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Welcome to Baby-Led Solids!


I decided early on that I would skip the puree stage of solid foods for my baby. It just made sense to me. I have a deep trust in the way God designed my body to nourish my baby, and in the way God designed my baby to learn to nourish herself.

As the 6-month mark drew nearer I, being the obsessive researcher I am, started looking for more information on how to introduce my baby (whom I shall refer to as "Buttercup") to the wide world of food. I found a , a few websites and one on "Baby-Led Weaning." Other than that: nada. I asked my pediatrician, I asked my local WIC office, I asked my La Leche group, I asked all of my mommy friends. Nothing. Although baby-led weaning is gaining in popularity in the rest of the english-speaking world (even being endorsed by UNICEF and the National Health System of Great Britain), there is not much information in America. So, my husband, who always has every faith in me (bless him) told me to start a blog.

This blog was created to hopefully be a resource for other parents who are looking for more information on a way to help their little ones discover food in a more natural way. I'm going to attempt to compile what information I have found, as well as to document our experiments with food introduction.

I want to mention that although the term "Baby-Led Weaning" is more popularly known, I will refer to it is "Baby-Led Solids." I have discovered that the mere use of the word "wean" makes people think that I am ceasing breastfeeding at the tender age of 6 months, which could not be farther from the truth. According to current research, babies up to age 1 should get the majority of their nutrition from breast milk, but this isn't a blog about breastfeeding...

Happy Eating!

BLS FAQs

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Why should I do Baby Led Solids/Baby Led Weaning?
There are many reasons why BLS is a wonderful route to choose. The one most often mentioned is that babies get to join in on family meals. Everyone eats at the same time! It is also a natural and enjoyable route. Babies develop appetite control, and a taste for nutritious food which leads to long term health. Babies who feed themselves gain confidence and learn to trust food. They can be more likely to try new foods because they know they won't be forced to eat. Research indicates that common childhood problems such as constipation and food pickiness can be averted by allowing your child to be more in control of their first food experiences (I'll have to let you know if this is true in a couple of years). Another plus to BLS: it's cheaper. Baby eats what the family is eating. What's not to love about that?



How do I know if my baby is ready?
Somewhere around the 6 month mark, your baby will begin demonstrating the following signs:

• She can sit up reasonably well
• She can grab toys and bring them to her mouth
• She chews things (watch out Mommy fingers!)
• She is intently interested in YOUR food (ex: Buttercup started crying one day while watching me eat)
• Her thrusting reflex is gone



Won't my baby choke?
Much of the literature published about baby led solids suggests that the associated choking risk is actually less than with the traditional method of spoon feeding. This is based on the premise that a baby is able to intentionally move food to the back of his throat only after he has developed the ability to chew it. The theory is that a baby who is controlling what goes into his mouth is less likely to choke than a spoon fed baby, who may suck food to the back of his throat before he is properly able to deal with it. This is why it is very important NOT to assist your baby when eating, should you choose to follow the baby led solids approach. If you help your little one to get pieces of food into his mouth that he could not have placed there by himself, then the risk of choking increases significantly.

Gagging sometimes accompanies solid foods (purees included). Gagging is a completely normal reflex designed to help babies move food they are unable to swallow to the front of their mouth. It isn't a sign of a problem, nor is it choking. Choking is accompanied by a terrified look on the child's face. I was unlucky enough to see this face once (when Buttercup had a really bad head cold and was choking on her own mucous). Your child looks at you with these eyes like, "MOMMY MOMMY! HELP ME!!!!" Gagging might produce some watery eyes, but the baby doesn't look alarmed, so you shouldn't be either. It goes without saying that you should never leave your baby unattended with food.

Bottom line: gagging = good, choking = bad If you're still scared take an infant CPR class at your local Red Cross



What about allergies?
By waiting until the 6 month mark, you are drastically reducing your child's possibility of allergic responses to foods. This is because starting around 6 months, a baby's gut starts producing a protein that acts as a protective coating, preventing allergens from being absorbed into the body. The American Academy of Pedatrics' latest research shows that delaying the introduction of certain foods does not decrease the incident of food allergies at all. With baby led solids whatever you are eating your baby can eat! Download this informative interview discussing the AAP's new recommendations.

There are certain situations where it might be wise to withhold usual allergy culprits such: as a family history of food allergies, if your baby has other allergies, or your baby has had a reaction to foods taken in via breastmilk. In these instances you might also try introducing foods one at a time, allowing 4 days between new foods to help identify potential problems.



Don't you need to start baby on cereal for the iron?
Cereals started as an important part of a child's diet back when the infant formula companies couldn't get an absorbable form of iron into the formula. They then fortified rice cereal with iron and introduced the rice cereal early into the diet as a way to make sure the kids got the iron. If you take away the iron in the cereals, it's just starch. And at least has recently showed that early introduction of rice cereal (prior to 4 months of age) is a risk factor for the development of diabetes. Also, did you know that only 10% of iron in baby cereal is even digestible? And 70% of iron in breast milk is digestible? True story. I am not anemic, my baby is not at risk for anemia, and I take a good prenatal vitamin with iron. If you're worried about it, talk to your pediatrician.

Here is an excellent
outlining the American Academy of Pediatrics's Committee on Nutrition's newest recommendation discouraging baby cereal as a baby's first solid food. Also, here is an discussing the baby cereal/iron myth.



Is my baby going to get enough to eat?
If you're breastfeeding then you're already giving your baby the perfect food. God created a woman's body to adapt to her baby's growing nutritional needs. It's really quite remarkable! Did you know your body will keep changing your breast milk to suit your baby until the age of 6?? But this isn't a blog about breastfeeding... Anyway, trust your body's design and rest easy knowing that your baby is getting all the nutrition she needs. Plus, babies are actually very good at deciding just how much food their bodies require! In fact, many experts believe that overriding that innate ability (by encouraging children to 'eat up' at the point where they begin to show signs of being full) may contribute to problems with weight gain in later life. Solids are a fun way to introduce your baby to different tastes and textures, and begin them on a path of food discovery that will lead her to a long and healthful life.



Isn't it messy?
Yes, but I've fed plenty of friends' babies purees, and that was a pretty messy experience, too. I'm a neatnik and my baby's mealtime messes doesn't bother me because I know they're part of the learning curve. Here are some things you can try to minimize mess during feedings:

• Strip baby down to diaper before beginning a meal
• Put a large bib on baby (I've been using the t-shirt kind, some people use the plastic fallout-catchy kind.
• Put a drop-cloth under the highchair (we use leftover laminate kitchen flooring)
• Expect a mess and don't freak out about it. This is supposed to be fun, ok?



Are purees really that bad?
No, they're not, especially if you're getting the ones without all the added preservatives, sugar, salt, etc. The problem many have when they go the puree route is that when a baby eats pureed food they swallow, not chew. Then when they are given food with more texture they can't handle it because they want to just swallow it. Another reason is that the baby is not in control. They can't decide how much to eat or how fast to eat it. This inhibits their ability to sense when to stop because they are full. Also, too many solids can interfere with milk intake- which means fewer nutrients. Also, think about this: what did they do before baby food was invented in the 1930's?



***DISCLAIMER*** I am not a medical professional or dietician. Consult a qualified physician/professional before embarking on any nutrition regime with your child (even if you intend to disregard their advice as I did).

BLS Dos & Don'ts

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1. DO offer your baby the chance to participate whenever anyone else in the family is eating. You can begin to do this as soon as he shows an interest in watching you, although he is unlikely to be ready to put food in his mouth until he is about six months old.

2. DO ensure that your baby is supported in an upright position while he is experimenting with food. In the early days you can sit him on your lap, facing the table. Once he is beginning to show skill at picking food up he will almost certainly be mature enough to sit, with minimal support, in a high chair.

3. DO start by offering foods that are baby-fist-sized, preferably french-fry-shaped (i.e., with a 'handle'). As far as possible, and provided they are suitable, offer him the same foods that you are eating, so that he feels part of what is going on.

4. DO offer a variety of foods. There is no need to limit your baby's experience with food any more than you do with toys.

5. DON'T hurry your baby. Allow him to direct the pace of what he is doing. In particular, don't be tempted to 'help' him by putting things in his mouth for him.

6. DON'T expect your baby to eat any food on the first few occasions. Once he has discovered that these new toys taste nice, he will begin to chew and, later, to swallow.

7. DON'T expect a young baby to eat all of each piece of food at first - remember that he won't yet have developed the ability to get at food which is inside his fist.

