I could answer this post very simply, in just a few sentences:
Q: Why did I switch to Baby Led Weaning (BLW or baby led feeding)?
A: I'm lazy
Q: How did I switch to BLW?
A: I stopped pureeing food and gave Kaitlin "whole" foods instead
Bing, bang, boom. Done.
But that's a little boring, don't you think? So, in true me fashion - here is the long winded, extra detailed version (with lots of pictures, obviously).
Back when Kaitlin was a wee four months old (which was, by the way, FOUR MONTHS AGO! ARGH!) we started the conversation of eating solids with our pediatrician. Since Kaitlin was a bit underweight she wanted to wait until Kaitlin was six months old to start. At the time I had heard of baby led weaning from this post by Aimee and asked her if she had a preference of which method I used. She didn't and said that we could talk about it more once Kaitlin turned six months. Then I pretty much let it leave my brain for the next six weeks. Once we were slowly approaching the six month mark I started thinking about it again.
I was all excited to start making my own baby food and purees. Like most moms I started with some soupy baby cereal and Kaitlin seemed to love it. After a week of bland cereal I busted out my brand, spankin new Baby Bullet (I'm a sucker for infomercials) and off I went pureeing and blending sweet potatoes and peas and apples. I dutifully waited three days before introducing new foods to make sure Kaitlin didn't have any allergic reactions and perfectly portioned out spoonfuls of mush onto her spoon. She seemed to love it all and I never had a problem getting her to eat any of it. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Pretty much from day one Kaitlin wanted to be in charge of feeding herself. She always grabbed the spoon as I brought it towards her mouth. A lot of kids do this, especially those that don't start until they are six months, and I think her teething had something to do with her constant need to chomp on the spoon, but I could see that she wanted to do more than be spoon fed some mush.
Over Christmas, when I was visiting my parents, my dad started giving her little pieces of food. At first I was really paranoid about her choking and about eating too many different/new foods in one day. My parents know that I'm a little Type A and seemed to take it in stride - nothing to worry about, Tracy. She will be fine. Kaitlin decided that she didn't like a small piece of toast but she chomped away on an orange slice. We tried again with a small piece of bread and she loved eating a half of a banana. She didn't really get a lot in her mouth but I could tell that she loved having control over her own food. By the time we made it to my in-laws for Christmas day she was having bits of turkey and asparagus at the dinner table with us. I was still feeding her purees but it was becoming more and more clear that she would love baby led weaning.
After we got back home and settled into our routine I decided that I was going to switch to BLW only for Kaitlin. No more purees and mushy cereal. So, on January 1st, 2013 we started giving her only "whole" solid foods. I read this book to prepare myself for what I should expect (lots of mess, not a lot being ingested, and more mess) and off we went. We started the new year with waffle sticks (regular waffles cut into finger size sticks) and boy did she love it. She was happy as a clam chomping, sucking and gumming away on those things. More than half of it ended up on the floor, a quarter ended up smooshed in her clothes, but that last 25% definitely made it in her mouth and down to her tummy. How do I know? You should have seen her diaper the next day! :)
Even though it has only been a couple of weeks (sixteen days and counting) I already know that BLW was the right decision for us. Kaitlin will try pretty much everything and has a blast grabbing, squishing, gumming, throwing and (sometimes) eating whatever I put in front of her. So far she has tried:
Chicken (roasted and poached)
Avocado on toast (one of her favorites!)
Cucumbers (she did NOT like those)
Chickpea Patties (recipe is here)
Spaghetti and Turkey meatballs
Mango (not a fan)
I'm sure there are a few more but my memory is failing me (as usual). As I said, she plays around with the food and she doesn't really ingest that much of it, but it is fascinating watching her do it. One of the purposes of BLW is for the baby to sit at the table and eat with the rest of the family. The baby will learn how and what to eat by watching the rest of her family. While I don't always eat the same thing as Kaitlin I always make it a point to sit down with her while she's eating (and it's a safety measure - there is a very small chance that she could actually choke on something but I want to be close by just in case). I noticed a remarkable difference in the amount that she eats/tries to eat when I am sitting at the table and eating the same foods as her. She loves to watch me and then copy what I am doing.
The other great thing about BLW is that it is inspiring me to eat and cook healthier. Babies can have pretty much whatever you're having (as long as you can squish it between your fingers to make sure it's soft enough) except for salt. It is encouraging me to make more meals from scratch (especially lunch since I have been majorly slacking since I stopped breast feeding) and use all natural, organic ingredients. It's still a work in progress but I am getting there.
BLW is nothing new. A lot of parents (especially those with more than two kids) and our own parents have done this for years, they just might not have known that it has a name. Eventually all babies are going to start eating solid foods, this just skips over the mushy part! It is messy (oh so very messy - invest in some good bibs and a splat mat) and dirty and fun. So very, very fun.
If you are interested in learning more about Baby Led Weaning (BLW or Baby Led Feeding) here are a couple of great resources:
Baby Led Weaning by Tracey Murkett and Gill Rapley (I highly suggest this book if you are nervous about or having questions regarding choking hazards, allergies and the over all "philosophy" of BLW. I read it in two nights and felt much better about proceeding with BLW)