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Baby Starting Solid Foods

Adventures In Solid Food Feeding

By Amalah


I have to say thank you first, I love reading your take on all issues parental and have really appreciated your advice and your stories. I read all your breastfeeding advice when I was having all my own latching/is this tongue tie?/why the hell can’t I do this right issues, and found it helpful and reassuring in turns. Now, I have questions on the next step of feeding, and so I come to you….

I really want to be a big fan of baby-led weaning, and I think you’re a proponent of it. I’m a big fan of it in theory – it could all be so easy! Let him learn to feed himself early on! He’ll be more willing to try new foods! – but I’ve had trouble with it in practice. I jump a mile when my son (a week younger than your Ike) coughs, I feel like I can’t figure out which foods to try next, and I have trouble being as adventurous with it as the theory recommends because I don’t personally know anyone else who’s succeeded with it. My compromise right now has been that his morning oatmeal is spoon-fed, but I let him guide the spoon to his mouth himself. And if we try real solids a la BLW, it’s always at lunch, as we seemed to have more coughing if it’s at dinner. Sometimes we do purees at dinner in the same style as breakfast.

So, I ask: what advice would you have for someone trying the baby-led thing? (Also, if I made all of that up about your experience with baby-led feeding, please accept my apology for any time-wasting that may have occurred, and know that I am a fan.)

Many thanks,

Okay, so first I suppose I do need to clear the air with a “confession” of sorts…somewhere along the way I seem to have been labeled as a hardcore baby-led-weaning person. I am not. I DO absolutely encourage my babies to experiment with “real” table foods and always try to offer them something from my plate at meal times…but I also have a freezer full of homemade purees that I offer as well.  I’m not hardcore anything except I am very much in favor of FEEDING YOUR BABY.

I guess it’s my third-time baby stripes showing, but I just can’t get worked up over another freaking THING, you know? Why does it have to be all-or-nothing? Purees vs. BLW instead of a little from column A and a little from column B? Why do we have to demonize one thing or decry it as “bad” or “inferior” (much like the breast vs. bottle wars) in order to make ourselves feel better about the way we’re choosing to feed our children?

It’s all kind of eye-rolly to me. Hand your baby some fresh avocado slices or mash it up with a fork. It’s still an avocado, and I promise you that I have two perfectly healthy non-obese children who ate some food off a spoon and some with their hands and one grew up picky and one didn’t, but they were pretty much wired that way from birth. The picky one turned up his nose at table food (and most purees, too) at eight months old, the non-picky one was grabbing food off our plates himself before it was even offered. But hey, just this morning the picky one finally agreed to let me pour milk in his bowl of Cheerios and admitted that he actually really liked it. He still wouldn’t eat any of the blueberries that his little brothers were both chowing down on though. Let’s not get crazy, or anything.

Point is, you will never really be able to control what kind of eater you end up with, no matter what method you try. So relax! Go with whatever works and makes you and your baby happy. Feeding your baby solids should be FUN! For both of you. If one of you is super stressed out about it, or you’re worrying that you’re doing something “wrong”, I feel like that’s missing the point. Up until 12 months, solid food is all a bonus, nutritionally speaking. So unless you’re putting soda in the baby bottle and feeding him Doritos for breakfast, I am pretty sure you are not Failing at Solid Food Introduction 101.

(Most of that had absolutely NOTHING to do with your letter. I’m sorry. Just had to get that out of the way after reading Other Judgy Things On The Internet. I’ll get off my soapbox and get back on topic now.)

Ike sprouted a bunch of teeth at four months old, and by six months, when we were ready to really start kicking off the food thing, he had SEVEN teeth. Seven teeth that he did not have the FAINTEST idea what to do with. So if I offered him large pieces of food to gum on, or really any “real” food at all, he would accidentally take bites and start choking. Fail. And I’m actually REALLY calm about the choking vs. coughing/gagging thing. They’re not the same thing, and some coughing is usually inevitable and stops with practice. But I also know better than to take stupid risks with food — I had to perform the Heimlich on Noah when he was a toddler and it is no joke. Real choking — no coughing, no air sounds, other than a horrible gurgling — is indeed terrifying, and nothing to be overly cavalier about. So I guess it was kind of ironic — Ike’s teeth were actually a big hurdle for us when it came to food, because they tend to turn even “safe” foods into choking hazards.

