*Follow our BLW journey on Instagram @vegan_babymama
In my last post, I explained all my reasons for wanting to do baby-led weaning. I think it’s a natural way to introduce solids to an infant without all the stress and drama of spoon-feeding purees. Plus I get to continue to breastfeed Jack on demand for as long as he and I want. Win for everybody!
The key to successful baby-led weaning is to only start it when they meet all the milestones, which I will recap:
- Sit up unassisted.
- Reach out for objects and bring them to their mouth easily
- Loss of the tongue-thrust reflect (when they automatically force something out of the back of their mouth)
- Chewing on toys or mimicking you while eating
- Reaching for and/or taking food to their mouths, if given the opportunity
Most babies do all these at 6+ months. In the book, many moms said they didn’t start until 7-8 months even. In most cases, feeding babies solids before 6 months can have major health consequences. Their tummies simply aren’t ready to handle anything other than milk. The saying is “When their outsides are ready, their insides are ready.” If they can do all these milestones, their tummy can handle solids.
So when I finished the Baby-Led Weaning book when Jack was 3.5 months, I had no plans on starting him anytime soon. At that time he could mouth objects and barely sit up assisted. Then a few weeks later he reached out for a toy and grabbed it. Just laying on his side, nonchalantly grabbed it and brought it to his mouth to suck on. Maybe a weeks after that, he sat up very well assisted. Another week later or so, I noticed his tongue thrust was gone. He has always loved suck on my finger, but this time he brought it to the back of his mouth with his tongue deliberately. No gagging or forcing it back to the front. Next came the curiosity. He would STARE at us while we ate. I mean like stop everything he is doing and focus on our food. Then he began to smack his lips together as he watched us. I started putting his swing next to the table when we ate. He’d munch on toy and stare the whole time. I knew was growing fast, but still thought the other milestones were months off.
At his 4-month check-up, she said we could start solids if we wanted to, but waiting 2 more months is ideal. I still wasn’t even considering it. The that week, he sat up unassisted. I let go of him and he didn’t fall in any direction. Granted he was leaning way over and cried 30 seconds later, but he did it. This really put me through a loop. He was only 4.5-months-old!
I still thought I could hold him off, then this started happening:
He tried to steal my food! At first it was just wanting to see what was on my plate. Then he wanted to be held or lay in front of me while I ate so he could watch more closely. This led to taking the plates and later sucking on them. Then he tried grabbing our food. If appropriate, we let him hold a piece, but he usually just dropped it.
Then the day came when I couldn’t ignore it anymore. He was super fussy and wanted to be held, but I was hungry. So I put him in the wrap and made some lentil soup. I sat down with him still wrapped to eat. I got a text and started to read it when I noticed my hand was moving… He grabbed the spoon (top right on the collage) and put it in his mouth! It was mostly just the broth, but he moved it around his mouth and swallowed. It had curry powder and red pepper flakes in it! What are you doing kid? You shouldn’t be ready for that! I told my husband and he said he’s still too little, but knew I couldn’t keep putting it off.
Then the next day I made a smoothie and he demanded it (center of the collage). I mean squealing and failing around on my lap to get it. So I gave him the straw and he quickly put it in his mouth. It took him a minute, but he did suck some down. He coughed, then smiled and took another little sip. I was stunned. After that he wanted to hold the cup while I drank and intently watched me. That was the last milestone. I couldn’t ignore it. He was telling me was ready, 4 days shy of being 5 months old.
I did some research. Other baby-led weaning moms said their babies were ready a month early and they ended up doing great. But I was still worried about his gut not being totally sealed up yet. I researched that too, recipes for bone broth came up. Apparently the natural gelatin in helps everything close up (even in adults with leaky guts). Plus the vitamins and minerals from the vegetables help replenish his stores (babies are born with a certain amount that they leached from mom that lasts them until they are to get them from food). It sounded like a good starting food. The only probably is it wasn’t vegan! I know I said that Jack will be raised eating both foods , but I didn’t exactly want his first food to be from an animal. But I knew it would be the best for him. And it wasn’t the end of the world, he might still end up a vegan. I got over the worry and decided to make some bone broth.
|My house smelled like turkey for days,
not appealing to a vegan.