8. DO try rejected foods again later - babies often change their minds and later accept foods they originally turned down.

9. DON'T leave your baby on his own with food.

10. DON'T offer foods which present an obvious danger, such as peanuts.

11. DON'T offer 'fast' foods, ready meals or foods that have added salt or sugar.

12. DO offer water from a cup but don't worry if your baby shows no interest in it. A breastfed baby, in particular, is likely to continue for some time to get all the drinks he needs from the breast.

13. DO be prepared for the mess! A clean plastic sheet on the floor under the high chair will protect your carpet and make clearing up easier. It will also enable you to give back foods that have been dropped, so that less is wasted. (You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your baby learns to eat with very little mess!)

14. DO continue to allow your baby to breastfeed whenever he wants, for as long as he wants. Expect his feeding pattern to change as he starts to eat more solid foods.

15. If you have a family history of food intolerance, allergy or digestive problems, DO discuss this method of weaning with your health advisers before embarking on it.

16. Finally, DO enjoy watching your baby learn about food - and develop his skills with his hands and mouth in the process!





© Gill Rapley, 2008 Guidelines for implementing a baby-led approach to the introduction of solid foods http://www.rapleyweaning.com

Lessons Learned

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Lessons List

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1.)
• Buttercup has started nursing TONS more. She was nursing about 5 times a day (sometimes with an extra one thrown in there). Once we started introducing solids she started nursing 8-9 times a day. She never nursed this frequently even as a newborn! Apparently this is a normal phenomenon. I've heard similar reports from other moms introducing solid foods (both by BLS, and with purees). It makes me wonder if maybe breastmilk is needed to help a baby's system digest new foods? Or, maybe because this is such a big step in her development she needs the reassurance of nursing more frequently? No idea. Just speculation.

• We've settled into a kind of routine where Buttercup's messiest meal is at dinnertime, right before I toss her in the tub for a scrub down. Very convenient. But, I have noticed my little chipmunk can manage to horde little scraps of food in her mouth for quite some time! I have to be diligent to ensure all food is down the hatch before laying her on her back for her bath.

• POOPIES! Who knew inspecting the contents of a diaper could be so intriguing? I have definitely noticed that Buttercup's poops are changing: she is pooping less frequently and the consistency has changed. I notice virtually unchanged bits of food in her diapers (sweet potato chunks, pear skins, even what looked like toast crumbs - how is that even possible?), but overall her poo is thicker, pastier and stickier. Mmmmm! All these changes are perfectly normal and not a sign of constipation. I'm trying to be religious about giving her water with every solid meal, just in case, but I haven't noticed Buttercup straining or acting like her tummy hurts so that is reassuring.


2.)
Today marks one whole month since we started baby-led solids, and I continue to learn new things when introducing my baby to new foods. Here are a few:

• Buttercup does not like her food cold (ie: fridge temperature). I have to let it get nearer to room temperature otherwise she makes weird faces

• Buttercup's food attention span is noticeably longer when others are eating with her. Dinner is her best meal because Hubby and I are both there. Interesting!

• I have started keeping a container in the fridge where I store little pieces of baby-sized finger foods during the course of the day. For example, if I'm making myself something that would be appropriate for Buttercup, I'll set a little bit aside for her. Also, if I cut up some food for her meal and she doesn't eat it all I stick the untouched pieces in her container (anything that has gotten baby saliva on it gets discarded because the digestive enzymes in it break down the food and cause bacterial growth). When it's mealtime I just grab her container from the fridge and there are several ready made options in there for her. This is particularly helpful since Buttercup now eats more than one thing at a meal. I do make sure nothing stays in the container for more than a couple of days, and wash the container frequently.

I have more to say, but I'll save it for another day. Until then - Happy Eating!


3.)
It's time to ruminate on the things we've learned about baby led solids in the past couple of weeks:

• Meal times have proven to be a great opportunity for us to start learning/implementing our baby sign language and table manners. If Buttercup needs help reaching a food or wants more I sign and say "please" before handing it to her. This way she has an association between "please" and getting what she wants. Hubby and I also use "thank you", "more", "all done", "water" and "clean up" at the dinner table. Eventually she can learn her food names, too. She has yet to sign anything back to us (although I am convinced she has signed "all done" to me before...Hubby thinks I'm cracked...), but we are paving the way.

• Ever since we began introducing solid foods to Buttercup we noticed that she would drop food from her highchair. After much deliberation and observation we have concluded that she isn't doing it to be purposely annoying. We think that tossing food is Buttercup's only way of discarding food she doesn't want to hold on to any longer. She lacks the motor skills to place items back on the tray in order to pick something else up. Her only option is to drop it. Also, we have noticed that this is one of Buttercup's "all done" cues. When she's lost interest in eating she will start playing with the food instead of eating it (smearing it around her tray and dropping it off the sides). This seems like a good time to mention that I never give her all of her food at once. I usually only give her a couple of slices at a time. If she wants more she will look intently at the remaining food on her plate. If she's all done she will smear her food and throw it around. At some point we will discipline her for this, but we're pretty sure she's not doing it on purpose...yet.

• I've seen some discussions on forums about what to do with WIC baby food. We are on WIC and receive about a million (I counted) jars of baby food a month, but we obviously don't want to use them. Well, I found a local women's shelter to donate them to. They were extremely appreciative for the donation and it's great to be able to help other mothers in need. Problem solved!


4.)
As your child is growing in self-feeding confidence, you might be tempted to feel more freedom to walk away and let your baby feed himself unsupervised. But, remember to maintain a watchful eye throughout mealtimes. No baby (BLS or puree-fed) should be left on his own while food is within arms-reach, just like you still wouldn't leave your baby alone in the bathtub.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program of "Lessons Learned with Buttercup":

We always offer Buttercup more than one food per meal now. There are several things we've learned about this:

• It definitely works better to give her only a few things at a time, starting with savory and ending with sweet. For example, if I give Buttercup a banana first then she has no interest in the yummy vegetables on her tray. Limiting the number of different items on her tray keeps her a tad more focused on the task at hand (and mouth).

• We've noticed Buttercup is definitely now able to self-regulate how much food she has in her mouth at any one time. When she was six months old, she'd get too much in her mouth and then have to spit some out. In her seventh month she's learned not to put more food in her mouth if she has a full mouth already. Also, if she does get a huge gob of food in her mouth she is able to chew and chew and chew and work it down without incident. We no longer get slightly nervous when we see her "bite off more than she can chew." We just laugh and point. So, remember when your little one is going to town on a huge piece of food not to intervene - he'll figure it out on his own!

• Occasionally, Buttercup will get a piece of something hard stuck in her mouth (like a tiny angular piece of apple) and she will protest until she either gets it down herself or we help her. We notice she does the same thing for peels.


5.)
Strikes: the second-most frustrating things for mothers (next to sleep issues). They leave you feeling so helpless and bewildered. I mean, what do you do when your child just won't eat? There are three kinds of strikes related to the introduction of solid foods that I want to talk about.

• Nursing strikes: Nursing strikes often happen before the introduction of solid food. While they are perplexing to say the least, they become even more confusing when you throw solids into the mix. You think, "Am I giving too many solids? Do I cut back on solids to make her want to nurse more? Do I give her more solids to make sure she doesn't starve to death?" Buttercup went through one of these phases two weeks ago. Fortunately for us, we have an extensive network of "been-there-done-that" moms we can use as a resource. Between asking around and reading every forum in the universe I came to this conclusion: you should not offer extra solids. This could lead to premature weaning, and I am definitely not okay with Buttercup weaning before one year. What we did do was to identify which nursing sessions were the least successful for us, then tweak our solid meals accordingly. For example, Buttercup suddenly refused to nurse before her morning nap, so I stopped offering her morning breakfast cereal. After a few days she started nursing again. Ultimately, I think we'll never know why babies go on nursing strikes, but with perseverance they usually come around within a few days.

• Food strikes: In all my talking to other moms about introducing solid foods (purees or BLS), it seems like just about every baby goes through a phase about a month after successfully starting solids where they just don't want anything but their milk. For us it happened exactly at 7 months. After packing away the meals, Buttercup suddenly started only eating a bite or two before playing with the food. Prior to age one babies aren't depending on solids for nutrition anyway. So, just relax, follow baby's cues and keep making healthy food available without pressure to eat it.