So Ike gets purees AND table food. He’s now eating chunkier/thicker purees that are as close to real meals as I can dream up — split pea stew with carrots, farro with butternut squash and spinach, lentils with lamb and prunes, etc. Since making him thicker, stew-like baby food, I’ve noticed a lot less coughing/gagging on table foods, so perhaps try offering your son some more substantial purees as practice in the meantime? A little cooked meat and steamed fruit pulsed lightly in the food processor works. I also toss brown lentils, homemade veggie stock (sweet potato, leeks, asparagus, carrots, etc.) and grated apple in a slow cooker, then hit it with an immersion blender so it’s a combination of chunky and smooth. (Also DELICIOUS. I’ll eat that stuff myself, man.)

In the “real food” realm, he eats side dishes I make for family meals like whipped cauliflower, polenta, mashed sweet potatoes (the rest of us add salt at the table to keep it baby-friendly). He always gets some kind of finger food to practice with — soft fruits and veggies, pasta, tofu, scrambled egg yolks, etc. And then, depending on what we’re eating, I offer him stuff that might be a bit more challenging and then watch him (AND THOSE TEETH) carefully. Sometimes it’s just the crust off our pizza, a pickle wedge, some pulled chicken, whatever. But if he gets frustrated with those offerings, I have the purees/stews to fall back on.

Ezra was a grabby, enthusiastic eater and so I have a ton of great photos of him gnawing on barbecue ribs and corn on the cob. The kid would eat an entire head of broccoli in a week. (NOTE: Not anymore, dammit. The vegetable snobbery started in toddlerhood despite our best efforts. But he still loves peas and guacamole? At least?) He just seemed to figure out the chewing/gumming/biting thing really early on so I felt comfortable being super-adventurous with him, because he was a super-adventurous eater.

Ike is a bit more skeptical and seems to be going at a slightly slower pace, when it comes to the “real” food. And that’s okay. That’s the point of it all, right? To let the baby take the lead? If Ike doesn’t like something I offer him on a spoon, he turns his head away and keeps his mouth shut. So back in the freezer it goes for another time. Sometimes the assortment of cubed sweet potato and Cheerio-dusted avocado slices are met with enthusiasm, sometimes he’s just. Too. Hungry. to be bothered with his imprecise pincher grasp and wants me to spoon-feed him five straight ounces of zucchini and brown rice cereal. Sometimes the perfectly ripe, freshly-peeled whole apple I give him hits the floor (and gets promptly licked by the dog) after he’s barely managed to get one bite of it. Sometimes he just wants to bang the spoon on his tray for awhile. Eh.

It all balances out in the end. I’m having a blast feeding him a variety of organic, healthy, homemade foods — whole, pureed, and everything in between –and it seems like he’s enjoying himself too, and is chunking up nicely and getting more adventurous by the day. There may not be a handy/trendy label for the way I feed him, but it works for us.

So there. That’s my radical, earth-shattering advice: HAVE FUN. FEED YOUR BABY. WHATEVER WORKS IS PROBABLY WORKING.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • JenVegas

    February 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    My kid (14.5 months) has been eating real foods for a while now and he eats like a duck. Always has…just shovels food in his mouth as if he may never see another pea again ever. It’s sort of ridiculous and it means we’re having a hell of a time teaching him to use a spoon but it also means that occasionally he gives us that coughing/choking noise that scares the bejesus out of us. Luckily he also seems pretty adept at clearing his own throat and has, on occasion, just quietly horked up what he was trying to swallow. Sometimes he just takes it out of his mouth and puts in on his tray (or the floor, or my hand, or my lap if I’m not paying attention.) And sometimes he gives it some extra chew and swallows it down again. Like a duck, I’m telling you. Amy’s right. Have fun feeding your lil guy. Stay calm, keep you eyes open but have fun. He’ll tell you what he wants.

  • Jeannie

    February 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    My kids didn’t eat anything — at all, anything — in the way of solids until 10 months and 13 months (!!) respectively. I am very well acquainted with the coughing issue that scares the crap out of parents. My daughter wasn’t able to tolerate any solids at all — so for my two cents:

    1. Don’t worry about feeding your kid some times. Some kids — like mine — genuinely need to learn what to do with food. It for some reason does not come naturally to them. I have no idea why.

