My son was 4 months old when I started eating Paleo. I knew that I wanted to introduce solid foods to him at around 6-7 months or when he started showing signs of readiness. When he started grabbing at my plate and sticking my food in his mouth, I knew he was ready! I wanted to do baby led weaning with him…and I knew I wanted to do it the Paleo way (if there was one!).
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Simply put, baby led weaning means letting your baby feed themselves. You just put out the food for them to grab and they feed themselves. Baby led weaning, also, does away with puree foods. In essence, you give large chunks of food for the baby to gnaw on. No spoon is involved. No ice cube trays. No time spent making homemade pureed baby food. No money spent on expensive homemade baby food equipment. You give your baby what you are eating in pieces that they are able to pick up and eat. At around 6 months, most babies are ready for the small step into solid foods. By allowing them to control what they eat and HOW MUCH, you give them a jump start into appreciating and loving real food.
One of the negatives about spoon-feeding babies is that they do not control how much food is put into their bellies. Often they have issues with constipation, gas, and the feeling of being overfull. With baby-led weaning, the baby is allowed to suck and lick their food in large chunks. They control what they swallow. They are able to learn from the beginning how to properly chew their food. And just a forewarning, gagging is completely normal and you don’t need to freak out. I can’t even tell you how many times my son gagged on his food when he was learning how to chew and swallow. With spoon-feeding pureed baby food, the baby doesn’t learn how to chew their food from the start. You have to teach it to them much later in their toddlerhood, which can be very frustrating.
Why I Chose Baby-Led Weaning:
- I was very attracted to this concept because we were eating Paleo. We were eating whole foods, no canned or frozen dinners. I knew I didn’t want to give cereal as a first food because of all the information I had read on how terrible cereal was as a first food for a baby. Not only does it replace more healthy foods, but babies, also, can’t digest grains well. Plus, I wasn’t eating grains because of their negative affect on my body, so why would I give my child grains as a first food?
- It is a lazy (easy) way to feed your child! Seriously, baby-led weaning was so easy. The concept is to give your child what you are eating. And the best thing about this is that it forces you to eat healthy because your baby is going to be eating the same food!
- Going out to a restaurant became so simple. And with a 2 year old and a infant in tow, I needed easy. I didn’t have to pack a small cooler with pureed foods for my son. I fed him off my plate!
- Baby-led weaning saved me time. Instead of spending hours pureeing his food, freezing it, and then thawing it to serve, I spent that time making a healthy meal for the whole family. There were times that I would mash the food up for him, but he never let me spoon feed him.
- The top 2 allergies of infants/toddlers is…drum roll…dairy and gluten. Egg whites is, also, pretty high. So, I wanted to avoid these altogether.
When I started eating Paleo, it wasn’t very popular. There weren’t many cookbooks or blogs about it. And there, definitely, wasn’t any information on doing baby-led weaning AND Paleo. However, I found that my son was naturally drawn to the taste of real food. And even though you may choose to do baby-led weaning, you still want to choose their first foods very wisely.
My Recommendations for First Foods in Order:
I recommend you, slowly, introduce solid foods to your baby. Reason being, you need to watch for any allergies. So, give it a good 4 days after you give your baby a new food before introducing another food. In those 4 days, if your baby shows any sign of allergies or extreme fussiness, hold off on giving that food again.
- Pastured Egg Yolk and Bone Stock – this should be the first food you let your baby try. Most babies, if allergic to egg, are allergic to the egg white. Softly cook this for them, add a little sea salt, and let them play with it and lick it off their fingers. Give them a small bowl of bone stock and let them suck it off their fingers. It’s filled with vitamins and minerals for them!
- Avocado – I loved avocado for my kids because it required no cooking. I slice them long so little hands can grab and gnaw on them.
- Sweet Potato – easy on the tummy and very tasty! We added a little butter (watching carefully for any allergies) and cinnamon. I served it in large chunks so he could hold them in his tiny hands and chew on the pieces.
- Squash of all kinds – I made squash the same way as sweet potato. Roasting them bring out a delicious flavor. Season the squash well and let your baby play!
- Carrots – peel and roast in stalks. Give whole stalks to your baby and allow them to gnaw on them.
- Broccoli/Cauliflower – be careful of gas! Leave in large pieces for your baby to hold. Add salt and olive oil/or butter to make it tasty!
- All other vegetables – give your baby all other vegetables from your plate! Now it’s starting to get fun, right?
- Meats of all kinds and organ meats – we started with roasted chicken legs…giving them to our son whole so he could gnaw on the end. He LOVED and still loves chicken legs! We then moved onto beef, then pork, then fish.
- Banana/Papaya/Pears – easier on the tummy than other fruits and softer.
- All other fruits – I preferred to introduce fruits last because I wanted my kids to not prefer the taste of sweet fruits. I wanted them to eat all other foods before they tried fruits.
After you have introduced all these foods and there are no present allergies, your baby can have whatever you are cooking! Yes, it really is that easy. You should wait till your baby is a year old before introducing egg whites or honey since those are also known to cause allergies.
As you can see, baby-led weaning the Paleo way is…
- less time consuming
- extremely nutritious
- and allows your baby to have control
As parents there are a few things in life that we just can’t control much, and one of them is what your children choose to eat. You can force feed, which I don’t recommend, but the more fun mealtimes will be if you just let your baby/child guide you in what they will eat. By starting them early on healthy foods, you give them a love for the real, whole foods.