Now, to be clear, “The Baby Who Ate Everything” is not a phrase that would ever be uttered about our granddaughter, Avila. She started off with babyfood reasonably well, and absolutely adored those pricey little pouches filled with smooth puréed organic fruits, veggies, and grains. But when the time came to expand beyond those adored pouches, she pretty much dug in her heels and made it clear she’d be perfectly happy going off to college still eating nothing but puréed food in pouches.
Oh, I exaggerate, of course. She did like the usual suspects of string cheese, chicken nuggets, organic hot dogs, and noodles (noo-noos) of most sorts. She gradually expanded to enjoy a few others and now at 4-3/4 years old actually eats a reasonable variety of food, although she still has a tendency to get distracted while eating and take an inordinately long time to finish her meal driving everyone around her crazy, but I digress.
When Henry was coming on around 4 months and the idea of introducing solids began to swirl around Jen’s head, she was introduced to the concept known as “Baby Led Weaning” and found it intriguing. The term is a bit misleading since in the states we think of “weaning” as the process of stopping breast/bottle but the term originated in the UK where weaning refers primarily to the inclusion of solid food not the exclusion of breastmilk or formula.
The idea with BLW (which I prefer to think of as “Baby Led Eating” thus bypassing that whole “weaning” issue) is that you skip the whole “baby food” (puréed foods) phase and simply start directly in with solid, real food. This means that usually you won’t start on solids at all until the baby is at least six months old, maybe even older. Baby needs to be able to sit up securely on their own and handle food — usually presented in strips or sticks at first, then little pieces as they develop their “pincer grip” and can pick up the little bits.
So, after considerable research, that’s what we did with Mr. Henry, and it’s worked great. Now at almost 14 months old, he eats almost anything, shoveling pieces of it into his mouth as fast as his little hands can get it there. (He’s not at all overweight, so clearly he’s actually “shoveling in” the right amount!) He is showing his carnivore tendencies, having a distinct preference for whatever meat/protein is on his tray (daintily picking it out, at times, from the other offerings) and now that he has more teeth, we actually usually offer the food in quite small (non-choking-size) morsels rather than the bigger strips or hunks since he can readily bite-off a much-too-big mouthful if given the chance. (When they’re younger, the large pieces or strips work fine because gumming is just too inefficient as a “cutting” mechanism.)
And Avila? She joins the Clean Plate Club (which, yes, of course, we all know now isn’t actually a healthy approach) more and more often and even occasionally without endlessly coaxing her to “take another bite.” For sleepovers a few times recently she’s even asked for somewhat “adventurous” dishes that she’d had here in the past, so there’s hope. But comparing the two approaches to getting the littles started on the road from milk to “real food,” I’d say the jury has resoundingly found in favor of the Baby Led Eating! (The only downside of this is that I’d already invested in some very cool “do-it-yourself” pouches for homemade babyfood before we knew we were going down this path. But I’m finding other things to use them for—like homemade toothpaste!—so they won’t go completely to waste!)