How can one start writing such a long story, full of all kinds of emotions? I go back and I recall my incredible anxiety and stress. Anxiety for the long-awaited introduction to solid foods, and stress about the reaction the little hands would have to it. Baby-led weaning or pureed foods? Vegetables or fruits? In a plate or not? Endless questions—but let’s take things from the beginning…
Before we started
A month before we started, or even earlier, I started studying and preparing (myself, the baby, and the kitchen). Both I and my husband had heard stories only about children not eating their food from our parents when transitioning to solids or even later, and that had made me believe that we’d be facing the same thing. At the same time, though, it made me grow stubborn and research even deeper so that my child could have a better relationship with food than I used to. I read much, I made decisions, I prepared everything, and I was armed with patience, but the stress was still there.
What I read
Based on everything I read in books or the great, shining “book” of the internet, I decided that we’d start with foods themselves and I wouldn’t be giving any rice flour or prepared creams. I also learned about baby-led weaning and its difference from purees, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each method. I decided I’d offer both methods to the little hands, giving him the opportunity to choose. In truth, it was probably my own fear that didn’t allow me to focus on BLW from the beginning. The best thing I did during that time of preparation was I read the amazing book “Proikismena mora, empneusmenoi goneis: Gia mia alli prosxoliki diatrofi” which I could translate as “Gifted babies, inspired parents: Regarding a different preschool diet” by Dr. Papaventsis. I was already familiar with the writer through some of his articles that had helped me with a variety of issues.
The milestone of the book
The book helped me manage my stress, to calm it down for now—no, I didn’t manage to set it aside completely. It was not a book on baby-led weaning, it’s a book on the diet of babies and toddlers that I believe every new mom should read. I read it in 5 days, something quite difficult when considering the lack of sleep and the breastfeeding that was a permanent part of our everyday life. I returned to it tens of times later, and I’ve suggested it to hundreds of mothers, and I believe that it made me trust my child and realize that he is a small human being like us. Reading it, I realized how much respect and love we need to have in embracing our children’s needs as well as their hard days. But I’d need to write a whole different article for these, which I may.
What we needed—or what we thought we needed
The list for everything we’d need was small, while we already had some of the things on it.
- High chair, for eating—Check.
- Baby food maker/Food steamer 4 in 1—Check. I used only 1 of the 4 functions anyway, but it was a gift we received after he was born.
- Little bowls, plates, and spoons—Check.
- Later, the Tidy Tot was added—One of our most useful purchases.
How I prepared the little hands
The little hands were very good at sitting from 5 months old, but he was showing no interest in food. Of course, it wasn’t a problem, and what I did was putting him in the chair (since he did sit calmly, as I said) while we ate, so that he could observe us. Of course, I also gave him his new plates and spoons, so that he could examine them, play with them, and familiarize himself with them. The reason I did that was to avoid him considering them a toy when we’d start with solid foods. If he had already touched them and gotten to know them, he’d focus on the food as it wouldn’t be just an unknown toy.
How we started
When the little hands were 6 months and 3 days old, we began our journey through flavours, textures, and aromas. Of course, it wasn’t an easy journey, it wasn’t a path laid with broccoli and cauliflower florets—on the contrary. It began, though, with a little sweet potato, carrot, and zucchini. I’ll describe the exact way below.
What I chose
After all the preparation, study, and research, I decided that I’d offer 2 choices to the little hands and he’d choose himself; baby-led weaning, or puree and a spoon. I believe that even at that age, children can make choices, and they know their own needs better than we do. Up to that day, the little hands were only breastfeeding, and never accepted a baby bottle with my milk, so that certainly said something. So, I steamed the vegetables, kept a few thin and long pieces aside and pureed the rest. That’s how I proceeded for about 10 days. He ate nothing. Some days, I smashed a few pieces with a fork, and always made sure there were pieces there. I was patient, but the stress kept growing.
What my baby chose
For 10 days, the little hands showed interest in absolutely nothing. He barely examined the food in front of him. When I tried to feed him with the spoon, he turned his head aside haughtily. He didn’t cry, he didn’t tighten his mouth, he just turned his head aside. Insertions were made, but he didn’t eat. One day, though, as I was holding him and eating a banana, he showed interest and asked for some. That was it! I gave him some and he ate it, and that’s how my mind cleared, and I knew what I had to do. The next day, I sat with him at the table and stopped trying to make him try. I left just the pieces in front of him and ate from my plate without speaking. And yes, it was finally time for him to eat. He grabbed the broccoli and ate everything. I was incredibly happy, as you can imagine. The little hands had chosen baby-led weaning.
