I waited longer this time around, which is closer to the AAP guidelines for solids foods (6 months) even though doctors tell you to go ahead at 4 months, conflicting anyone? When he started grabbing things and eating them, I figured that was his sign he was ready. With Kian I started around 5 months with some purees that I made from fruits and vegetables. Because i do lots of reading (read: obsessed with Internet) I had come across the child-led feeding/weaning school of thought. I was intrigued and incorporated both in my feeding of Kian. At one meal he'd have rice cereal with peaches and also be gnawing on a broccoli stalk. Kian was easy, wanted to eat anything and everything, nothing bothered him, not flavors, not textures, etc. So, it worked and by 9 months he was eating mostly along with us, purees left in the dust by then. Easy, peasy.
Things are a bit different with Karter as he has the milk allergy and the reflux still pops up from time to time. Yes, still. They say milk allergy can disappear at 6 mos, 1 year, 3 years or never. Well, he's about 6 months and guess what, I tested it again and still tons of spitting up, gurgly reflux that night and nasty diapers. We really aren't missing the dairy, except occasionally when I see someone with a steamy, gooey piece of pizza. Knowing his system was already sensitive, I held off on trying solids. Until that fateful night, holding them both on my lap, Kian's banana in my hand, in front of Karter's face. Chomp. He was in love. He went to town. Then a few nights later he grabbed my cracker and devoured it before I even noticed. All in the mouth, not fell on the floor like I thought. Okay, so he's ready for food, let's try this.
Let me interject on myself here and explain why I love this child-led feeding so much. For one, it's easier, on your time, energy, and wallet. No extra foods to buy, no special jars or toddler foods (that, my friends, is just a cash gimmick. No reason gerber needed to make "toddler foods" except for more moola, but that's another post.) whatever baby eats should already be in your home. No need to prepare anything extra on top of what you're already making for the rest of the family. I just take out a portion before adding any salt or spicy seasonings to the meal and it's "baby friendly".
Second, in working at daycares and in Early Intervention, there are a TON of kids who have texture issues, who have oral motor problems, etc. Why? one school of thought is that these pureed foods don't lend to learning how to chew properly (you just suck if off the spoon, like soup, no jaw movement involved). Also, giving a baby soft, mushy foods for months, then throwing adult-like food at them can be confusing and they will continue to prefer the soft textures and resist anything chunky, clumpy, crunchy, etc. And another thing, you don't sit there and push mashed, stinky peas in their mouth, spit it out, push it in, spit it out, over and over. You give the child the control over eating. Since breastmilk (or formula) should be their man nutrition for the first year, you don't need to worry about how many tablespoons of x,y,z they just ate. You read their cues on hunger. This also helps with diet and portion control later in life.
Okay, so, yeah. Baby-led. Let's also be honest, I don't have time to try to shove jar food in his mouth or make my own this time around as much as I would like, working and all. Superwoman, I am not. Besides, this boy, he loves his mama milk and is just all about tasting things for now. So, how does it work? Why did I decide this route? Because after the banana incident, I tried oatmeal. I tried it 1. because I fell prey to the old wives' tale that it would make him sleep better at night (didn't work for Kian either) and 2. I figured that was the next step I should take. Wrong. After several attempts at oatmeal and rice, with or without banana, he spit it out and refused. And I began noticing he was chewing. Chewing the oatmeal that really couldn't be chewed. I gave him a whole banana. He chewed and chomped and sucked and mashed and ate some, but mostly just tasted. Afterall, tasting is only one of the senses involved in eating. At a restaurant you want your food to look and smell good too, right? Then he tried a cocopop and loved it. Perfect baby food, by the way, rice, corn, melts in your mouth.
*Research shows that babies have a very sensitive gag-reflex. This means that if something too big comes in contact with the back of their throat they will gag it out. Not vomit it, not choke on it. It won't become stuck in their windpipe or esophagus because they gag it out before it even gets close. If it's small enough, it goes down nicely. This is why you can give them real foods and not worry about them choking, their built-in gag-reflex keeps it safe. (most of the time, granted you still have to be careful, you know, common sense!) Karter did gag out a piece of banana that was too big, then continued eating the rest of it.
Karter tries some food about once a day. Not even every day. We had rice for dinner, he tried some of that. He sucked on a plain piece of chicken. He had some carrots that were in our pot roast. He had some chunks of avocado and mango. At this point, the bigger the chunks, the better so he can grab and gnaw at it. Besides the obvious dairy, egg, nut, and tomato (too acidic) there's not much that's off limits. Think about it, in Japan they're eating fish, rice, sushi, etc. In third world countries where there is no such thing as jars of baby food, they eat warthog, native vegetables, whatever is it that the family eats. =) And, it works for us. It's less time consuming. It's less money on my grocery bill (well until he gets a big appetite like Kian and Kevin!) and it allows Karter to take the lead on what and how much he wants to eat and he gets real food from the get to, no transitioning over from pureed to chunky to table foods. And these days, I need easy!
*Many parents are used to the idea of giving babies puréed food and to some, giving such a young child finger food might sound dangerous. However, babies weaned using the baby-led method are actually less likely to choke on their food, as they are not capable of moving food from the front of the mouth to the back until they have learned to chew . In turn, they do not learn to chew until they have learned to grasp objects and place them in their mouth. Therefore the baby's general development keeps pace with her ability to manage food.
If a child gets a piece of food too far back in their mouth, they will generally promptly clear it themselves by gagging or coughing the piece out .
Food should not be placed in the baby's mouth for him or her. If the baby is unable to pick up and grasp the food, it is believed that the baby will also be unable to cope with chewing and swallowing it. It is also very important that the baby is sitting up straight and well supported during mealtimes and never left unattended while self-feeding.