What I Know About Purees
Before I get into anything else, I want to formally define “weaning”. To wean means to “accustom an infant to food other than its mother’s milk.” Weaning is the transition period going from milk/formula to solids. Once your baby is used to eating foods (purees or otherwise), the weaning has ended, and your baby is just eating. It’s “finger foods”. The way you get to “finger foods” is either through purees (traditional weaning) or by just jumping in head first (BLW)… or a mixture of the two! But I’ll get to all that in a minute.
Here… more on purees: I never did purees with my baby, and by definition, baby led weaning doesn’t involve ANY purees. If you decide to mix purees and finger foods, that’s 100% your decision and it’s just as awesome as any other decision. I just don’t know much about it. If you started with purees and are now transitioning to finger foods, I can offer a teeny tiny bit of advice, but again, I don’t know much about it! Baby led weaning is basically finger foods, without the purees. Since you never put food in your baby’s mouth, it’s called “baby led”.
If you started with purees, you were putting food into your baby’s mouth, so that part wasn’t “baby led”. But you know what? No matter what you did or have done, I’m SO GLAD you are here and are looking for ideas! I think solids is exciting, and there are a few ways to get there. This blog is for moms starting out with BLW but also offers ideas for finger foods if you are to that point, too!
Since I’m not a pro with purees, I want to share the little bit of information I’ve gathered over the past several months. I hope it’s helpful. If not, please just contact me, and I’ll do my best to help you out. 🙂
First of all, when you start with purees, your baby learns to swallow food before needing to “chew” it since the food is already super soft. In fact, purees generally come in a few different rankings/levels, starting with SUPER soft and gradually progressing to finger foods and table foods. With BLW, baby learns to maneuver the food in his mouth before just swallowing it. It’s a significant difference, but in 3 months or so, it won’t really matter how you started!
Second, no matter how you start (straight-up BLW or purees), choking is a possibility. It’s not inevitable, but it’s possible. Gagging is inevitable! Maybe there are some superbabies who have it figured out very quickly and never gag. But gagging is normal and natural. We do it as adults. The difference is that a baby’s gag reflex is just a bit further to the front of his mouth, so he responds differently than we do as adults. Choking is a little scarier; that’s when the food passes that gag reflex and is not able to be retrieved by coughing. A baby can usually handle foods that pass that point by coughing/gagging. If the food can not be retrieved, that’s choking, and that’s when mama or daddy needs to step in and help out. You may want to take a CPR class, in which you’ll also learn the Heimlich maneuver.
Enough with the scary stuff! If you are transitioning from purees, here’s what you should know:
Your baby is used to just swallowing foods. He or she is used to consuming more food because you have been giving food to him (or her)! So if you switch over to strict BLW (meaning, you no longer put food in his/her mouth), he may get frustrated because he isn’t getting the same amount of solids! That is OKAY. There’s no real need to “top up” with purees after a meal (unless you just really want to). If he gets frustrated, try nursing (or bottle feeding) a little more before the meal. Before about 12 months old, solid foods are more for exploration than for nutrients (note: they DO get nutrients from food! But the primary source of nutrition is breastmilk/formula).
With BLW, you start with finger shapes of the foods you are eating. Since your baby is used to very soft foods, you may not want to jump straight to table foods. You need to create a transition period. From what I’ve read, that’s a month or two, depending on your baby. In other words, you may not want to offer firm foods right after you’ve been offering purees. What is suggested is to offer very soft finger-shaped foods (or even chunks), something that can be very easily squished in baby’s mouth. But you still don’t need to put the food in his mouth. Let him/her put the soft chunk in and figure things out!
Some ideas are ripe bananas, avocado chunks, baked sweet potato chunks, boiled carrots, and so on. I would not offer chicken or meats right away because those are not soft at all. One other difference between traditional and baby led weaning is that, with BLW, we don’t hold back. You can give eggs, peanut butter, chicken, pasta, and pretty much anything you can think of. I wrote this post a while back about allergies, so you might want to give it a whirl. It used to be thought that you should space out new foods by 3-4 days, but that’s outdated. You can offer whatever you want, whenever you want (after 6 months!). Again, read that post first!
So, to reiterate, I’m so glad you are here. And no matter how you’ve been feeding your baby, you are doing awesome. And I hope I give you some ideas for feeding your baby, whether you call it finger foods or baby led weaning! If you have questions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.