When people started arriving at our church Chili and Game Night, they jokingly asked if Will was going to get to have chili for his dinner. He was seven months old. We'd already been there for an hour, the baby was losing his mind with all the starvation--what with not having eaten for THREE ENTIRE HOURS--and so I had already fed him a bowl full of chili.
We had gift cards to Red Lobster and he ate scallops, clams, shrimp, crab, and lobster. Thrown in to that delicious mix was some baked potato, broccoli, rice, tomato, cheddar biscuit (because how could we deprive him a Red Lobster biscuit?), and the end of a peanut butter sandwich he'd left over from lunch.
He's had burritos, soups, eggs, pastas, all manner of fruits and vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, and even milk.
Before Will ever existed, I heard of Baby Led Weaning. Basically, BLW lets your child feed himself from the very start. When we feed our babies pureed baby food, they learn to swallow first and then to chew. When we feed them solid food from the start, they learn to chew first and then swallow. I started thinking about babies in countries where there isn't an entire aisle in the nearby Walmart dedicated to a zillion different blends of pureed foods. What do those babies eat? Probably whatever their parents are eating. I also started thinking about the grocery bill--and how much cheaper it would be without all those jars of blended turkey. All around, Baby Led Weaning seemed like a win/win situation.
I started feeding both my older boys solid food around 4 months. We began with rice cereal, added in oatmeal next, and then tried vegetables and fruits, one at a time, watching diligently for signs of allergy.
BLW says to wait until baby is 6-8 months old and can feed himself. (I keep saying himself because I have been blessed with only himselves. Not because I am a sexist. I'm sitting here wrestling with whether or not I should use gender inclusive language. But then people might be confused about whether or not I'm referring to Will as a herself.) I realized when Will was 4 months old that following the BLW wasn't exactly going to work for us because I wanted him to try things before he was big enough to do it himself. If we'd waited until Will could feed himself, he'd still be living on formula and breast milk and he'd have missed out on those two bites of lobster entirely. Just the other day, I considered it a HUGE victory when he took a giant piece of bell pepper in his fist, brought it to his mouth, and chomped down. Until then, he would squish everything in his chubby hands and/or throw it at the floor.
So I decided to use the ideas of BLW but craft a new way of feeding that worked for our family. I did not start with rice cereal. Honestly, with both of my older boys, I had nearly gagged just watching them eat that stuff. It smells disgusting and looks even worse. When Will was four months old, we started him on avocado and then bananas in a mesh pouch. It was a mess. He was my smallest baby and he wasn't really sitting on his own yet. He sat in our laps and smeared avocado everywhere. It was easier to just pop a bottle in his mouth and I got lazy.
A few weeks later, my brother, sister-in-law, and then fourteen month old niece, came to visit. We got the highchair seat out of its box so my niece could eat her meals. Will watched with a great deal of interest. When they left, we never put the seat away. We plopped my almost five month old in it and the rest is history. He'd seen his big cousin eat and he was not going to let her have all the fun.
I didn't start him with store bought baby food though. I gave him things like oatmeal and Greek yogurt--and I blended my own veggies and fruits, being sure to leave some small chunks. That went on for about a month. He ate a variety of different foods and I used my food processor to chop them up to a manageable consistency.
At Will's 6 month appointment, I was a little worried to tell the doctor that he ate dozens and dozens of different foods and that I didn't wait before introducing a new food. I figured that if he had an allergic reaction, I'd eliminate everything he'd eaten that day and reintroduce one food at a time. As it turns out, my doctor was very happy that Will was eating such a variety of foods and told us that we could feed him anything and everything except honey.
The things I had been told NOT to feed my babies when Garrett and Matthew were tiny. My pediatrician said that there was research that showed that introducing these foods before nine months actually decreased the rate of developing an allergy.
Will had peanut butter (diluted with water) that afternoon.
And in the two months since that appointment, we have fed him whatever we're having. We cut it smaller, of course. He has had store bought baby food because, let's face it, it's easier to throw into a diaper bag. But, mostly, he spits anything out at us if it doesn't have chunks. It's almost like he's thinking, "Whatever you just put in my mouth is for babies. Clearly, I am a big boy capable of eating anything. Now, bring me my steak and lobster." (Okay, he hasn't had steak. Although that is mostly because our money also doesn't buy steak.)
So far, there has been one food that hasn't been Will's favorite. Beets. And, really, who likes beets except for my oldest child? So I took the leftover beets and hid them in things like applesauce and he ate them up just fine.
If you want to follow this Bassham Baby Led Eating Thing it's like this in one easy step.
1. Introduce a wide variety of chunky foods--early.
Upside: A baby who will eat anything.
Downside: Your kid may develop a lobster taste on an imitation crab budget.