-LED WEANING PROGRESS

  1. No worries, J still gags here and there – it’s all part of the fun 🙂 She started feeding herself at around 6months, too. She eats absolutely everything in sight, and gets mad if you’re eating and not her! O will get there, too, eventually – so awesome that he’s trying everything, testing it bit by bit, just make sure the pieces are small enough to slide down and you’ll find he’ll start keeping more stuff IN 🙂

    Things to look fwd to: when he discovers how cool it feels to smoosh soft foods into his hair, like shampoo; and the joy of watching mom pick up the cup he throws on the floor 😉

    • I can’t really give him small pieces until he develops the pincer grasp (around 9 months, I think?). Right now he uses his entire hand to grasp things, so if food pieces are too small, they end up being covered by his hand and he doesn’t get anything into his mouth.

      So far the only silly thing he does is bang his hand on the table. He’s too fixated on getting the food in his mouth to want to do anything else with it. I will enjoy his relatively good table manners while they last 🙂

  2. Hi Carli – our little girl is almost 6 months old now and we’ve just started BLW. She’s super keen and has great coordination so even the smallest of pieces she can get into her mouth. It’s SO stressful to watch though as she has two very sharp bottom teeth that allow her to bite pieces of food off. Of the large piece of apple and the broccoli tree she’s had, she managed to bite chunks off but although she’s working on it, I don’t think she’s capable of mashing them enough in her mouth to swallow so gags almost every time and out it and the milk comes. Pardon the details! 🙂

    I see from your post that Oliver gagged for quite some time too. Do you recall if he had teeth when you started BLW? I wonder if we should just give our daughter very small pieces of food that we know she can’t choke on and that are soft enough that she can easily mash in her mouth: carrot, sweet potato, etc…

    You may not recall anymore as Oliver is well beyond this stage, but on the off chance you do, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts or others who have also experienced BLW. Thanks!

    • Hi Colleen,

      Oliver also had two teeth when we started BLW, and got another two when he was six months old. Initially, he would use his teeth only to scrape the food, so that was fine, but as he started to be able to bite off chunks, we had the same problem as you are experiencing. At that point, we gave him much softer foods that would fall apart in his mouth (for example, very well-steamed carrots, apples, sweet potato and broccoli; avocado; scrambled eggs; raspberries) or really teeny-tiny pieces of meat that he could swallow without chewing, but then of course we had to assist him because he lacked the dexterity (pincer grasp) to pick the small or soft pieces off the table and get them into his mouth. When we were helping him, we tried to respect the BLW process by not force-feeding him, but just offering food and allowing him to open his mouth and show interest in it — or not, as the case may be. There was a lot of trial and error between six and nine months, and then suddenly it all came together at once (between nine and 10 months) and he was able to pick up food using a pincer grasp, chew soft foods with his gums, and swallow without gagging. At that point, his intake of solids increased exponentially. Now that he has one full set of molars, we are doing a lot less special preparation (chopping, steaming) of his foods, and he can chew pretty much everything except raw carrots.

      I think in the early months of BLW, the vast majority of nutrition is still coming from breast milk or formula. It’s not really until all of the necessary skills are fully developed that you can expect a baby to take in any significant amount of solids. It’s a potential downside to BLW (if you’re in a hurry for your baby to actually be eating food), but in our experience, it was well worth taking the slow route and respecting Oliver’s natural development, as we now have an amazingly capable and enthusiastic eater.

      Enjoy the journey 🙂

      • Hi Carli – just wanted to thank you for taking the time to respond. We’ve tried a few more very soft items, but I think it’s going to be a slow introduction to solids here too… that’s fine with me as breast feeding is still a whole lot easier! 🙂 Take care!

        • I doubt that many kids are capable of swallowing much actual food at six months, which is probably why most people go with purées at first. But I think the payoff of a slower start is well worth the results in the end.

  3. Hi Carli,
    I have some questions about your high chair. Do you use the portable one at home too? I’ve read some reviews that say it won’t attach to a table with a skirt that’s more than an inch or so. Can you tell me if that’s true?

    • Hi Jo,

      We use a Stokke Tripp Trapp at home, but the portable high chair does fit on our dining table, which has about a 3″ skirt. This one in particular opens up wider than many of the other ones I looked at, but if your table skirt is more than a couple of inches deep (as opposed to high), you might have trouble.

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