    2. If you’re getting a LOT of coughing / gagging, as I was, I’d just back off on solids for a bit. Give them some food to play with, let them play but don’t feed them at all. (as long as, of course, they are nursing / bottle feeding!) Despite what people say, your kid will not starve, and can easily subsist on breastmilk / formula for a year. (in fact, my doctor / pedi only started getting concerned when my one kid hit a year without being interested in solids; and when I researched, I found tons of stories of other kids who didn’t eat much until 18 months / 2 years.)

    3. Don’t over think it or stress about it — as Amy says, your kid will learn and will eat and won’t starve. I’m sure what you’re doing is just fine!

  • Eden

    February 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    I think the question kind of defeats the purpose of baby led weaning. I hear all this talk about “I do this and that and at breakfast and lunch”. I loved everything about baby-led weaning, MAINLY because it was ‘baby-led’. When he asked to eat, if it happened to be while I was eating, he could try it if he could reach for it, grab it, chew it up and swallow(babies can chew soft foods like pasta/cooked fruits/veggies very well without ANY teeth). It sounds like if it is causing you this much frustration its kind of defeating the purpose of this method being “laid back” (one of the best perks)

  • roo

    February 13, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Well, other than offering him licks of whatever I was eating that he looked interested in, I only started feeding my boy solids last week. He’s a big 5 months (we actually got the okay to start solids at the end of November, but I didn’t, because I was a little scared.)

    We asked for a food processor for Xmas. When I mentioned this to an acquaintance friend of mine, she told me about the baby-led thing. So I looked into it a bit.

    But it’s nice to read what Amalah wrote here, because that’s sort of what I was thinking, and it’s nice to get affirmation from a seasoned pro.

    We’ve just been doing one meal a day, so he and I can both ease into it. He’s tried bananas, mushed-up peaches, and sweet potatoes so far, and he seems to like them. I like letting him mush them around. But I’ve also given him a spoonful, so he could try it that way, and just gave him the spoon so he could try to mimic me if he wanted.

    The only thing he didn’t like was a teeny bit of grapefruit he really seemed to want to try. Well. No surprise there.

    I’m probably feeding him the wrong stuff. But it’s all healthy, and only processed by me, so…

    And we are having fun. Babies are awesome.

  • Jen

    February 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    I’m the same way as Amy. I generally did purees in the beginning only because my daughter would GOBBLE them up and she got much less food when we were doing finger foods and so she’d get frustrated. Now at 10 months old she’s at a more independent stage where she’d rather eat food off my plate or at least wants to feed herself and turns her head if she’s not in the mood to be spoonfed. So I usually give her one meal with a puree just so I know how much she’s eating, and another meal may be cut up asparagus, broccoli, and tofu or something where some will end up in her mouth, some down her shirt, and some on the floor. And breakfast is usually banana in a mesh feeder and cheerios in the exersaucer, while I veg on the couch (bad momma!). But the point is, it’s really whatever is working at the time, what I happen to have available, what mood my daughter is in at the moment, where we are (ex: at a restaurant where she just wants to eat off my plate), etc etc.

  • Katie

    February 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    This is a little off topic, but I’m usually happier and more sane with everything in moderation. I generally cloth diaper, but roadtrips, babysitters, and even long errands where I know a poop is “due”? There is totally a case of disposables in our closet at all times. I was willing to Ferberize at bedtime a lot sooner than I could handle it in the middle of the night. And I offered purees and finger foods pretty much simultaneously. I own and like a couple of slings…but also a couple of strollers. (I also supplemented with bottles, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). Really, I don’t think any way is best–and I know I’m a whole lot happier when I just do what works. Your daughter sounds like a great eater on the routine you’ve got going–I would’t mess with it 🙂

  • Lise

    February 14, 2012 at 1:40 am

    I found that my babies did very well with very small cubes of soft food. We started with things like bananas and cooked sweet potatoes and eventually just small cubes of whatever the rest of the family was eating. That way they couldn’t literally bite off more than they could chew, and it was so much work to get small bits into their mouths that they couldn’t overload their mouth and choke from sheer volume.

