Baby Led Weaning: Food Before One

I can't believe my baby is nearly a year! I don't know where the time is going, but the days are just flying past us. The old saying "the days are long but the years are short" is so very true!

As always, this is a post about how WE chose to parent OUR child and is in no way a recommendation for how YOU should parent YOUR child. Be a grown up; do your own research and decide what is right for your family.

I have a Pinterest board dedicated to this topic, as well as one on general food for littles. Check them out! 


Don't Be A Weaner

The term "baby-led weaning" is a bit of a misnomer, which is why I prefer to call it "baby-led solids" instead. You are not weaning off of the breast or bottle. You are weaning on to solids. Be careful not to drop your supply! Simply nurse first, and then offer solids. My guy does most of his eating at sleep times. We nurse to sleep and first thing when he starts waking up. 


Ready for Solids

We ended up starting solids a litter later. He was just a week shy of being 8 months. The original plan was to start him at 6 months, but Bryan and I simply weren't ready for this step. When we finally started it felt like the right time for everyone, and why do something stressed out when you don't have to?

Do you know that you aren't supposed to start solids until 6 months? The recommendation is no longer 4 months, although many pediatricians are still advising to start at 4. There are also signs of readiness that you should look for, and simply turning 6 months isn't always enough. (Find info on the signs of readiness here and here.)
Signs Baby Is Ready for Solids
* sitting up unassisted
* can use his pincers
* has lost tongue-thrust reflex 
*interested in food and chewing
Food Before One Is Just For Fun

I learned at a La Leche League meeting that "food before one is just for fun" for both breast fed AND formula fed babies. This means they are getting all of their nutrients from their milk feeds, and it's not until around one year that they start to require additional nutrients from food. (I do know that many mothers continue to exclusively breastfeed beyond a year. It wasn't something I was going to do so I didn't research it.)

Those first 6 months (or less) of "fun" eating are for exploring tastes and textures, developing coordination and fine motor skills, and laying a foundation of healthy eating. We opted to give Everett only nutritious foods during this critical time. A non-medicated vaginal birth was so important to me for so many reasons, but one was establishing my little guy's gut flora. (I could get into this, but that would take forever. If you're interested check out these links. One, two, three.) Then I breastfed on demand and survived on nearly no sleep whatsoever. Why would I waste all of that effort by giving him cookies and juice?

Tastes & Textures

I've been told by almost every mother I know that I should enjoy this stage where Everett is willing to eat anything and everything. Eventually it will pass and we'll move on to the toddler picky eating phase. Before we get there, I'm trying to let my baby get a taste for any and every fruit and vegetable we can get our hands on. He's tried everything from bell peppers to guava to quinoa. I try to make a plate that has a lot of variation in color, taste, and texture.
A photo posted by Kayleigh (@kayleigh.tx) on
Not only do I want him to be comfortable trying new textures, but I want him to learn how to chew different textures. Mashed sweet potatoes are very different from a crunchy raw cranberry. (And obviously the tastes are VERY different!) Sometimes this means I have to assist him with eating. I bite cranberries in half and then hold them for him while he takes a nibble. Squash can be difficult as well if the skins are left on.

Coordination & Fine Motor Skills

Some moms panic when they hear that the pincer skill is a sign of readiness for solids. No one expects your baby to be a master at picking up tiny things with their equally tiny fingers! You just want them to try to use their pincers. I've noticed that some foods get fisted into Everett's mouth while others go in with his fingers.

