Charlotte will always be my big girl. She will for the foreseeable future be bigger and stronger than her sister. Josephine, alternatively, has been the baby, my baby. She emerged into this world so small, so much smaller than Charlotte. It almost felt like she could never change, never get bigger. We spent so much of the past 6 months thinking about what she can’t do and what she will be able to do someday in the far, far future. Someday seemed infinitely far away.
And change has come, quickly as change does. She is an adorably chubby little thing, just like Charlotte at this age and has officially grown out of most of her 9 month clothing and some of her 12 month clothing. I went to buy her jammies and had to shop in the toddler section. Wait, what just happened? She suddenly and almost completely has left baby clothes behind. And now, not only clothing but food has entered to remind me that she is a growing, changing creature. Seeing her grab a strawberry and jut it towards her mouth with moderate success is nothing short of amazing. Her face registers so many emotions with her meals- joy, anticipation, frustration, elation. Her sister loves “assisting” her with apples, and chunks of pear to see what Jojo can actually get into her mouth.
With Charlotte, we followed “traditional weaning” giving completely pureed food, usually from pouches due to my working full time. This time around, I vowed to make my own. I possess a very fine book, “The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet” and was primed and ready to start purees when I was re-introduced to baby-led weaning. This method gives children whole foods they manipulate themselves or a loaded spoon that they direct to their mouths. There are many advantages to Baby-led weaning. It is less time consuming for the care giver, requiring no blending, simply chopping in spears that can be easily grabbed by little fists. There is also research that baby-led weaning helps prevent obesity later in life. And ultimately, it honors and respects the child’s desire to eat or not eat.
Our pediatrician recommends starting with carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and mixed vegetables. After 3 veggies have been established, start fruits one at a time, every five days. Meat is really fine anytime after six months, but most people don’t start until month 7 or 8. There is talk of raw fruits and a baby’s ability to break down the cellulose. It has a seemingly small link to diarrhea. We’ve had plenty of raw fruit and her poops are as babyish as ever. And my pediatrician (and this New Yorker article and many other sources) says avoiding eggs, peanuts or other known allergens until 12 months is a thing of the past. Research shows that waiting will not reduce your child’s chance of having a food allergy. Our pediatrician gave us the go ahead at 6 months. Of course, please contact your own pediatrician to discuss this before introducing any new food regimen.
So you feed your baby real, good clean food, chopped into large pieces. And that’s it. It may feel a little anti-climatic. No special baby food maker or baby BPA-free ice cube trays or food mill. No baby-specific supplies except for a cup, bowl, and spoon for self-feeding. We are working of a chart of new foods so we know she is getting exposed to as many fruits and veggies as possible, but of course, that chart is not necessary in the least.
And boy is she happy to eat. Her highchair is her new favorite place to be and if I place a few pieces of anything in front of her, she concentrates all of her being to grabbing and chewing the food in front of her with her gummy, no-tooth mouth. She does quite well as I’ve heard is typical without teeth. I mean, what good is one or two anyway? The gum line more or less does the same thing.
We do include some blended foods just so she can have the experience but we usually load the spoon and help her hold it and get it toward her mouth. Have I mentioned it’s a joy to watch? So my baby grows and changes every day. Some days she still seems so very small, as she should. And some days she already seems all grown up.
Want to read more on the topic? Here are some great baby-led weaning resources: