I never fed my son with a spoon. Before Myles – my now three year old – was born, I registered for a Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker from Williams Sonoma. As a professional food writer with a food photographer as a husband, I felt certain that we’d be pureeing peas and smashing sweet potatoes for our child rather than buying baby food at the grocery store. Once Myles was born, I learned through a playgroup friend about baby-led weaning and I gave the machine away.
Baby food is a foreign concept to parents using baby-led weaning. There’s no baby food! At each meal, the child eats whatever your family is eating and uses his hands to feed himself. As soon as we decided to start Myles on solids at around 6 months old, he joined us at the table and could choose to eat or not eat whatever was presented to him (it took him a couple months before he chose to eat anything).
Pureed foods are the absolute worst thing to give a child doing baby-led weaning; because the baby is feeding himself, you can’t give him anything that requires a spoon. You also don’t need to cut food into tiny bites. We gave Myles big chunks of banana, pieces of boneless chicken (not cut up), all kinds of fish, apple slices, and asparagus spears – things that were big enough for him to hold and taste caveman-style. No teeth? No problem. Kids can gum food amazingly well. Myles ate some of the potpourri we presented to him and didn’t eat the rest. Our job was to not comment. We didn’t praise him for eating and didn’t scold him for not eating. The food was just there if he wanted it.
What about choking (every parent’s nightmare)? The guidebook to baby-led weaning (which I’d recommend if you are interested in more information on this method) explains that babies have a gag reflex that prevents them from choking. This information, however, didn’t stop my husband and I from taking an infant CPR course – luckily, we never had to use it.
Baby-led weaning didn’t end for us once Myles regularly ate solid foods. I still think about the tenets of baby-led weaning daily. Myles at age three still eats when we eat and still eats our food, not “kids'” food. This has made my husband, Jonathan, and me more aware of the food choices that we make. If we order fries, that means Myles is eating fries, but if we choose broccoli instead, then Myles gets to try a fresh, healthy vegetable.