• Specific food item strikes: Apparently, it's really common for babies to suddenly start rejecting some foods that they previously liked. Who will ever know what's going on in those little noggins? Don't despair, though. Just because your little one turns up his nose at carrots (or in our case avocado) one day doesn't mean that he'll never eat them again. Offer the rejected food periodically and don't force the issue. By letting your baby maintain control over what goes in his mouth you are making him more likely to enjoy different foods, even ones he's previously rejected.


6.)
Throwing food from the high chair is a common parental complaint. It is something all babies do, it's just that baby-led solids babies start a little earlier. Here are some things we have done to cut down on the delightful dropsy game:

• Only offer a little bit of food at a time. We usually offer a small heap at the beginning of the meal, then only offer one or two things at a time after that's gone.

• Watch for "done" cues. Some of Buttercup's are: peering over the side of the high chair, spitting food out of her mouth, banging her hands on the tray, squishing handfuls of food, and picking up food and dropping it overboard. Watch your baby's cues in the same way you do when you're breastfeeding.

• Don't leave your baby in the highchair too long. I heard one mom on a parenting forum complaining that her baby threw a lot of food on the floor. It turns out she was leaving her baby in the highchair for over an hour! Babies have tiny little attention spans. Buttercup's meals usually last 15 minutes at this stage. Either she's going to eat in 15 minutes or she's not. Leaving her there longer is only going to make her bored.

• Use sign language so that your baby can "tell" you when she's finished eating. It was a proud day when Buttercup signed "all done" two weeks ago. My little genius! So, it's been a few weeks since starting solid foods. I think it's time to take a moment and reflect on all we've learned so far about baby led solids. Cue the music!


7.)
It's been awhile since I posted a "Lessons Learned." I continue to learn new things about the baby-led solids method while introducing our baby to solid foods:

• Of all the objections I've heard to baby-led solids this one is the most ridiculous: "if you don't feed your baby with a spoon he/she won't ever learn how to eat with utensils." I'm not making this up! I've actually heard this on several occasions and from multiple sources. I fail to see any kind of logic with this argument. First of all, do these people seriously think that their sixteen year olds are going to still be picking up little cut up carrots and apples with their fingers? Kids learn by observation. I guarantee you that your baby is watching the big people at the table use forks and spoons, and cataloging that information away. They will learn how to use utensils. In the meantime, if it is something you want to work on with your baby try offering pre-loaded spoons of food. I'm quite happy for Buttercup to keep using her fingers. It's easier for everyone involved. I'm also not in any rush for my little baby to grow up.

• Drumroll please...Buttercup has teeth! She waited until 10 months to sprout her first two little teeth, but she's got them. Now, maybe some of you other parents out there are a bit quicker on the uptake than I am. I didn't make the connection that spicy food would hurt little raw gums. I have since learned my lesson (thanks to a little incident involving fajitas and a screaming Buttercup).


• I've found that a good way to refresh Buttercup's interest in her meal is to rake all of the food on her tray into a little pile. For some reason it seems easier for her to see and pick up food if it's all in one place, rather than scattered around her tray. This trick seems to work especially well for foods like rice, quinoa, corn, or other smallish foods.

Videos

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Helpful Info

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Confident BLS

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When I talk to people about introducing babies to solid food, I'm keenly aware that most have not heard of the concept of baby-led solids. Baby-led solids is a commonsense method of introducing solid foods to babies without pureeing, mashing, grinding, spooning, or making humiliating airplane noises. Simply wait until your baby is 6 months old and hand him appropriately shaped foods, letting him feed himself! Tons of new research proves the benefits of this amazing method, and one advantage is that it encourages your baby to become a confident eater. But what about mom's confidence when faced with skeptics?

Everyone who's ever known the joy of handing a slice of pear to a 6 month old and watching him pummel it into his eager face has also dealt with these skeptics. They can come in the form of your sister, who has six kids and clearly knows all there is to know about child rearing, or the random stranger who has an overwhelming urge to contribute his two cents to your child's upbringing. If you're ever in a position where you are tempted to question the sanity of baby-led solids here is an insanely logical argument to bring you back to firm footing: babies naturally put things in their mouths. That's right! Nature intended babies to eat "real" food from the age of 6 months onward, which is why they desperately want to chew on anything within reach, especially if it smells like food.

As anyone who has ever been within a fifty foot radius of a 6-month old knows, everything goes in the mouth. Babies don't know they're "not supposed to put things in their mouths." That's the great thing about giving them real food - they automatically put it in their mouths. They don't worry about whether they're getting enough iron, or if they're going to choke. I'm not saying to disregard reasonable care in these things (see FAQs section). Babies come with all sorts of nifty safety features: they have hands that are incapable of picking up most choking hazards and they have gag reflexes, to name a few. I am suggesting you remember that babies are hardwired to do things that benefit them. Just as "demand-fed" babies are rarely undernourished, self-feeding babies can automatically balance their diet if given a healthy selection of food to choose from.

Imagine all of those moms out there who spend all of baby's playtime preventing things from going in the mouth, then spend all of mealtime repeatedly shoving a spoon into said mouth...Why fight nature? Let them chew broccoli!

Why Love BLS?

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10) it's fun for everyone when baby eats with the rest of the family

9) there are no baby food jars taking up valuable real estate in your kitchen cupboards

8) it's portable - you can go anywhere without having to worry what baby is going to eat

7) it makes for adorable baby photos

6) it requires no 'fighting' with baby at mealtimes, no making airplane noises or silly faces

5) it helps develop baby's motor skills (hand-eye coordination, pincer grasp, holding, dropping)

4) it's super easy

3) you know baby is always getting fresh, healthy food

2) it saves time and money (the cost of baby food has gone up 21% since 2007!)

...drumroll please...

1) babies become confident and adventurous eaters, not picky eaters! see this wonderful article from the BBC on why starting your baby on table food at 6 months is best

BLS Poem

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I can't give due credit for this poem, as I haven't been able to find the origins of it. But, it's helpful

Up till one it's just for fun!
From one till two, they'll copy you.
From two till three, just let them be.
From three till four, worry no more.
From four till five, just watch them thrive.


I've also been wondering about this info for awhile: When your baby is 0-6 months - breast milk = 100% of their needs and calories When your baby is 6-8 months - breast milk = 95% of their needs and calories When your baby is 9-11 months - breast milk = 93% of their needs and calories When your baby is 12-24 months - breast milk = 66% of their needs and calories

This means that at 6-8 months your baby only needs an extra 200 cals (equivalent to a piece of bread and butter) and at 9-11 months only another 300 calories, 12-24 months it is 550 calories.

Washing Produce

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So, I know I've talked about Fit Fruit & Vegetable Wash somewhat regularly. I have used the product to wash the outside of all Buttercup's produce. Buying organic would be my first choice, but as that's not in the budget for now I wash with Fit. With baby-led solids it's important to wash the outside of produce, since babies will be putting pieces of food (peels and all) into their mouths. A 2008 study showed a definite link between pesticide consumption in children and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Tragically, retailers in my area have stopped carrying Fit or any type of produce wash. Apparently there is little demand for health products in my town. But, being the resourceful DIY-er I am, I decided to make my own. Here is the recipe I used:

• 1c vinegar
• 2 Tbsp baking soda
• 2 Tbsp lemon juice
• 1 c water

Mix the first three ingredients together in a large bowl (there will be significant foaming as a result of the chemical reaction among the components). Mix well. Add water. Put in a spray bottle. There's a part of me that would prefer to be using a store-bought variety of produce wash, since this is my baby's health we're talking about. However, I do feel very self-satisfied whenever I make something myself and "stick it to the man."

Bottom line: clean your produce. Your child's brain will thank you for it.

A Poll About Choking

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Despite evidence to the contrary, many people object to baby led solids because they think it carries with it an elevated risk of choking. But, a baby who is controlling what goes into his mouth is actually less likely to choke than a spoon fed baby, who may suck food to the back of his throat before he is properly able to deal with it.

Just out of curiosity (and to spark conversation), what has your experience with baby led solids been like? Experts currently advise parents to expect at least one choking episode in the course of their child's infancy, regardless of the feeding method used. Have you had any scary mealtimes?

Just by way of review:


Gagging - a completely normal reflex designed to help babies move food they are unable to swallow to the front of their mouth. It isn't a sign of a problem, nor is it choking. 

Choking - accompanied by a terrified look on the child's face, and he will start turning blue. Gagging might produce some watery eyes, but the baby doesn't look alarmed, so you shouldn't be either.

How many times has your BLS baby choked or gagged?