  • LBH

    February 14, 2012 at 10:19 am

    My son just turned a year old and has half a tooth. One half of a knobby little nub that sprouted up approximately 3 days before his first birthday. For that reason, I was super paranoid about giving him finger foods. That paranoia lasted about a week before he started walking to everyone’s plate and grabbing handfuls of food, including crackers, pizza you name it, to stuff down his gullet. Yes, I do have to watch him very closely, but he can gum the hell out of more things than I ever imagined. I have to keep it within reason–like no taffy or peanut brittle (ha!), but in general, we’ll let him try pretty much anything. I agree with the earlier posters about letting them “play” and experiment on their own.

  • Moira

    February 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Thank you for all of this – I have found it difficult to find a moderate approach to feeding Himself here, who has six full sharp razor-teeth and two razor-nubbins cutting through. The been-there-done-this stories are helpful.

    He played with some steamed carrot sticks happily at lunchtime today and even seemed to enjoy a couple of bites, beyond what he mushed between his fingers.

  • Kim

    February 15, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    So I went hardcore BLW with my youngest, much to my surprise. I had followed the whole SuperBaby Food schedule the first go-round, first these veggies and fruits, spinach at 9 mos., watermelon later, etc etc. pretty tightly. It worked out fine, until she was 2 and hit her pickypickypicky …phase. (It is just a phase, isn’t it?) I expected to do the same with my second. Only she had other ideas. Bigtime. She had oral issues from the beginning (we did OT in order for her to nurse) and she sucked on her fingers from 3 weeks on. With purees, she’d take a spoonful, stick her fingers in her mouth, and then swallow. It was gross – mucky hand, baby food all down her arm and everywhere – and she HATED it. So I googled BLW, handed her a piece of banana, and the kid gobbled it down with a huge grin on her face. As long as she could control what she put in her mouth, she was golden. If I tried – no way. So she ate very few of the bounteous purees I’d made for her (I just threw out some buried carrot cubes today) and ate nakies a lot.I made my oatmeal incredibly thick and stodgy (I like it that way anyway) and I strained yogurt into yogurt cheese.There’s a great British BLW forum you can google for ideas, but basically, if you can smash it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue, it’s safe to feed them. She would gag and occasionally she overstuffs her mouth, but other than that – no choking incidents. But then, her sister never had any, either. The Big also had more diaper sensitivities to food than the Little did, but who knows what that was about.
    So for me – BLW all the way, baby. My kid hated everything in the babyfood aisle, from the puffs to the teething biscuits, uh uh, no thank you. For you – whatever works for your kid and your comfort level. I did find that forum incredibly helpful in terms of real-life, real-time experience, FWIW. But your baby will be just fine, whatever you do.

  • Corinne

    February 16, 2012 at 1:40 am

    OMG, my baby boy who is 9.5 months old just had a terrifying actual choking incident on Sunday. I was letting nom on an apple slice (holding it in my hand). He has 8 teeth and just as I was thinking I should get a new slice, he bit off a piece with peel and immediately started choking (not coughing, the not making noise looking terrified face turning red choking). So scary. Luckily he was in my lap already so I just flipped him over and a couple whacks on the back and it was out (which was followed by crying and the immediate need to nurse). We are definitely all over the purees for a while now. I totally feel you on not knowing what’s okay and what’s not and feeling very stressed about offering table foods.

  • MommaFergie

    February 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Wow.. So I’m actually in the midst of this battle myself.  My daughter is a year old and has 1 1/2 teeth.  Horrible teether.  Anyways….  She absolutely hates every feeding. Fights the spoon, and turns her head last minute all the time.  The ONLY time she cooperates is when she’s at her sitters house.  She will eat for her no problem (she even took video to prove to me she was eating).. lol.  My little girl has learned that if she cries and waits me out she’ll get her bottle (her first true love).  I’m trying to be strong and not give in to the urge to just give her what she wants, but I also don’t want her to starve.  urgh… so exhausting.  She will eat pickles, some mashed potato and the puff thingies usually without a fight.  I guess she is just a picky eater.  We’ll get there eventually so I’m not going to stress over it too much.  Roll with the punches 🙂