Small, dry snacks are GREAT for working on those pincers! Most of our friends started with some type of "puffs" snack. Gerber* is the most common, but you can also get Plum* or HappyBaby* which are a little bit healthier. We chose to skip the puffs because they all contain grain and we aren't introducing grain yet. Instead we give him dehydrated fruit and vegetables. Some are softer than others so not all are appropriate right away. My favorite brand is Little Ducks Organics*. I've found the Apple & Banana pack* to be the softest option, although we love all of the options at this point! The blueberries are a little big so I hold while Everett bites them in half. The mangoes are the right size but a little hard. I've seen them at Target, Kroger, and Whole Foods. They are typically $3.99 a pack. I recently picked up some HappyTot Organics packs (Apples/Carrots/Beets/Strawberries* and Peas/Apples/Green Beans*) but we haven't tried them yet. 
A photo posted by Kayleigh (@kayleigh.tx) on
What about learning to use flatware? Well, obviously I don't want him shoveling mashed potatoes into his mouth with his hands when he is five. But he's not five. He's a baby and he's learning, so I'm not a stickler for using a spoon or fork right now. He absolutely has no interest yet in trying to scoop food with a utensil. I use them for "sticky" foods like nut butters and beans.
A photo posted by Kayleigh (@kayleigh.tx) on
We've tried a bunch of different types of utensils, and hands down my favorite are these flat, curved spoons from Sassy.* The handle is short so it fits perfectly in his hand. The handle is curved so it's already angling the food towards his mouth - something that is hard for him to do on his own! The bowl of the spoon is fairly flat and the little holes help the food hang on better. My only complaint would be that they are a pain to wash because food gets into the little holes. I just soak them in hot water while I'm loading the dishwasher, and at the end I turn on the sprayer and spray the food out. It's really just the nut butters that give me trouble. I use these for split peas, lentils, etc. and have never had a problem.


Foundation of Healthy Eating

Our main goal with feeding Everett this way was to lay a foundation for healthy eating. Sure, we could have accomplished this by doing homemade purees! But that's extra work. LOL! I want my child to be excited when he sees beets and quinoa for dinner. I'm not sure how excited you can get over pureed mush. Taking this route has enabled us to keep him from getting added salts and sugars, preservatives, and certain foods we weren't ready for him to try like dairy and grain.

We hope that by avoiding these foods, particularly sugar, he won't acquire a taste for them. My friend's kid LOVES animal crackers. LOVES THEM. My kid? He goes crazy for beets, y'all. I love it. 

Maybe I'm a mean mom because I don't give him cookies and apple juice. I'm okay with that. And at the end of the day the important thing is that you're okay with the choices you've made.


What We're Eating & What We're Not

Any and all fruit and vegetables. Seriously, anything we can get our hands on that is organic. I've noticed that there are just some things I can't find grown organically. Lame. We limit those. The list below shows all of them that we've tried (I think!) and a few that we haven't gotten around to just yet. This is a great list of fruits and veggies by color, and it tells you the health benefits of each.
No dairy. No grain. I've been mostly dairy free for ten years. I still eat cheese and yogurt occasionally, and my coffee creamer is dairy. We buy almond and coconut milk for cereal and drinking. I don't want Everett to ever drink milk from another animal. If I make something for him that needs milk I just pump a little in advance. One day he will eat and love cheese. I'm okay with that; just not today. And bread... oh boy I love bread. L.O.V.E. As in, it's my one true love and I will die clutching a loaf of french bread! ;) But I know it's not good for me and I want Everett to explore foods without grain as long as possible. I also want to teach myself to prepare foods for him without relying on grain. The American diet really relies on bread.... bread before meals, bread with meals, bread as part of meals, bread as a snack, etc. For a child that usually looks like cereal or pancakes/waffles for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, crackers at snack, and some type of bread with dinner.

Nothing processed. The dried fruit is the only thing prepackaged he's had, period. Those have no preservatives and are organic. #ifyoucantreaditdonteatit

Little meat, and only responsibly raised. He's had ground beef, ground turkey, fresh wild-caught gulf shrimp, and we let him sample some brisket at a party.

Limited rice and legumes. I think he was 11 months, or close to it, when I started giving him these. We do organic brown rice, organic split peas, and organic lentils. 

Lots of quinoa and other natural power foods. We've done chia, hemp hearts, coconut oil, and probably some other stuff I can't think of.


Choking & Gagging

Everett has legitimately choked one time, and it was on a piece of mulch at the park. He did gag a good bit in the beginning, but that is not the same as choking. He was working the food in his mouth and his natural gag reflex helped him to not choke. This causes my husband to have an absolute conniption. I learned to keep an open cup of water nearby. Now he can have a cup with a straw, but in the beginning he really needed the open cup of water. I noticed he was using it to sort of swish the food out of his mouth. I just gave him his cups with no lids. I've linked to the cups we use at the bottom.


