In our culture today, when we start babies on solid foods, we are told to start with “stage one” purees, which are the thinnest, most runny, and gradually move up. If you have heard a little bit about Baby Led Weaning and have decided that you want to try it with your family, you might assume that you give your baby teeny tiny little pieces of things to start, and gradually move up to bigger ones. What I am about to tell you will go completely against our culture, and what you would assume, but giving your baby small pieces of food is a) more dangerous and b) highly unsuccessful and frustrating for a baby because their pincer grasp (the ability to use their pointer finger and thumb to grasp small objects) is not developed until 9 months.
When you are starting with Baby Led Weaning you give your child large pieces of food, at last 2 inches long, so that baby can hold one half and gnaw on the other. I would cut watermelon into wedges and give it to him, rind and everything. Cantaloupe is great because it is think enough for baby to get his or her whole fist around it and it is firm enough to only break off little bits at a time. (Cantaloupe can also be a great teether if it has been in the fridge! My son LOVES cantaloupe, especially to teethe on!) I would do toast cut into strips, either bow-tie or rigatoni pasta, whole stalks of steamed broccoli, a steamed carrot stick, slices of avocado. Mangos and peaches were a big hit. I would give my son a slice of mango with the skin still on so he could grasp it (mangos are slippery!) and he would just suck the flesh off, same with peaches. Bananas with a piece of the peel still on because when babies are first starting out they aren’t very good at controlling how hard they squeeze their little fists, so the peel helps them to not demolish the more squishy foods before they can get it to their mouth. The beauty of Baby Led Weaning is that they can eat anything and everything. Whatever your family is having for dinner, just give your baby a deconstructed version.
Why is giving a baby tiny pieces of food more dangerous?
Because, if you give a baby a small piece, and they do manage to get it into their mouth, they now have a whole piece of food in their mouth to maneuver, instead of just sucking off little pieces that have already been smashed with their gums and tongue. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but as soon as you get going and you witness it for yourself, it will make so much sense.
Finally, your baby does NOT need teeth to start Baby Led Weaning. Their gums and tongues are all they need to mash-up those first foods. Use wisdom and discretion when deciding what to give your baby at the very beginning. The stage of “give them everything” that makes BLW so convenient is coming, and it is not far off, but as they are just learning, you have to be a tad more subjective. As always, never ever leave your baby alone with food, true choking is silent, and try not to interfere when the gagging happens, because it will.
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