It’s hard to remember when we shifted from baby-led weaning at meal times to just “eating.” Probably somewhere around his first birthday, if I had to nail it down.
These days, Harry eats three meals a day, usually with milk, and sometimes snacks in between. (But drinks only water during non-mealtimes.)
A few weeks before his first birthday, we started offering him whole cow’s milk (WCM) in a straw cup with his meals, and by then he was down to a bedtime bottle and a morning bottle of formula or donated breastmilk. (We never put WCM in a bottle.)
We worked to eliminate the morning bottle first while simultaneously reducing the amount of the bedtime bottle (which was 6 oz at its highest), and by his birthday, he was only taking 2 oz at bedtime. We kept that for about two more weeks; until we ran out of formula. He barely noticed.
I think the actual weaning process was so smooth because he was really consuming food at his meals, actually taking in nutituion, so I was never worried he was going hungry or not getting what he needed.
Aside from peanut butter and shellfish (because we knew that one of his birth relatives has an allergy), we didn’t limit any foods.
So what did we feed him? (Or I should say “do,” as all of these foods are still in regular meal rotation.)
All of the below foods we gave to him for him to pick up. We didn’t blend or puree any of these items. As he got older, I cut the pieces smaller. It seems backward, but they develop the palmer grip first (versus the pincer grasp). This means that as infants, they grab the entire piece in their hand and bite off it. They are only able to put in their mouth what is not in the palm of their hand. So bigger piece means something to grab and hold on to, and something to chomp on.
As he got older and was able to pick up smaller pieces and put the whole piece in his mouth, we started cutting them smaller. This is even more important now, as he is likely to shove an entire handful of food in his mouth at once.
- Eggs (We started with just giving him the yolk only before moving on to scrambled at about 8 months probably. We scramble cheese, spinach, tomato, or mushrooms with them. Easy meal.)
- Meatballs (Chicken and turkey mostly. We sometimes make them, but mostly just buy them at Trader Joe’s.)
- Beans (All kinds—black, kidney, pinto, white.)
- Chicken (Grilled or slow cooked are our normal preparation methods.)
- Greek yogurt (Plain, full fat.)
- Red meat (Harry is a big, big fan of meatloaf.)
- Bananas (He eats one every morning.)
- Avocado (He went through a phase of not liking them, but would always eat guacamole. He’s back to liking them.)
- Peaches (Last summer, whole peaches. This winter, canned peaches. I prefer those that come in juice rather than syrup.)
- Berries (When he was smaller, I would smush the blueberries so that they weren’t perfectly round and chokable.)
- Oranges (I limit these, because the acidity can upset his tum.)
I personally am freaked out by grapes, so I don’t offer them.
- Peas (These are so easy and can mix with anything, so they are very common at our house.)
- Squash (Acorn or Butternut mostly. Aaron roasts them in the oven in olive oil.)
- Sweet Potato (Usually roasted in the oven, same as the squash.)
- Carrots (I typically boil them to get them really soft.)
- Mashed potatoes (Great for mixing up with peas or meat. He uses his hands.)
- Spinach (Which he intakes in smoothies or eggs, mostly.)
Veggies are hard for me. Probably because they’re hard to work into my own diet. We relied on the Happy Tot or Plum Baby organic pouches quite a bit from ages 8-14 months about. He was able to hold the pouch by himself and suck the fruit/veggie out, so I liked that he was still in charge of how much he was taking in.
- Brown rice
- Spanish rice
- Mac & Cheese (Either Annie’s that I make with Greek yogurt or Trader Joe’s frozen.)
- Mushrooms (Sauteed in olive oil.)
- Whole Wheat toast
- Hummus (Given with pita bread.)
- Cheese (Whole slices, or shredded. Perfect to mix up in rice and beans.)
I’m sure this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s mostly what he eats.
We started giving him spoons loaded with yogurt around 7 months, and forks shortly after that. I would load them, but he’d do the rest. He’s only just now starting to be able to scoop with a spoon or stab with a fork. (The above picture isn’t typical. He normally has a youth-sized fork.)
This was last night’s dinner:
Peaches, Greek yogurt, chicken meatballs, peas, and half an avocado. He ate almost all of this. I’ve learned to not underestimate how much he can eat.
We’ve seen an increase in his table “manners” just in the last week or so. Less food goes over the side, and he will actually leave the bowl on this tray.
A few things to note.
• If you’re not keen on mess, BLW may not be for you. Surely every kid is different, and plenty probably aren’t as messy as mine, but be prepared for mess. I asked Aaron what his advice is to anyone about to start baby-led weaning, and his exact words: “Don’t worry about the mess.”
• Learn the difference between gagging and choking, and what to do if it actually is the latter.
• It can take many, many exposures to a food before you know whether or not your baby likes it. It took several offerings of banana before he took a liking to them.
• He does eat typical toddler foods like Cheerios, crackers, and applesauce. But those are mostly snack foods, and he doesn’t eat much of them.
Whew. I hope this was helpful. I am extremely glad we went at solid foods in this way. He probably would’ve been a good eater anyway, but it’s just one less thing to worry about. He grew 2″ in height between his 12- and 15-month appointments, so I know he’s getting what he needs to grow. (That appointment was good confirmation.)
I love that we can go out to eat and order for us, and know that he can share our meals. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for us, and I hope that it may work for you!