When did he start eating
The little hands’ first contact with solid foods was at the age of 6 months, but he needed 10 days to start eating. Small quantities, but he did eat. He ate fruit much later, after the 9th month, he was only eating bananas and was discarding anything coloured orange. He loved all green stuff and meat. That’s how we proceeded through our first month of baby-led weaning.
And the continuation
He started eating better and at higher quantities after the 7th month. At about 7 and a half months old, I saw him enjoy his food for the first time, thanks to the chicken leg from the chicken with turmeric and orange recipe. He had made his choices. But that’s just one child out of the millions that grow up all over the world, and that’s why I wanted to ask you to please avoid comparisons. There are children that reach their first year before they start eating, and others that need even more time. This is why I want to highlight here that every child is different, and we should respect their needs and time. Offer, and be patient.
How I offered foods
First, let me emphasize that ever since the first month, I mainly steamed for the little hands, and sometimes I boiled food. From the 7th month onward, I was cooking normally, though without any salt. For foods cooked in a pot, I added the oil in the end, and if I wanted to sauté something, I did it with a little water, essentially steaming it. For oven-cooked foods, I used two different pans, a smaller one for the little hands with the food cut into pieces for him to grab, and a larger one in which I added salt, and oil in the beginning, and cut the vegetables into smaller pieces.
I offered vegetables and fruits in long and thin slices which were cut in a size appropriate for him to grab with his whole hand, with an edge peeking out of it. Vegetables were boiled so that they wouldn’t be smashed in his hand instantly but could be smashed if enough pressure was exerted. If they were slippery, I’d leave some part of the skin (like with avocado or banana), or I’d create little indentations and notches with a cutter, with a knife, or with a vegetable cutter. Food shouldn’t be slipping out of your children’s hands because that will irritate them. Always leave one piece in front of them and add more as needed. In the video at the end of this article, you’ll find examples and more explanations about this.
I first offered meat as a long and thin burger—the first piece of food I had given was broccoli and carrot. Then, I offered meat broken apart in fibres, which shouldn’t be too thin so that he can grab onto them, and finally, I offered chicken leg, which he truly enjoyed, and it became his favourite.
Yogurt/homemade creams Regarding yogurt and cremes, I read about and applied the method of preloaded spoons. “What are preloaded spoons?” I hear you ask. It’s simple: I loaded a spoon and left it in front of him. The little hands grabbed it and brought it to the mouth, sometimes with much success, and others with not so much. Meanwhile, I was preparing the next spoon, leaving it on the Regarding yogurt and cremes, I read about and applied the method of preloaded spoons. “What are preloaded spoons?” I hear you ask. It’s simple: I loaded a spoon and left it in front of him. The little hands grabbed it and brought it to the mouth, sometimes with much success, and others with not so much. Meanwhile, I was preparing the next spoon, leaving it on the table. The little hands set aside the empty spoon and took the loaded one, and so on. If a spoon fell on the floor, I had a spoon backup ready. See my suggestions for spoons here, here, and here.
Introduction of foods
The baby-led weaning method mentions that we start introducing all kinds of foods from the beginning. I, however, decided to keep the 2 days per introduction for the first month. After the 7th month, and since we had no history of allergies in the family, I stopped and offered everything except salt, honey, and fresh milk. At the same time, I introduced vegetables first, and then went on to offer the other food groups.
Introduction of meals
The baby-led weaning method suggests introducing all meals from the beginning as well. My opinion though is that methods like that are supposed to be adjusted to our needs, the child we are facing, and our own family habits. So, I introduced the meals gradually. That is, I first started with lunch, then I added the mid-morning snack (or “ten-o’clock” snack as we call it in Greece), then the mid-evening snack, then breakfast, and finally dinner.
Throwing the food on the ground
First, let me mention that it’s completely normal for a baby to throw food on the ground. A baby throwing food on the ground is essentially practising his dexterity opening and closing his fingers and trying to improve his hand-eye coordination. Throwing the food is never purposeful. This is how they learn that if they leave something to fall down, it won’t return, and whether it’ll make any sound or not—they’re essentially learning about the world.
