Being a bit of a foodie, or at least a lover of food I was really keen for Zoe to love food too. Pretty much as soon as she was born I was googling weaning. I was totally clueless about when you were supposed to start introducing real food, I had images of pots of puree filling my freezer and shop bought pouches, as that is what I had seen friends and family do. However, lots of late night research led me to the phrase "baby-led" and I was intrigued. I had gone down the on demand breastfeeding route and this seemed like a natural extension of this.
For those unfamiliar what baby-led weaning is all about I strongly recommend starting with the Gill Rapley book. Yes, most of the information is available online, but there is something about reading it all together in a book that cements the knowledge, and it puts it all into easy to understand (for sleep deprived mums) terminology.
We waited until around 6 months, which was the advice I was given by my health visitor, the recommendations seem to change regularly but from my research I agreed that waiting was what was best for Zoe. The guidance said to wait until she could sit unaided, so at 24.5 weeks we took the leap and sat her in her highchair, offering her suitable bits of our meal. The first meal we shared was a Sunday roast. We offered her boiled carrot, broccoli, roast chicken, roast potato and yorkshire pudding. She played with it for quite a while before attempting to put it into her mouth but eventually she grabbed a bit of yorkshire pudding and we haven't looked back.
For the first few weeks we kept offering her bits of our meals, usually just one or two meals a day. The majority of it came straight back out or made her gag, but from reading the book I knew these were normal parts of the process, and she was simply learning through doing. At this point she was still getting all she needed from her milk, so I wasn't too worried about quantity of food being eaten. Although, from her nappies I knew she was eating something.
One thing that puts people off BLW is the choking hazard. I'm not going to say I never worried about choking, as its 100% normal (even with puree) to be scared. However, it is important to know the difference between choking and gagging. Gagging is normal, babies gag reflex is really far forward so in those first few weeks they gag a lot, despite the gagging Zoe would always go back for another go and didn't seem put off by it, so I took her lead. I did take a baby first aid course, and found this video from St Johns Ambulance really helpful in knowing what to do if she ever did choke.
By the time Zoe was 7 months she was on 3 meals a day, and clearly enjoying her food.
Now Zoe is in nursery two days a week and we get a lot of comments from her key worker about her love of food, and how she's not at all picky and will at least try everything she is offered. I thought I would share a list of first foods we gave Zoe when starting weaning to help anyone starting out;
Boiled carrot - cut into fingers, so she could hold it in her fist which a bit sticking out to chew. I boiled until soft, but not so soft that it would fall apart.
Roast sweet potato - Zoe goes wild for sweet potato, I roast large wedges or fries for her.
Porridge fingers - A great first breakfast finger food, if you don't want to offer too much bread at first. There is a recipe in the BLW cookbook but we followed this recipe we found online and it worked great.
Raw cucumber, carrot and pepper sticks - Zoe loved gumming on raw veggies, especially straight from the fridge. Not a lot got eaten in the early days but its good to give different flavours and textures early on, and Mango - One of Zoe's early favourites was mango, cut into fingers/slices with a bit of the skin left on to make it less slippy to hold on to. She would suck every scrap of flesh from the skin with great glee!
Melon - As above, Zoe inhales melon. It was a good early food as the skin provides a better grip.
I would definitely recommend baby-led weaning to anyone, however I would say, do what works for you. We did the occasional bit of spoon feeding with yoghurt or weetabix (because OMG mess!) but still followed her lead with it. Do what feels right for you and your baby and you can't go far wrong.