I received this question from a mom a few weeks back:
MOM: I am having SUCH trouble getting my 9 month old to eat solids. We do BLW but he just plays with the food about 95% of the time. He isn’t getting in what he should and as a result drinks A LOT more – especially at night.
RESPONSE: Let me first start out by stating that I am no expert at Baby Led Weaning (BLW), but I can focus on a few basic rules of thumb with regards to a solution.
First, it’s important to remember that baby will get full nutrition in the first year of life from breast milk or formula. So solids should never replace a feed (bottle), but should be an addition. If your baby is not eating as much solid food as other babies, it’s not something to be horribly concerned about. However…
Second, if you notice that your baby is increasing the amount of breast milk or formula, there a couple questions you can ask yourself to see if this is normal:
1) Is baby doing what’s known as “cluster-feeding” at night before a long sleep? As in, where baby used to waken to feed every 3 hours, now he’s is sleeping 10 hours so he’s making up for those missed feeds that he’s now sleeping through?
2) Has baby just been through a growth spurt and is making up for sleep and growth, therefore needing some extra nutrition?
If you suspect that neither of these is the culprit and that he’s still increasing the amount of liquid intake, it’s time to consider the feeding scheme you’re using.
Third, I know I sound like a broken record, but there are so many ways to introduce solids and not every way works for every baby. If you really wanted to use BLW but it’s not working for this particular baby, it may be time to modify a bit. I just met a mom the other day who used BLW for her first 2 babies, successfully, but was seeking a different method for her 3rd because, in her words, “This baby is just different. I can feel that it won’t work or be healthy for him.” I had so much respect and admiration for the confidence in this mom to listen to her gut and be willing to change her plan after getting to know her little guy.
Fourth, table manners…most parents probably think teaching table manners to a baby is either mean or impossible. But I strongly disagree. That being said, we would never yell at a baby for being messy, or discipline her for dropping food on the floor. But a general rule for setting up good future table manners is to allow baby to eat until she either spits the food at you, usually with a giggle and bit smile, or begins playing/tossing food on purpuse. At that point, we can smile back and say, “Okay, I see that you’re full now,” and calmly clean up the extra food. If she wants to stay in her chair (like when others are still eating at the table), just give her a small toy or bowl & spoon to feel like part of the conversation (this also instills that we stay and chat at the table until all are done). Usually 10 minutes is tops for calm play at the table, so don’t make her stay longer than can be expected. And never make mealtime a punishment.
My recommendation would be to consider offering a bit of homemade mashed food along with the chunky finger foods. See what your little one prefers. He may just pick up the mashed food and play with it as well; or he may love it. If it’s one thing I’ve found after raising 2 babies, it’s that what works for one often doesn’t work for the other (sorry). As parents we have to learn to “shoot from the hip” and if something doesn’t work, we better have a backup plan. If you were really gung-ho about BLW, it doesn’t mean that you failed, it just means that it may not be the right fit for this baby. Good news—it will most likely work brilliantly for the your next!