What About the Mess?


Okay, yeah, this is a super messy option compared to spoon feeding. In the beginning I stripped Everett down to a diaper and set him and his plate on a yoga mat in the backyard. When he was done we just moved over a few feet into our little plastic pool. He splashed around for a bit and I made sure all of the food rinsed off of him. It was great. Now we eat mostly inside (the mosquitoes were sooooo bad this year) in our Antilop* highchair from Ikea. (Wow! It's really expensive on Amazon through that third party. If you can get it directly from Ikea it's like $20. We actually got ours on sale for $15.)  A cheap tablecloth* goes under the high chair. Our pup Jack helps clean up the mess!! 


On To Year Two

Our little man is going to be a year old in a week! Eeek! I'm not sure what our plan is for the next year. We're still going to avoid sugars, dairy, and processed foods as much as possible. I'm hoping to breast feed at least until he turns two. 

Stay tuned for our birthday cake recipe, and be sure to follow along on our BLW/BLS journey on Instagram @kayleigh.tx.

Are you going the puree route? Going straight to solids? What works for your family?

Products I mentioned:

14 comments

  1. Thanks for the information. My little one is only 4 months. So, this won't be going on for another 2 months or so. I will save this for reference later.

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    1. Glad to help! You will probably start getting pressured to give foods now that she is 4 month - maybe even by a pediatrician.

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  2. Great post! Oh your little is almost one! Surreal right? Baby H is already a picky eater and he has only been a toddler a couple of weeks. He refuses to pick up foods that are soft and squishy but he won't let me spoon feed him anymore either. He used to be an excellent eater and now it is a struggle.

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    1. Yes it's totally freaking me out. I blinked and he was a toddler. Was H a good eater before?

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    2. Yea he was little bird food goes in here open mouth all the time. I need to hide veggies in peanut butter sandwiches since he loves those and can feed himself.

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  3. This was one of the best posts on solids I have read! My daughter is almost 6 months and we have waited to start solids. She is EBF and I hope to nurse for a year minimum. I have so many friends who introduce solids at 4 months including cereal which seems so outdated!! Nice to hear from other mamas with a similar mindset :)

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    1. Thank you so much Lindsay! That is such a compliment. :) A year is a GREAT goal, and 6 months is awesome too!!!!

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  4. Great post. I have tried giving colin mashed up solids but his gag reglex is so sensitive. The slightest chunkiness makes him gag followed by projectile vomiting every single time. We're going to continue different purees to introduce different flavors. Cooin loves veggies and not a fan of fruit so i have to mix them up. What are you doing for iron? We just started organic oatmeal mixed with his veggies. He also doesn't like oatmeal by itself or with my BM so I add it to his veggies and he doesn't notice it. I would have waited longer on oatmeal, but I was concerned with iron and Colin vomits up his polyvisol. Thanks!

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    1. We don't do an iron supplement, only Vit D. Leafy greens are FULL of iron. I put baby spinach (Costco has a big organic container for a great price) in my food processor to chop it up really fine, and then I add to scrambled eggs, quinoa, or anything mashed. Lentils and other beans are also full of iron. :)

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  5. My LO is 10 months old and is very picky already. I haven't tried the dehydrated fruit yet, I am going to have to experiment with those.

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    1. My husband pointed out to me yesterday that this is not dehydrated fruit. I need to go back and edit. This is freeze dried fruit. Dehydrated is more leathery and while E loves to gnaw on it I eventually have to take it away because he can't swallow. Hope that helps!

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  6. This is a great resource for new moms! I will share! It is so hard to know when your baby is ready to start on solids and this breaks it down nicely. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Great tips!! One of my go-to's for organics is frozen. I sometimes can't find them fresh at ALL! Or the baby food brands do have a lot of combos when checking for allergies and reactions. That stuff is important and scary!

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Be kind. I'm just a mom behind a computer wearing yoga pants with unwashed hair. -k