After four kids, I finally discovered a happy balance for a beautiful and easy baby-led weaning experience. Here’s how we do it!
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is the feeding method of offering your baby soft finger foods straight from the family table as they transition to solids. Can BLW include purees? When I was first introduced to BLW I would have said no. (Ahh, the eternal optimism of youth. Ha.)
But listen, friends – I’ve embraced pragmatism in my old age, and it’s a beautiful thing. I’m pretty firmly now in camp “do what works” (in many areas of my life!) and this has been absolutely wonderful as we’ve introduced solids to Everett, our fourth baby.
This has been our most peaceful and easy-going transition to solids out of all four of my kiddos, and it’s all thanks to a great balance between soft-cooked table food, and high-quality, 100% natural, simple purees like Beech-Nut® Naturals™.
For so long I felt like introducing solids was yet another thing to figure out when it comes to a real food diet. The baby-led weaning purists snub their noses at purees while the homemade baby food crowd spends hours cooking picture-perfect blends of nutrient-dense foods in smooth, tiny portions. Which method works? Which is the most authentically healthy for your adorable baby?
The beautiful freeing bottom line is this: both can be healthy, along with a range of options in between – including some beautiful and natural pre-made options like Beech-Nut Naturals that are inspired by homemade (but without the hours of work on your part!)
With four kids, homeschooling, a busy household, and a small business to run, my personal philosophy on introducing solids is this: I feed my baby real, whole foods in whatever form is most convenient for my busy life.
Over the years, I’ve hung out on both ends of the spectrum. I’ve spent hours in the kitchen making different purees and freezing in ice cube trays, I’ve tried exclusive baby-led feeding without using purees whatsoever. In the end, I’m realizing that somewhere in the middle is what truly works for our family.
Allow me to let you in on a little secret? Easy baby-led weaning is definitely my favorite approach to transitioning my babies to solids. Most of the time, it’s just easier. I prefer to exert as little energy as possible in the things that don’t matter so that I can pour myself into what counts, and baby-led weaning fits the bill most of the time (when compared to making homemade baby food purees). I love so many things about it.
But let’s talk about real life for a second.
Truth be told, our family values can get a little labour intensive sometimes. My homemade, whole foods friends know what I’m talking about – have you seen that internet meme that asks “why does cooking take like six hours and eating like three seconds and washing dishes like seven days and seven nights?”
Add in a baby who suddenly finds a newfound love for food (definitely my kid), and you’ve got even more work on your hands. Allowing your little darling to self-feed is a recipe for gigantic mess several times a day. Shirt bibs and washcloths are helpful but ultimately we’re still averaging two baths a day around here.
And strict BLW is not always convenient – like when you have a meal that’s not baby-friendly and you find yourself in the role of short order cook for your 10-month-old. Or when you’re out of the house and don’t have your usual set-up and it suddenly feels way complicated.
So what’s a busy mama to do to honour the family’s healthy food values and not go crazy? I love baby-led weaning for its simplicity and – brutal honesty here – total lack of laborious busywork. But sometimes, flexibility is key.
I happen to think there’s a pretty convincing case for the side benefits of baby-led weaning (autonomy, yay! exposure to textures, yay!)… but the real key to feeding your baby real, healthy food is to focus less on the preparation and more on the ingredients themselves.
Avoid additives and preservatives and fillers and sugar, of course. Focus on nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables, meat and eggs, and healthy fats. Sound familiar? (Yes, that’s basically how we eat too.)
In the months before they turn a year old my babies dive face-first into piles of chili, chunks of soft chicken, slices of juicy fresh fruit, chunks of avocado, scrambled eggs, steamed carrots with maple syrup, and baked potato swimming in butter. They do double time on bananas with half in each fist, and inhale peas and blueberries like a high-powered vacuum cleaner. They get epic smoothie mustaches and slurp back my homemade blended veggie soup like a boss.
Here’s the thing, though, that many baby-led weaning enthusiasts miss in their zeal: a real food diet happily embraces a wide variety of tastes, textures, and combinations, including pureed and blended food.
Y’all, it took me four babies to fully realize it, but hear me on this: easy baby-led weaning is not an either/or situation! It’s a both/and. This is SO FREEING. There are so many awesome benefits to a baby-led weaning approach, but in our house those benefits are only really felt when we take a non-dogmatic approach to the whole thing.
If I may point out: in your enthusiasm in offering soft, mashable solids (like steamed carrot spears or avocado chunks) , you’ll also notice that some of your table foods are pureed ones (like smoothies and blended soups). That’s just a natural way of eating – for adults! Some foods are soft and mushy and melt in your mouth (perfect for babies to gain experience with chewing!), while some are pureed and smooth (perfect for babies learning to swallow, and for getting more actual food down the hatch while they’re still figuring it all out!)
Everett’s first taste of something other than breastmilk was a spoonful of smoothie that he opened wide for, and thoroughly enjoyed.
And that, my friends, is how we approach the solid food transition in our household. We offer soft and mashable table foods for gradual experimentation starting after six months (we generally wait until the first tooth appears, and the pincer grasp has developed), and we use natural, real food blends and purees to help fill their tummies with all of the awesome nutrients they need as their nutritional requirements grow and change.
Essentially, we offer whatever table foods they can handle at each meal, and then add in some purees as desired. If we’re having something baby can’t safely try, we might grab a jar of blended veggies or fruit. This blended (pun intended) approach totally works for us. It gets healthy food into tummies and it helps keep my sanity (maybe?) intact.
I keep some natural puree blends on hand that I buy at a store because we’ve decided that baby-led weaning works best in our house if we use healthy pureed foods in combination with soft table foods, and DIY’ing them isn’t a high priority when I have excellent options available to me that are inspired by homemade, like Beech-Nut Naturals.
I love that Beech-Nut recognizes hard-working families who want to provide real food for their babies, and wants to make things just a little easier for them.
I’m 100% a believer that busy parents cooking homemade food (a lifestyle that – let’s face it – can be pretty time-intensive) for their families should take the healthy time-saving options when they can get them. This is true in so many areas of my life.
Jars of natural purees like Beech-Nut Naturals are real food for babies™, and they’ve come in super handy over the last few months as Everett dove headfirst into the world of solids.
A jar, a spoon, and a bib in the diaper bag have been essentials over the last few months, and I am infinitely grateful for a stress-free approach that embraces flexibility and real life. And, most of all, I’m grateful for the ability to feed my baby real food!
Disclosure: this is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Beech-Nut Naturals. The writing and opinions are 100% all mine. R&H partners solely with companies that align with the mission of R&H to promote natural health and wellness.