Quinoa

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Quinoa: one of the most nutritious foods your baby can eat...and not available in jarred baby food! Quinoa is a complete protein and rich in essential nutrients. It's also highly tasty! I recently gave some quinoa to Buttercup to sample with her dinner. She ate it in the same manner in which she would eat rice or cous cous. So, not really anything new to report. But, seriously, buy some quinoa for your family. You'll thank me.

PROS: superfood!
CONS: none

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Quinoa

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Quinoa: one of the most nutritious foods your baby can eat...and not available in jarred baby food! Quinoa is a complete protein and rich in essential nutrients. It's also highly tasty! I recently gave some quinoa to Buttercup to sample with her dinner. She ate it in the same manner in which she would eat rice or cous cous. So, not really anything new to report. But, seriously, buy some quinoa for your family. You'll thank me.

PROS: superfood!
CONS: none

Apricot (Take 2 & Craisins)

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Another new food Buttercup sampled during Christmas was dried fruit. Snack time rolled around and we were still at Grandma's house, so Buttercup couldn't have her customary afternoon kefir/fruit smoothie. I foraged around and found some dried apricots and craisins that I thought she might like. I quartered the dried apricots to make them more manageable for her, then I put the apricots and craisins in a cup and gave them to her. Of course Buttercup immediately dumped them onto the floor, since she doesn't really understand the concept of eating out of a cup yet. I was happy to let her eat them off the floor, though.

I want to point out that babies on the move (both baby led solids-fed and puree-fed babies) tend to choke more frequently. That is because they find things on the floor while they're playing. A baby who is in a highchair is concentrating more on what's in her mouth than a baby crawling around on the floor. So, if you're going to give your baby food while she sits on the floor - like we did on Christmas - keep a good eye on her.

I found dried apricots and craisins to be good alternatives to raisins, which Buttercup eats somewhat regularly. For more information on how we introduced raisins, check here and here. Also, get the Oceanspray dried fruit, because the Sunsweet ones have high fructose corn syrup. I know. I couldn't believe it either.

PROS: nutritious and high calorie, no preparation, portable
CONS: be careful if you are offering them to your baby while on the go

Grapes

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The Christmas season afforded Buttercup the opportunity to try several new foods that she doesn't usually have at home. One of these was grapes. Now, I know grapes are not particularly special or Christmassy, but I just never buy them. I don't like them that much and they always seem to rot in my fridge; therefore, Buttercup had never had grapes. Her Christmas dinner was at Grandma's house, and consisted of turkey meatballs and grapes. I washed the grapes then cut them in half to prevent choking. Round, hard foods are the most hazardous to little babies (think: cherry tomatoes, grapes, nuts, hot dogs, etc), since they can slip right down the windpipe. If you cut these foods in half (except nuts, because they're just too darn hard) you lower the risk of choking for your little one.

Buttercup liked the grapes. I may have to break down and start buying grapes. Maybe I will freeze half of them and use them in smoothies so they don't rot.

PROS: easy fruit
CONS: I don't usually buy them...?

Orange

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My preference is to always give my baby fresh produce that is in season. This gets trickier in the winter, and I definitely utilize frozen produce. I do love the month of December for the citrus, specifically clementines. Clementines are the ideal citrus fruit, in my opinion: they're easy to peel, have no seeds, are sweet, and a perfect bitable size. What's not to love?

I offered a few segments to Buttercup after her lunch one day. I wasn't sure if she'd like them. Though she'd had little samples of orange in the past, usually as part of a cooked recipe, this was the first time she's really consumed a significant amount of it. She loved it. She used her new teeth to bite the segment in half.

Buttercup liked the clementine so much that I kept giving it to her. I thought it was great that she was getting so much vitamin C. She even ate a whole clementine in one sitting a few times. Bad. Idea. I totally forgot about the whole citrus-makes-pee-acidic thing. Buttercup got a really bad diaper rash from the amount of citrus she was eating. Bad Mommy! We have learned the errors of our ways, and are now trying to find a good balance.

PROS: high in vitamin C
CONS: high in acid (diaper rashes!)

Cracker

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Teeth are definitely not required equipment when introducing your baby to "real" solid foods, but apparently they are somewhat helpful. Buttercup had no problems for the first 5 months she was eating solids with gumming her food into a pulp and swallowing it. I was amazed at the things she was able to eat, actually! But, having two brand spankin' new teeth has made it possible for her to take proper bites out of food. Although her foods are the same I'm finding that her technique has changed slightly.

The other day I was eating crackers with egg salad while Buttercup ate her lunch of tofu and avocado. I gave her a cracker to see how she'd like it. And...she liked it! I rarely have crackers in the house, since most of them are so salty, processed, refined and trans-fatty, but these happened to be somewhat "healthy" crackers, so I didn't mind sharing them with Buttercup. She didn't mind either. I got a kick out of hearing her little teeth snap the tip of the cracker off. Oh, the things that amuse mothers!

I can definitely see the appeal of crackers as an away-from-home food. They are very portable and easily placate small children. I want to be careful not to rely too heavily on them, since there are lots of other foods that pack a higher nutrition punch.

PROS: very portable
CONS: watch out for non-nutritious filler foods

Spinach

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I can never decide what my favorite thing about baby-led solids is. Some days it's the simplicity of it - how I never have to buy or make purees and spend time spooning food into my baby's mouth. Sometimes it's the fact that my little baby eats things like curry, fish, or gjetost. And, sometimes it's the fact that my baby's diet mainly consists of fresh, healthy foods and she loves it!

Whilst making myself a sandwich one day I threw a couple of my spinach leaves Buttercup's way. I didn't really expect her to do much more than play with them. But, being the omnivore she is, she ate them. Seriously, this kid will eat anything. This has its downfalls, especially when she's playing on a not-freshly-vacuumed floor or outside, for example. One of Buttercup's favorite non-foods is paper. She loves tearing apart and chewing on paper. While I don't endorse paper as a good food for babies (and feverishly try to prevent Buttercup from eating it), I guess all of her practice at eating books paved the way for her to successfully enjoy spinach leaves. HA HA!

Buttercup has had cooked spinach mixed into dishes before (and blended into her smoothies), but this was the first time she ate raw spinach. She tore the little leaves apart and ate them much in the same way she eats every little piece of paper she can get her hands on. I was curious how she would deal with the spines, but she ended up tearing the leaves off the spines, and left the spines alone. I was also interested to see if Buttercup would gag on little bits of leaf getting hung up in her throat. While she did cough a few times, she didn't have any problems with it. However, I wouldn't recommend this to babies just starting down the baby-led solids path. Also, I suggest buying organic spinach, as spinach is one of the "dirty dozen."

PROS: great nutritious superfood, no prep
CONS: not for the BLS newbie

***UPDATE: The evening I posted this we gave Buttercup raw spinach leaves again. She coughed a lot more than she did the first time. So, I guess I'm saying "be careful."***

French Toast

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Because Mommy and Daddy generally have more free time on Saturday mornings it provides great occasions for Buttercup to try breakfast foods that actually require preparation. We've recently been making quite the tradition of the family Saturday morning breakfasts, in fact. I'm so glad Buttercup is able to join us in these meals, since they just don't make scrambled eggs, pancakes, brown cheese, or french toast in pureed baby food versions.

This particular morning we made french toast, which was my favorite Saturday treat as a girl. It actually makes a great breakfast food for baby if you leave off the sugary syrup and other toppings. Because of the egg and milk, french toast is high in protein. Depending on what kind of bread you use it could become even healthier. I like flax seed breads, myself. Yummy! I cut a slice of french toast into one-inch squares for Buttercup and gave them to her when they were slightly cooled. She ate about half of the slice.

Because I consider french toast to be a special treat I always forget how easy it actually is to make. There's really no reason to limit Buttercup's french toast eating to Saturday mornings. This would make a good lunch option, too, especially when my pantry is starting to look like Mother Hubbard's.

PROS: easy, high in protein
CONS: not as easy as a pile of fruit or dry cereal

Thai Curry (Baby corns, Bamboo)

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We continued with our curry theme and introduced Buttercup to the wonderful world of "jungle mixed vegetables curry" from our local thai restaurant. It is my favorite and I order it every time (after all, why try something else when you already know what the best thing on the menu is?). Check out the menu description:

Jungle Mixed Vegetables slightly spicy a vegetarian delight, snow peas, bell peppers, cashew, tomatoes, bamboo shoots, baby corn, cucumber, mushroom and tofu or chicken, cooked in cream, coconut milk and house spices

I ordered it with the tofu, and while I obviously didn't give Buttercup any of the cashews (hello, choking hazard), I did give her everything else. It was Buttercup's first experience eating baby corns and bamboo shoots, and she adored the baby corns. I always thought baby corns were just a fun-looking filler, but it turns out they are actually quite good for you. They are a good source of folate, vitamin B and fiber, and are also rich in several other nutrients such as potassium, vitamin B6, riboflavin, vitamin C. Plus, there is something about a baby eating baby corns that is extremely cute. Try it - you'll agree.