What I did when he threw food on the ground
- I didn’t comment on it, nor did I prevent it.
- I used the Tidy Tot in the beginning, and he couldn’t reach out long enough to throw it on the ground, and then we got a plate with a suction cup.
- I started placing single-use tablecloths on the ground, not the most ecological of solutions, but now you can find washable surfaces for that.
- When I saw that he was about to throw something away, I directed him to put it in the bib’s pocket.
- I removed him from the table. If he had shown interest in the food initially but then started throwing the food on the ground, I took it as a sign that he had had his fill and it was time to get up.
In my opinion, first aid knowledge regarding babies and children is almost imperative for all parents as well as educators. Independently of feeding method, independently of age, independently of everything, first aid knowledge saves lives, and I consider it necessary for anyone to have taken at least one first aid course in their lives.
What we did as parents
The first thing we did was to ask our paediatrician to show us what to do in case of choking. All paediatricians can show you if you ask. While I have taken first aid classes in the past, refamiliarizing oneself is always a good idea. Then, we both took a complete first aid course for babies and children, and that’s where I realized how many things I had forgotten throughout the years, and we both felt much more certain in our ability to deal with anything.
Gagging and choking
They’re two different conditions that are often mixed up and they confused us, too. To clear them out in our minds, and to be able to better deal with them, we watched videos on gagging (which is reflex babies have to push food out that goes in deeper than it should go and that they can’t manage; we lose this reflex later). Of course, the clearest and most helpful way to recognize when we’re dealing with gagging and when we’re dealing with choking was the first aid course we took, where we learned their characteristic symptoms and their differences.
What I learned from this experience and some Tips
- I learned to trust my instincts and the little hands.
- I mainly learned to respect the little hands.
- The little hands loved the food, something that I believe came from him not being pushed.
- Wash, wash, and wash some more. I learned to be patient and tolerating of the chaos he left behind him after every meal, and he of course was bathed after every meal. That’s baby-led weaning, after all.
- The best purchases I made were the Tidy Tot and the bibs with pockets.
- He didn’t need teeth to eat food pieces. His first 2 teeth appeared when he was 12 months old, and by then, his gums were doing an amazing job of it.
- BLW is an amazing game, a messy play that activates all senses and made food fun. It shouldn’t be worrying us that they play with their food since up to the end of their first year, their main food will be milk.
- It’s the best way to exercise fine dexterity and hand-eye coordination.
- Babies can enjoy their food.
- Offer, offer, and offer some more. You may need to give a piece of food more than 15 times before they show enough interest in it and eat it.
- The Tidy Tot was amazing for our strolls.
- I could eat normally with him.
- I learned to be constantly alert.
- Variety is important.
- They need clean plates, not full plates and large quantities of food. I learned to leave little food in front of him and add more as needed.
Here, you’ll find a video where I talk about our experience with BLW. The video is half an hour long, and I describe our experience while analysing some points, like how to cut the food.
I’ve most certainly forgotten things, and I’ll definitely come back later to add more. Don’t forget that I’m the only mother who writes her experience, though. I’m in no way suitable to give you instructions for your own transition to solid foods. No matter the choice you make, show respect and trust to your little ones. Follow their rhythm with patience and learn first aid. Remember that each kid is unique, and if you speak Greek then make sure to read the book “Gia mia alli prosxoliki diatrofi” especially if you’re stressed. I wish you a good start, and have plenty of strength to deal with it! I’ll be glad to read your own experiences as well.
Αυτό το περιεχόμενο χορηγείται με άδεια Creative Commons Αναφορά Δημιουργού-Μη Εμπορική Χρήση-Όχι Παράγωγα Έργα 4.0 Διεθνές .
Το περιεχόμενο αυτού του blog αποτελεί πνευματική ιδιοκτησία της εταιρίας LITTLE HANDS BLW. Συνεπώς, ΑΠΑΓΟΡΕΥΕΤΑΙ κάθε αναδημοσίευση, αντιγραφή ή τροποποίηση του χωρίς την έγγραφη συγκατάθεση της εταιρίας. Εάν ενδιαφέρεστε για το περιεχόμενο του blog, μπορείτε να επικοινωνήσετε μαζί μας για να συζητήσουμε πως θα μπορούσαμε να συνεργαστούμε.