That’s right, I said make my own. The “broth” they sell in stores is not the same thing. It’s made from meat scraps and has a lot of sodium added for flavor. Real broth is made from roasted and boiled bones. If I was going to start my son on food, I was gonna do it right. So I bought a roasted turkey breast from the store (I was not in the mood to roast my own and turkey was all that was left when I got off work). I picked the meat off and gave it to Michael. Then put the carcass in with celery, onion, carrots and garlic. I let it simmer overnight. I added a touch of salt, pepper, and a sprig of rosemary for flavor. I let it cool and drained it.
|Little man was very happy afterwards.
The large photo is him licking his lips.
I got my lunch ready and then put Jack in the highchair. He was so happy to be at the table for once and not next to it. I need to explain why this is the only thing I will spoon-feed Jack. Everything he will feed himself. The reason I am doing this is because I actually do want him to ingest some to seal up his gut. But I let him have all the control. He got to pick which spoon or to drink from the cup. He chose the Asian spoon. I let him open his mouth and lean forward to take it. He instantly started slurping. A lot of it went down his front, but he got some. He started hitting the tray asking for more. I gave him more and he took the spoon to lick up all he could. So I turned to my food, had a few bites then gave him another spoonful. I only poured maybe 3 tablespoon into the cup. He maybe had 1? It doesn’t matter with baby-led weaning. He had just nursed so he wasn’t hungry. It was just a little top off. He told me he was done when he turned his head away. But he wanted to play with the spoon so I let him while I finished my food. It was calm and happy. I had lunch with my son for the first time. So beautiful, proud momma moment. My husband had dinner with him that night and he loved it too.
|Definitely more on him than in him.|
We did only bone broth for 2 more days. Then I introduce the first real solid food: egg yolks. Again not vegan, but high in iron. Iron is the first mineral babies deplete. I hard-scrambled just the yolk. I let it cool and place it on his tray. We sat down for our first Sunday morning breakfast as a family. I put one piece of egg in his mouth just so he had a taste, he brought his hands up to hold it. He didn’t eat too much of the egg, mainly just played with it and licked his fingers. He got it everywhere, we even found some under his neck later on that afternoon. But it was still fun and I was proud he was learning.
|My wrap ended up covered in lentils. But he was so happy.|
That afternoon we went to Ikea to check-out this bed frame we are thinking about getting. We had lunch at the restaurant there and Jack wanted some too. I first offered him a piece of my tortilla wrap, he just held it. I offered him some lentil soup. He played with the spoon and ate a few (like seriously maybe 4 lentils in the end). He mostly made a mess. But it was still fun.
|He kept making faces but going back for more.|
The next day I gave him avocado slices for breakfast. I sliced them into strips. I left the skin on a few pieces and took it off on the others. The ones without were too slippery and he dropped them. He could pick up the ones with the skin, but couldn’t get his mouth around them. Then he did something amazing, he pulled off the skin and took that to his mouth. He licked off the bit of remaining flesh very easily. That is when I convinced I was doing the right thing. He was ready and this was the best way to introduce food to him. Even if he was all covered in green like a mini Hulk afterwards! We did bone broth for lunch and dinner again that day.
|He LOVED the cucumber.|
A few days later we stepped it up a notch. Cucumber stick, bell pepper stick, and some cold soba noodles. When I set the food, down he just stared. Then he realized I was eating the same thing and watched me for a minute. Then he slowly picked up the cucumber stick (I learned from the avocado and left the skin on and cut off most of the flesh) and he began to suck on it. He loved it! After a little while he reached for the bell pepper stick and sucked that too. He liked it, but not as much as the cucumber. He then threw both sticks on the floor, then he noticed the noodles. He grabbed the little pile with his hand took it to his mouth. Most fell in his lap, but a few made it in. His face lit up, this was his first experience with real flavor. He just sucked them and coughed a little. But overall was very happy.
Then came bananas. I cut off about an inch from the one I was going to put into my cereal. Then I cut it into quarters lengthwise and left the peel on for him to grab. He picked them up easily but instantly was not a fan. He kept making a major puss face. He did get one big bite in and spit it out very quickly. He played with them mostly, which is fine. We will try again another day. And if not, I won’t make him eat them if he doesn’t want to. He was much happier with the bone broth for lunch and dinner instead.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. As he continues to grow, we will try more and more things. And he will learn how to eat better and start telling me what he wants. I look forward to this journey with him!