I think Buttercup particularly enjoyed the variety this meal afforded her, which is exactly why I like it. Well, sorry to cut this short, but I've gotta go and place an order for lunch now...

PROS: nutritious veggies
CONS: none

Chicken Tikka Masala

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Buttercup has had curry before, but it was milder. This time we gave her a medium tikka masala. It wasn't too hot, but it did have some kick to it. She didn't seem to mind the spice, and enjoyed the meal. My recipe contains chicken, onion, potatoes, peas and tomatoes.

Unfortunately, I have discovered that spicy foods do not do well in mouths that have teeth cutting through the gums. I learned this the hard way one evening with fajitas (which Buttercup usually loves). She screamed with every bite until I finally realized what was going on and replaced the cayenne pepper-laden food with banana, but I digress.

I gave Buttercup a mound of the curry mixture over a little pile of brown rice and topped it with some homemade yogurt to cool it down a bit. Buttercup picked through each piece, but ate everything she was offered including the rice and yogurt, which she usually ignores. All in all, I was pretty proud of my little girl for embracing this meal. I didn't learn to appreciate curry until I was in my 20's, but at the tender age of 11 months Buttercup is loving international flavors!

PROS: develops the palate
CONS: stains skin (and bibs, and bathtub, and my khakis)

Oatmeal

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I've said it before, but baby cereal really should not be a baby's first food. In fact, I don't think baby cereal should play any role in an infant's diet. It's full of empty non-nutritious calories, develops a taste for refined starches, increases the possibility of diabetes, causes constipation, and tastes disgusting. Not convinced? Check out this article in USA Today vilifying baby cereal. Also, see the BLS FAQ's for more information on baby cereal.

So, what kind of cereal does one feed their baby-led solids baby? How about oatmeal? Oatmeal is a whole grain, easy to digest, and high in protein, vitamins and minerals, and fiber. I have been hesitant to give Buttercup much "solid" breakfast because I am usually pretty engorged in the morning and want her to nurse really well. But, recently I decided to try oatmeal.

A great way to serve oatmeal to your self-feeding baby is to cook it with less water than usual, then allow it to cool. It is then thick enough that you can roll it into baby fist-sized balls (good for pre-pincer grasp babies) or break it into little chunks.

The first time we tried this, Buttercup ate a good amount of oatmeal. The second time I gave it to her I made the mistake of also giving her blueberries, which are her favorite. The oatmeal was shunned. I don't think oatmeal will ever replace Buttercup's love affair with multi-grain Cheerios, but it is a great healthy morning option.

PROS: surprisingly not messy, nutritious
CONS: none

Smoothie

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I have a wonderful friend who gives her kids smoothies to sneak extra fruits and veggies into their diets. It's really a brilliant idea, and one I tucked away for future use. Well, the future is now. I made myself a strawberry, banana, OJ and homemade yogurt smoothie the other day to use up a browning banana. I poured some into Buttercup's shot glass to see what she'd do with it. Well, she drank it, of course! In fact, she wouldn't even let go of the cup.

This was the first time Buttercup has ever liked yogurt. I'd like to ascribe that to my awesome yogurt-making ability, but I just don't know. By the way, making yogurt is a great way to use up the 52,000 gallons of milk WIC gives you a month, and it's super easy to do. Here is a link to a some good instructions: Modern Alternative Mama Blog.

Since Buttercup has decided to officially drop her 4:00 nurse, I've been giving her an afternoon smoothie instead. I throw in a banana, half an avocado (makes it creamy), a handful of spinach leaves, some frozen fruit (great way to use up those sour strawberries), some OJ and some homemade kefir or yogurt. She will drink 1.5 to 2 ounces.

PROS: great way to get extra nutrients in your baby
CONS: parental vigilance required if giving baby a smoothie in a cup

Strawberry (Take 2)

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I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of making fruits and vegetables the basis of your baby's diet while introducing solid foods. I read so many things online about people who are doing baby-led solids with their babies, but regularly give them junk food. I think this entirely misses the point of BLS, and I would actually recommend those people give their babies purees. Say what you will about Gerber, but at least that they don't make pureed french fries and pizza! I mean, "special treat" foods are fine on occasion (like pancakes), but try to stick with healthy fruits and veggies for the most part.

Because of my commitment to giving Buttercup healthy fruits and veggies I am extremely thankful for frozen foods. There are only so many apples a girl can eat in a week, so I am happy to buy frozen fruits that are not currently in season (though I'm happier when they are in season). Buttercup enjoyed strawberry during the summer so I recently let her have a thawed frozen strawberry. It was cut into quarters for easier handling. She made her "sour face" and spat out the same piece about a million times (I counted). She kept picking it back up and putting it back in her mouth, so I thought it couldn't be that bad. Then, I tried a piece. oooooeeeeee was that sucker sour!

I've gotta hand it to Buttercup for her persistence. That particular batch of frozen strawberries was not fit for consumption without the aid of much sugar (which I did not give to Buttercup). I guess we'll go back to apples and pears for the time being - good thing citrus season is coming up!

PROS: frozen fruit is always in season
CONS: potential for extremely sour fruit

Goat Cheese (Gjetost)

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Buttercup's favorite thing about baby-led solids is getting to eat Mommy and Daddy's favorite foods. She has been initiated into the wonderful world of Gjetost cheese. Gjetost cheese (called "brown cheese" by Norwegians) is a special treat in our family. We eat it on Christmas morning with homemade cardamom buns. In a word, it is amazing. It's made from caramelized goat's milk and is really rich, creamy, sweet with a bit of sharpness. I picked some up recently to celebrate Hubby's new job, and we engaged in some brown cheese family joy on Saturday morning.

I handed Buttercup little pieces of it off my plate since we were all sitting on the couch together. My faithful readers will remember that Buttercup has had some weird reactions to cow's cheese (see here and here for details). I'm happy to report that goat cheese was quite kind to her little system, which is a good thing because she looooooooved it.

PROS: a yummy treat
CONS: expensive!

Tomato (Take 2)

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I'm fully aware that this post isn't exactly breaking news. But, it was the first time Buttercup actually seemed to enjoy a raw tomato, so I thought it was worth mentioning. You'll have to forgive me if you think I'm being repetitive.

She's had tomato on other occasions, and likes it much better cooked. Raw tomatoes usually inspire Buttercup's "sour" face, which is pretty amusing for her parents. This particular evening, however, Hubby and I were eating salads with dinner so I gave some grape tomatoes to Buttercup just for kicks. I cut them in half first, since hard round foods still pose a choking hazard for babies, regardless of their eating skill.

She ate them! No faces!

PROS: high in vitamin C
CONS: an acquired taste for some

Bell Pepper (Take 3)

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Variety is the spice of life, or so they say. I like to try different foods with Buttercup, and I like trying old foods new ways. She's had bell peppers before, but this time she had them roasted. I'd made roasted red pepper and potato soup (with kale), so I drained the liquids and gave Buttercup the chunks from the soup. Of all of the foods on her tray she went for the red peppers the most. I don't know if it was because she thought they were the tastiest, or if it was because they were most brightly colored. I have noticed she tends to gravitate towards brightly colored foods. I'm sure there's some natural instinctual lesson to be learned here...not sure what it is, though...I do know that brightly colored foods make for brightly colored diapers!

PROS: high in vitamin C
CONS: none

Tuna

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It's important when introducing solid food to your baby that you are making sure to offer her foods that represent a well-balanced diet. I'll admit: sometimes I forget about protein. I am better with Buttercup than I am with myself. I'll find myself going a few days without making a conscience effort to eat protein of some sort. The solution usually ends up being tuna. Firstly, tuna has those super Omega-3s. Secondly, I get it free from WIC (a government nutritional supplementation program for women, infants and children). Thirdly, it's easy - no cooking required!

One day I was making myself some tuna salad for a sandwich and thought I'd give some to Buttercup to try. I left the pickle relish out, since it's mostly salt. So, hers just had tuna and some mayo (I use the olive oil variety). I plopped about a quarter cup onto her tray and she happily shoveled it into her mouth. I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, but we'll definitely be keeping this as a protein emergency staple.

