I basically figure out my parenting strategy as I go along, so before the age of 3 months or so, I didn’t think too much about feeding her anything other than breastmilk. I had registered for a baby food maker, but when I didn’t get it, figured a regular food processor would work just fine. I had never heard of Baby Led Weaning or thought too much about when we should start solids. Then, I started looking into the food issues as my friends introduced food and/or rice cereal at the pediatrician recommended 4 month mark. Surprisingly (well not really after researching it), most of them had bad luck with it. Stomach problems, pooping problems, screaming fits after eating were a few that I heard of around that time. So when my pediatrician suggested it as good source of “needed iron” at her 4 month well-visit without so much as a finger prick to see if she even needed iron, I quietly ignored the suggestion.
After doing more research, I’m so glad that I did. I was hesitant to give it to my child because it goes against all the rules of “good” food; it comes in a box, it’s white, it’s tasteless, it’s processed, it cannot be found in nature as presented. After reading more, I found that a lot of the negative side effects are a result of the fact that the not-quite-developed infant gut simply can’t handle grains. That’s grains, of any form; meaning those convenient little bagged baby foods, cheerios, goldfish, and baby cereal. None of this is to say that no one should ever feed their baby those products or else, this is simply an explanation of why I chose to wait until after 6 months to introduce anything other than breastmilk (when it’s more likely that the gut is closed) and to only feed my baby 100% unprocessed, found in nature foods until after her first birthday, or until her molars come in, or after both of those things happen. I have been tempted, several times, to buy and give her some of the products that will likely soon become staples in our house. But I’m trying train her little taste buds that natural food is what’s normal instead of something wrapped in cellophane that doesn’t expire for another two years. It’s a little more difficult to prepare her food and make sure we have a refrigerated bag for it if we’re going to be gone for more than a few hours, but being a parent causes all kinds of hassles, so that’s not really a huge deal. (Unless we’re already 5 minutes late and she doesn’t have a tiny tupperware already prepared!)
The Itty Bitty (now almost 10 months) eats a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, usually diced, because she prefers to feed herself, but sometimes pureed. We recently introduced cheese, eggs, and chicken, and so far, she’s loved everything! Her diapers have gotten more interesting as we go along, but thankfully, she’s never had any issues with constipation or bad reactions to anything we’ve given her. I don’t know for a fact that it’s because we delayed starting any kind of solid, or because she only eats unprocessed food, but I’m sure neither of those details hurt. She feeds herself 75% of the time, and as a result developed the pincer grasp very early and effectively. I like this because I’m lazy, but also because she knows when she is full, I do not. By feeding herself as much or as little as she wants, she’s learning that she does not have to clear her plate at every meal, but if she actually wants more, it can be provided. Hopefully later she’ll prefer fresh fruit sorbet over an ice cream sandwich out of a box, and not feel the need to eat every bite, and then I’ll know I did my job well.