I have done baby led weaning from the start. The weaning park is kindof a joke because my daughter still nurses a lot. I call it baby led solids sometimes. My daughter has never had any pureed or mashed food. Sometimes I will prechew meat for her now that she has teeth and can bite it into chunks that she gags on.
The great thing about breastfeeding and also waiting to do solids till they are 6 months is that you don't have to worry so much about allergies unless there are allergies in the immediate family.
With my daughter since she was interested in our food we let her have some. She really got interested around 5 months but at this point she would just mouth the food, not really eat much. we let her suck on fruits mostly at first.
Then as her interest grew and she became more able to hold her own food in her hand we would give her food to suck on like a piece of meat or vegetable from our plate. She would suck all the juice out of a piece of meat and leave it white. I didn't do wheat right away just because I'm leery of wheat allergies but pretty much everything else she ate with us right off our plates.
A particular favorite for her is broccoli because she can hold the stem in her hand and devour all the florets. There is one food she doesn't do well with and that is eggs. She throws them up every time, so I stopped giving them to her. My sister said that my nephew did this and then was able to eat them later.
Many folks stress about the gagging thing. From my experience with my daughter I've learned to trust her. If something is too big to swallow she will usually gag a little and it will come right up. Her eyes water but she doesn't get scared. She just moves on, sometimes retrying with the same piece of food that bested her before.
I think that the big thing about this approach is trust. Trust that your child is not as dumb as our culture would have us believe. Trust that babies will not intentionally kill themselves. Trust that the learning process is sometimes a little ugly. Trust that your milk is enough for the first year and beyond. Trust that the food you are eating is good for your child too. Trust in your instincts that something is not working for your kid now so to maybe wait and try again later.
My husband and I eat on the floor off of one plate most meals. This has led to my daughter just openly participating in that ritual. We put newspaper down under us and just throw it all away at the end.
Another food she likes right now is shredded mozzarella. She also likes apple slices, pear, yogurt (which I feed her on a spoon while she has something in each hand to occupy her need to participate).
I trust that you will find a way that works for you and that it will evolve over time.
Some points of interest:
- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding's new edition lays this out as the way to offer solids to babies
- This is a developmentally appropriate approach since you offer solids only when a child can grasp it in their own hand and sit up on their own. At the same time they can grasp the food is when they are able to move the food with their tongue from the front of their mouth to their throat.
- Between 5 and 6 months of age is when the bacteria in their gut goes through a transformation in preparation for food other than breast milk. This is what makes it ok to give them multiple foods at a time at this stage. No need to try one food and wait a week.
- This is a breastfeeding centered approach. Cereals are offered to infants for two reasons as far as I can tell: formula fed babies are offered solids earlier because formula is expensive and not that much better for their gut than solid food. Cereals can be fortified with iron because babies who's umbilical cords are clamped before they stop pulsating are iron deficient around 6 months of age. My daughter's cord was clamped but I gave her meat as one of her first foods.
- Do not strap your kid in a seat when offering them solid foods. Maybe obvious but if you were choking would you want to be strapped in?
- Choking isn't bad. This may be really hard to get your head around but its true. Choking shows that the child is actually engaging with the food rather than being suffocated. As you build trust with your child you will become more confident in their ability to navigate food and clear their own airway. Key point: LOOK at their eyes. If they aren't scared they will be ok. If they are scared, help them clear the food.
- Its a myth that solids make babies sleep better at night. There are hormones in your breast milk at night similar to tryptophan (like in turkey) that makes your baby sleepy.
- Babies don't need anything other than breast milk for the first year. Some babies really want food early and eat a lot, some babies don't really want food. Both are totally normal and fine.
- This method offers an approach to food that is exploratory. This is in contrast to a culture of spooning pureed food into infants because they are supposed to eat.
- Because I used this method I am not freaked out about my child swallowing small things. She is two and I have been unconcerned for some time while others with much older children are constantly watching and worried that they will swallow small objects. I am confident that my daughter can prevent herself from choking to the point of blocking her airway.