PROS: easy protein option
CONS: gives baby fishy breath

Veggie Burger

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I'm sure other babies would love hamburgers, but I don't eat red meat which means that Buttercup doesn't get hamburgers. I do love a good veggie burger, though. Morningstar veggie burgers are my current favorites. They're great because you can stick them in your toaster and they're done super quick! And, check out these ingredients: mushrooms, water chestnuts, onion, carrots, green and red bell peppers, black olives, brown rice, and rolled oats. I cut a patty into squares for Buttercup and gave them to her for lunch.

For some reason, she tossed it overboard first, the little stinker. After she realized it was actually her lunch she ate it like it was going out of style. In fact, she can eat a whole patty! She loves her veggie burgers just like Mommy and will even beg for more if she runs out.

PROS: great, easy, source of protein and veggies!
CONS: a bit high in sodium

Peanut Butter Toast

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I always tell people that if they're going to do baby-led solids then they need to offer their babies nutritious, healthy foods. I'm shocked to hear stories of people who claim to be doing baby-led solids regularly giving their babies junk food. I am passionate about Buttercup loving healthy food. That is why I almost always give her fruits and veggies, and portions from our own healthily prepared meals. Sometimes, though, there is no food in the house. And for those times I am thankful for peanut butter toast. This isn't a regular food of Buttercup's, but I do bust it out when I haven't got much to offer her in the protein department. I use Smucker's natural PB, because it only has one ingredient (peanuts, duh), and I put it on whatever whole wheat toast I happen to have on hand.

I mention in my previous post on spreads that the American Academy of Pediatrics has lifted their allergy "ban" on peanut butter for babies. If you have a family history then be more cautious than I am. I do make sure that I don't spread the peanut butter too thick, as that could gunk up the windpipe.

When Buttercup was 6ish months, I would give her long strips of toast (look how teensy she was!) to make it easier for her to handle. But, now I cut one-inch squares for her. It is easier for her to eat, and less messy since she isn't squishing peanut butter in her fists.

Buttercup does love her peanut butter and will eat 3/4 of a slice of peanut butter toast, all the while making smacking noises with her lips. Very funny. And, in case you're wondering if toast is too hard for babies without teeth? The answer is "no." Babies have so much drool in their mouths that toast instantaneously turns to mush.

PROS: good source of protein and easy to prepare
CONS: messy hands

Kiwi

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Sometimes babies are just confusing. Buttercup loves eating green things. She'll always pick out the peas and green beans first in "mixed veggies." I thought she'd like a green fruit, especially since Hubby loved kiwi as a very young child. Of course, he also liked pickled herring, so maybe he's not the best plumb line. Anyway, I offered some kiwi to Buttercup and she wouldn't even touch it. It was the weirdest thing. Maybe she was in a weird mood, but she literally refused to even look at it. I tried slicing it with the peel on. I tried dicing it. Finally I relented and gave her some roasted pumpkin, which she ate very nicely. When the pumpkin was gone, she picked up a slice of kiwi, kung fu-gripped it in half and sucked on the peel.

The second time we tried kiwi I gave Buttercup peeled cubes of it. She scarfed half of the fruit in a matter of seconds. Even after I gave her a wider variety of food to pick from she kept going back for more kiwi. I would love to know what goes on in that little mind, but I'm glad she warmed up to the green fruit in the end.

PROS: more vitamin C than oranges
CONS: might not be such a crowd-pleaser?

Parsnip

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Parsnips are my favorite thing about British cuisine. Ok, well, maybe chocolate is. But still, the first time I had a parsnip I felt like I was eating manna from heaven. Buttercup recently tried this wonderful root vegetable as a component in a "vegetable cobbler" that included pumpkin. The parsnips were cut in one inch chunks and roasted with some other veggies before being topped with gravy and a savory crumble topping.

Buttercup ate the parsnip, but was much more interested in the pumpkin she was offered. I think it may have been a bit hard/chewy for her. So, maybe she will enjoy them more when she's got some teeth. Or, maybe she just really likes pumpkin?

Did you know that parsnips are a great source of vitamin C and folate, which help keep those winter colds at bay, and it's also full of fiber. Did I mention they are darn tasty?

PROS: taste great, nutritious, non-staining
CONS: a bit chewy

Pumpkin

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It literally causes me pain to see rotting jack-o-lanterns on the curb. I cannot handle it. Call me thrifty, call me cheap, but do not call me wasteful. Last year, Hubby and I rescued 16 abandoned pumpkins. And we ate them. All of them. Pumpkins are such a gigantic, yummy, nutritious food that it's a shame to throw away them away just because you've carved a face on them. Because of our fanatical pumpkin beliefs I have accumulated quite the collection of pumpkin recipes. So, the day after Halloween our beloved Jeffrey the Jack-o-lantern was unceremoniously hacked to 1-inch pieces and frozen to await his rebirth as our future meals. One of those meals is our family favorite, the "Vegetable Cobbler."

Basically, it's a bunch of roasted veggies with some gravy and a crumbly topping. So, Buttercup had her first taste of pumpkin. She's always been a big fan of squash in general, and pumpkin proved no exception. She gobbled it up, begged for more, and ate that, too.

Sidenote: do not give your infant pumpkin seeds. They require much chewing with molars. I thought that seemed obvious, but I was actually asked on a forum a few weeks ago if it was a good snack for babies. Uh, no.

PROS: great texture and nutrition
CONS: labor-intensive, especially if you buy big pumpkins

Broccoli (Take 2)

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Persistence and imagination are the keys of successfully feeding babies. If you think your baby "doesn't like" a food, just keep trying to give it to her in new ways.

I've noticed that Buttercup has lost interest in lots of foods that are presented in the classic BLS "french fry" shape. This means she is suddenly blasˇ about former food favorites. She'll put the whole thing in her mouth then spit it out after a few minutes. Buttercup is still eating little pieces of food with much vim and vigor, so I decided to mix things up a bit. I've been giving her previously rejected foods with a fresh presentation. For example, I tore some broccoli florets into smaller chunks suitable for picking up with thumb and forefinger. It meant a bit more work for me than how I used to give her broccoli, but it was worth it because Buttercup ate tons more of it than she has in quite awhile. Here I thought she didn't like broccoli anymore, but it turns out she just didn't like the method in which I was serving it. I should have known better! Iron-packed food in fun bite-sized pieces!

PROS: easier for older baby to eat
CONS: a bit more prep work involved

Chili

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Baby-led solids is so much fun. Really! I love that my baby eats the same things I eat. I love that she gets so excited to feed herself. I love that she is learning different foods, flavors, and textures. I love sitting down for meals as a family. No pursed lips to my incoming spoon. Just. Eating.

Buttercup recently tried chili for the first time. My chili is heavy on the beans and veggies, mild-medium on the spice level, and vegetarian (we use Morning Star crumbles in place of ground beef). Buttercup has also eaten grandma's chili, which is more meaty (ground turkey) and less veggie-y.

Unlike her technique with shepherds pie, Buttercup picked through the chili piece by piece looking for specific food elements. She was really quite scientific with it, especially honing in on the beans. But, she enjoyed the entire meal and ate quite a bit.

I have noticed Buttercup has starting to consume more at each "solids" meal. This has coincided with her dropping one nursing sessions a day. She is now down to nursing 4-5 times a day. I've also noticed she is suddenly drinking more water after meals (nearly an ounce, twice a day). I still think most of a baby's liquids and nutrition should come from breastmilk at 9 months. But, hey, I'm no doctor.

PROS: lots of nutrition and variety
CONS: none

Mango

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Mango is one of those foods I've heard a lot of buzz about in the baby-led solids internet circles. While it does seem like it would be an ideal early food, I just never got around to purchasing one. I rectified this laxity and finally brought home a mango for Buttercup to try.

On the first attempt I cut it in slices and gave it to her with her lunch. At first she didn't seem too interested, and kept going after her tofu instead. Eventually she warmed up to the new orange squishy objects on her tray. She even busted out her 'excited face' and begged for more when the first slices were all gone. I gave her one piece at a time to prevent her playing with it.

I did try giving Buttercup diced mango, too, which seemed to work well for her. Also, mango does get slippery when it warms up, and I would imagine the cheerio dust trick (that I used for avocados) would help littler babies hold on to it better.

