I was actually a little nervous to start Stevie on solids. Partly because exclusive breastfeeding is just so easy and starting solids meant an additional layer of responsibility as a mother. It also meant I could no longer deny that my little baby was growing up. But I was mostly nervous to see how she’d take to baby-led weaning. I’m such an advocate of the method… I’ve written blog posts declaring my love, taught seminars about it, and even created an online guide to help other parents benefit from the wonders of a self-fed baby. My son, Jones, took to baby-led weaning so well and the benefits were numerous, not only for him, but as a whole family. He loved exploring foods hands-on and he’s turned into an incredibly adventurous eater with an impressively broad palate. I feel like I’m bragging but it’s the truth. He’s not even 3 yet and yesterday he asked for “leaves” with his eggs for breakfast. He ate the large plate of spinach I gave him that was covered in apple cider vinegar and nutritional yeast, then asked for a second helping. It was a proud mama moment and goes to prove that setting your baby up with healthy habits from the beginning can reduce pickiness in toddlers and positively impact your child’s relationship with food long-term. All that being said, I know all babies are different and I was eager to test my methods again and see if I could achieve a similar success the second time.
Jones didn’t meet all of the developmental signs of readiness until a little after his 6 month mark, so I waited a bit to introduce him to solid food. Stevie hit all readiness signs about a week before she turned 6 months, so I decided to offer her solids at 6 months. Sitting unassisted is one of the developmental signs of readiness I waited for and it also happens to determine when you can safely wear your baby in a back carry. Which is wonderful timing because another sign of readiness is showing an interest in food and reaching out for it. I still use the Ergobaby Adapt as much as I did when she was younger. It has grown with her seamlessly because it adjusts so easily and it continues to be especially indispensable during meal prep. Getting her on my back has been great because she’s no longer able to reach out for food while I’m cooking. I can also taste test as I go without her attempting to swipe food from my hand into her mouth. Having a happy baby and two free arms in the kitchen is priceless. She began crawling at 6 months as well, so I prefer to keep her close when I’m busy in the kitchen, ideally strapped to me. Otherwise she heads straight for the potted plants and helps herself to a mouthful and two fistfuls of dirt.
At first she was definitely just tasting & exploring and it took about 2 weeks until she actually started to really chew and ingest food. If a self-fed baby is given the chance to develop their skills with finger foods, they'll get the hang of it eventually and begin consuming just what they need.
Some parents are concerned with how much solid food their baby should be consuming and ask me how many tablespoons are ideal. The truth is, I don't recommend a certain amount and suggest letting your baby be the guide. So far I haven’t had to pump breast milk for Stevie, so to be honest I don't actually know ‘how much’ milk she drinks. I offer the breast and she stops drinking when she's satisfied, which is the same philosophy I follow with solid foods. I keep offering food until she starts showing signs of disinterest. Sometimes she'll eat a larger quantity, sometimes not much at all, but I never try and convince her to consume more than she's inclined too. Keeping in mind that sometimes babies don't eat much when they're distracted, so minimizing stimulation around them allows babies (and adults!) to focus on their food and remain in tune with their internal cues of fullness.
Between 6-7 months Jones was happy eating once a day, but Stevie started showing increased interest for food twice a day after about 3 weeks of starting solids. By this I mean she was always reaching for the food when I was eating and became especially vocal watching her brother eat when she wasn't. I always suggest starting slow with solids and definitely recommend against jumping into 3 meals a day right away.
A Great Start
Stevie doesn’t have any teeth but she can chew and swallow very well and she’s very good at manipulating food in her mouth. She hasn’t reacted to any foods yet, unlike Jones who showed an initial reaction to both salmon and egg whites. Stevie’s shown a preference for fermented foods, which doesn’t surprise me because both Jones and my husband love sour flavors too. We’ve had a great start with first foods and baby-led weaning!