PROS: yummy, nutritious, easy texture for babies
CONS: slippery

Winter Squash

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The great thing about not using commercially made baby food is that each change in season brings new fresh foods for your baby to try. Colder weather brings with it winter squash. There's not really much difference between summer squash and winter squash, except the hardness of the skin and seeds. Buttercup has always been a lover of squash, and I figured winter squash would prove no exception. I was right - she loves it.

This particular meal consisted of roasted chicken, roasted butternut squash and roasted tomatoes. Roasting is my new favorite cooking technique. It's so easy to just throw everything in the oven with a bit of olive oil and spices then walk away! The squash was roasted in long strips with the skins still on. When we gave one to Buttercup she put it in her mouth then promptly spat it out. While the roasting produced a peel was soft enough for the tooth-endowed adults, Buttercup liked hers much better with the peels removed. She ate gobs of it after we peeled some for her.

PROS: yummy, nutritious seasonal veggie
CONS: peeling is a necessity

Refried Beans

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Thinking outside the box is great, when I remember to do it. I don't know why I didn't think of serving refried beans to Buttercup when she was 6-7 months old, as I have discovered it to be a great early baby food.

I gave her the vegetarian version, which is low in fat (and does not contain lard, unlike the regular version). I've never really understood the name "refried" beans, since this mexican staple hasn't been fried once, let alone twice - they're just mashed pinto beans. Tis a mystery, but I digress.

Buttercup enjoyed this food, though it could partly be because she enjoyed the process of eating them: she scooped up fistfuls and then sucked it off her hand, the dirty little piglet!

I will keep this in mind as a quick and easy lunch option, since these beans are a good source of protein, manganese, magnesium and fiber. Lots of great bone and muscle-building nutrients! I'll keep a wet washcloth handy, though, as this was messier than our usual BLS fare. Even after a thorough hand-washing, I found it impossible to entirely remove the beany smell from between Buttercup's fingers.

PROS: good nutrition, easy to eat, easy to prepare
CONS: messy

Pancakes

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One of the things I've enjoyed most about using the baby-led solids method to introduce solids to my baby is having laid back family meals together. That doesn't mean that Buttercup always eats everything that Hubby and I eat, but for the most part I prepare one meal and everyone eats it.

One recent Saturday morning Hubby and I were in the mood for pancakes, and that is one mood that should be indulged occasionally! Buttercup had already had her breakfast of raisins (and mom milk, of course). Since we were already strapping Buttercup in her highchair to eat with us, we thought she might as well enjoy a Saturday morning treat, too.

I make my pancakes from scratch; a habit I began while living in a country without pancake mix. It's a lot more economical, and you can tailor it to any dietary needs your family might have (substituting different flours, dairy, sugars etc). I might also add that making pancakes from scratch is so quick and easy I don't know why I would ever buy the boxed mix!

I'm sure it goes without saying that Buttercup loved her pancakes. I didn't give her much - maybe half a small pancake torn into smaller pieces, sans butter or syrup. While my standard practice is to give my baby healthy foods that will make her brain grow big and strong, I think it's important to have a healthy relationship with 'naughty' foods, as well. Besides, everyone deserves a treat now and again, especially when you're as sweet as Buttercup!

PROS: babies love them, literally no mess
CONS: not an 'everyday' food

Meatloaf

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With as much as Buttercup loves fruits and veggies, I'm always a bit surprised at how much meat she will eat in one sitting. She is a big fan of meatloaf. My meatloaf is made out of ground lean turkey meat, with onions, celery, oatmeal and egg. There is a sauce that I put on top, but I left that off of Buttercup's portion, since it contains honey. I might as well take this opportunity to mention that you should never give your under 1-year-old honey. It can potentially have spores in it that produce neurotoxins in little bodies with immature guts. This makes for very sick babies. Public service announcement over.

So, I sliced the "safe" end off for Buttercup and she ate it. A lot of it. Quite happily.

PROS: good lean protein
CONS: don't give baby the yummy honey/ketchup/mustard sauce

Kale

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Just because we aren't spoon-feeding our babies doesn't mean we can't still offer them soup, right? Chunky soups make a great meal option for the self-feeding baby. Just leave out the liquid and give them the soft chunks. In this case we had zuppa toscana on the menu (think 'Olive Garden,' but vegetarian-ified). I drained the liquid and dumped some kale, potatoes, and vegetarian "sausage" onto Buttercup's tray.

I knew she wouldn't have a problem with the potatoes and sausage. It was interesting to watch her eat the kale, though. I never noticed before how stringy kale is! I even got some stuck in the not-quite-up/not-quite-down area of my esophagus. For Buttercup there was a lot of this going on: pick up, chew, spit out, repeat. I was amazed at how persistent she was. She just kept trying to eat those darn leaves. Eventually she succeeded; I just didn't think she would be that motivated to eat something that was putting up such a fight. I guess Buttercup's inner dietician was telling her she needed some vitamin A (hello, 354% RDA!).

PROS: power-packed nutrition
CONS: hard to chew and swallow

Lentils

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Lentils are a great solid food for babies! Not only are they easy to eat, but they're chock full of nutrition. Lentils have the most iron of any vegetable, and they are full of other vitamins, minerals and fiber. They're a great substitute for red meat, for those like myself who are withholding red meat from their babes.

I'm sure Buttercup didn't know how good for her these little gems were when she was eating, though it might explain the little 'happy dance' she was doing while eating this meal. I have a recipe for slow cooker lentils that has lots of other veggies and savory goodness. It's one of our family's favorites, and Buttercup concurred.

We noticed a few new developments during this meal. Firstly, Buttercup now only picks up as much in her hand as she can comfortably chew. This means much less spitting food back on the tray. Also, she is getting much better at moving food around with her tongue and chewing it up. She even chews with her mouth closed. Watch out, Miss Manners!

All in all, this will be a great staple to add to Buttercup's diet.

PROS: great nutritional value
CONS: none

Eggplant

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Buttercup's global food education continues, this time with french food. On 'le menu du jour': ratatouille. I'd neither eaten nor made ratatouille before, so this was a first for our whole family. Food adventures indeed!

Eggplant was the only ingredient in the dish that was new to Buttercup. It was cut into one-inch squares (with skins on) and cooked down. The consistency of the eggplant was quite nice: a bit meaty, but still easy to squish between a pair of little gums.

It was interesting to see Buttercup maneuver the skins, first using them as handles, then spitting them out when the fruit was gone. Parents may worry about babies choking on skins, but Buttercup never has problems with them - she just spits them out!

Buttercup ate 3 squares of eggplant, along with the other veggies in this meal.

PROS: what's not to like about ratatouille?
CONS: none

Onion

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You just never know what foods a baby might like unless you try them! For example, Buttercup likes cooked onions. She has had finely diced onions mixed in with other foods before, but never larger chunks their own. So, as part of our hawaiian chicken meal, I put some onion strings on her tray.

I was surprised at how much Buttercup ate. She seemed to really enjoy them! She ate them in a similar fashion to the steamed green peppers - she kinda flossed them through her mouth. But, she did eat three or four strings.

In the past I've always considered onion a flavorful filler in foods. But, it turns out they are chock full of goodness. Onions contain natural antibacterial properties, they support the immune system, and they're high in vitamins A & C. Slam dunk!

PROS: nutritious and delicious
CONS: a bit stringy

Rutabaga/Swede

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A great thing about using the baby-led solids method is that your baby can take advantage of yummy seasonal produce. The fall-ish weather has inspired me to buy more root vegetables, including one of my favorites from my time living in the United Kingdom: swede (known as rutabaga on this side of the pond). Usually I mash rutabaga/swede and serve it as a side dish, but I made fries out of them one night. I've recently discovered that you can make oven "fries" out of pretty much any root veg - taters, sweet taters, turnips, beets, carrots... These are a healthy alternatives to deep-fried french fries, and are also a great shape for little baby hands! Just make sure you leave off the salt for baby's portion.

Buttercup loved her rutabaga fry and gobbled it all up. Out of curiosity I looked up the nutrition benefits of rutabaga: it is really high in vitamin C and also a handful of minerals. Interestingly enough rutabaga also helps with milk production, so this one is a great option for mommies, too!

PROS: easy shape for BLS
CONS: none

Pineapple

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Buttercup is really making her way around the world, food-wise. She's had Mediterranean, Moroccan, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, and now Hawaiian flavors! One of Hubby's favorite dishes is Hawaiian chicken. It contains pineapples (naturally), so Buttercup got to try a new food.

The pineapples were already in chunks, and I just cut them into smaller chunks (maybe 1/2 inch by 1/4 inch?). On a sidenote: Buttercup has been enjoying smaller pieces of food, rather than the classic BLS french fry shape. I wouldn't recommend doing this in the first couple of months of solids, but Buttercup has demonstrated that she's mastered the pincer grasp and is able to move food in her mouth and chew it up really welll, so that's what we generally do now.

So, Buttercup loved the pineapple. I think she ate the equivalent of a third of a "ring" of pineapple during dinner, along with chicken and onions (stay tuned for more info on onions).

PROS: tasty vitamin C food
CONS: none

Raisins (Take 2)

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Buttercup has graduated to straight-up raisins.

When I first started giving raisins to Buttercup, I would soak them for a few minutes to soften them a bit. Maybe I'm an over-imaginative first time mother, but I kept visualizing a hard raisin torpedoing into Buttercup's windpipe.

Anyway, Buttercup now eats the raisins fresh from the box, sometimes with her breakfast cereal. These are proving to be a super easy and portable snack. They are also a good pooping food - a good tip for those of you out there with constipation-prone kiddos. In addition, raisins are high in lots of vitamins and minerals, most notably: potassium, iron, manganese, and copper.

PROS: easy, quick snack with a nutrient-packed punch
CONS: don't go overboard unless you really enjoy changing poopy diapers

Curry (Vegetable)

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A great thing about introducing solid foods to your baby using baby-led solids is that you can develop your baby's flavor palate early. Example: curry! Don't be nervous to give your baby spicy foods. If you regularly eat spicy or strong flavors, then your baby has already tasted them via amniotic fluid and breastmilk. Besides, have you ever thought about what Indian babies eat when they're starting out on solid foods? I'm sure they don't even bat an eye at curry!

Our vegetable curry recipe comprised: tofu, cauliflower, chick peas (very soft), onions and sweet potato. Though I didn't know it at the time, I made the mistake of trying this meal when Buttercup was in a crabby mood. At first she wouldn't even touch the pile of food I gave her. I gave her a slice of banana try and pique her interest in food, and suddenly she was sampling all the food on her tray.

Buttercup ate leftovers for lunch the next day and ate a ton of it. Of course, everyone knows that curry is always better the next day.

PROS: great for building adventurous eaters
CONS: somewhat messy/staining

Apple (Take 2)

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Now that apples are in season (and on sale!) we have been stocking up on them.

I was never completely satisfied with our previous experiences with apple, as Buttercup would get little tiny bits stuck in her mouth. But, a brainwave came to me one day: steaming the apple slightly!

So, here is the new procedure: I peel an apple (which is a lot easier than trying to wash off the waxy coating they put on them), then rinse and cut into slices or chunks. I steam them for just a minute, until they're semi-transparent. This yields apple chunks with a similar consistency to raw pear, which Buttercup can't get enough of. These squishier apples are also easier for her to hold. BONUS!

By the way, I've also heard that shredding apples (or carrots) is a great option for youngish babies just starting out BLS.

PROS: easier to handle and eat
CONS: requires a bit more prep work

Shepherds Pie

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Happy Autumn! I'm very pleased to be making comfy fall-like dinners again. One of my standbys is shepherds pie, in which I use Morning Star Crumbles, mashed potatoes (made with natural yogurt in place of milk) and frozen mixed veggies (green beans, carrots, peas, corn, lima beans). Obviously, there is a lot of room for customization with this meal as you could use any kind of meat or veggies.

I plopped a mound on Buttercup's tray and said/signed "hot" to her. She does really well at waiting for her food to cool down. I used to wait to serve food to her until it had cooled, but that got to be a nuisance. I don't think most babies would purposely hold on to something if it was uncomfortably warm, but maybe Buttercup is just a genius.

Anyway, she loved this meal. I've noticed that Buttercup has no qualms with foods being mixed. She will happily pick through it for specific items, or shove a handful of mixture in her mouth, depending on her mood. She ate this meal hand over fist, using both hands to move food to her mouth really quickly like a little machine. By cleanup time she had eaten roughly half a cup, and there was absolutely no fallout on the floor which made mommy very happy. For the record: Buttercup doesn't usually eat that much food during her solid meals.

PROS: great way to combine yummy foods
CONS: none

Blueberries

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Blueberries are not for the immaculately dressed infant!

We never got the chance to introduce Buttercup to fresh blueberries, since they were in season before she was capable of safely handling them. However, now that her pincer grasp skill is firmly developed I got some frozen ones and they have proven to be a huge hit. If you are going to use frozen blueberries for your little one I'd recommend going organic, as frozen blueberries can pack quite the pesticidal punch (even more than your average non-organic produce).

Anyway, because they had been frozen these berries were quite soft when thawed, so they were really easy for Buttercup to chew. In fact, I've never seen her eat anything so fast. She was literally eating them hand over fist. I am thankful that I put two bibs on her, though, because her outfit would have been destroyed by the purple juice.

PROS: high nutritional value (antioxidants!)
CONS: non-organic is high in pesticides, very messy

Salmon

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You'll have to take my word for it, but that really is a chunk of salmon in Buttercup's fist. I broke the fish into quarter-sized pieces. She loves fish, and although she's had it several different times, the only salmon she'd had up to this point was canned salmon and smoked. For this meal, the salmon had been pan-fried in olive oil (with some pepper, garlic and lime juice). She gobbled it all up!

This was a great meal for her because the fish was a nice consistency to hold on to. It was also flaky so she could chew and swallow it easily. I've mentioned it before, but fish is an extremely healthy food for babies (and adults for that matter) because of its high Omega-3 and protein content. Other health benefits of fish, especially salmon, is it has essential vitamins and minerals that promote healthy tissue growth, lowers cholesterol, regulates metabolism and is good for eye, brain and nerve development. Sounds like a super-food if you ask me! IÕm so happy Buttercup has a love for fish!

PROS: Multiple health benefits
CONS: Maybe watch out for bones (depends on the cut and species of fish)

Brussels Sprouts

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I cannot believe my child likes brussels sprouts. They are one of those foods that kids stereotypically hate! I always knew Buttercup was special, or maybe doing baby-led solids really does make babies more adventurous eaters.

The sprouts were part of a stew that I'd made in the crockpot, so they were "well done." I just read today that cooking sprouts actually increases the absorbable nutrients. Something about fiber, phytonutrients, DNA and cancer protection, but I digress. I cut the sprouts in half for easier handling. Buttercup put the entire half in her mouth, chewed and swallowed, though not without incident: she had some spectacular gags throughout the meal. I think maybe the leaves were getting a little hung up in her throat on their way down. At the risk of sounding like a broken record: remember that gagging is normal and not cause for worry. Gagging prevents food from going down the wrong pipe. It involves the throat, while choking involves the windpipe. And, Buttercup was definitely not put off by her gags. She ate two whole sprouts during the meal.

PROS: nutritious veggie
CONS: a bit gaggerific

Green Beans (Take 2)

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Although Buttercup is only 8 months old and still has no teeth, she has already graduated to eating "proper" meals, meaning she pretty much eats the exact same things Hubby and I eat for dinner (see about importance of family meals). The only exception to Buttercup eating what we eat is if there is a milky sauce of some sort (milk can cause all sorts of problems until baby's guts mature near age 1). My next four posts are all from the same dinner. She had:

• salmon, pan-fried in olive oil, garlic, black pepper, lime juice
• sauteed green beans (from the garden)
• sauteed carrot shreds
• couscous, with red onions, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and olive oil

Her first experiment with green bean was not too successful. It was difficult for her to bite the bean apart. Also, it was her third meal, so it's not like she really knew what the heck she was doing yet. I've mentioned green beans in passing since then, but wanted to do an official post on this great veggie.

These green beans were from my garden, but the difference is that they'd been blanched and frozen, whereas the others were picked fresh and steamed. I think that combined with the sauteeing made them more squidgey than other green beans I'd given Buttercup. At any rate, she ate 2 or 3 full beans in addition to her other offerings.

PROS: sauteeing makes for softer beans
CONS: none

Couscous

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I don't feel any pressure to give Buttercup a starch with every meal. I know they are the least nutrient-dense food I could offer her (next to things like candy and potato chips, ya know). I also feel totally secure knowing that she is getting all the nutrition she needs from her six nursing sessions a day, so I don't feel bad letting her experiment with these flavors either.

Buttercup has had similarly textured food items, including rice and bulgar wheat. We served this in the same way: in a little heap on her highchair tray. She took one bite and didn't really seem that interested after that. I am not sure why. Maybe she knew her body needed the salmon and veggies more. I just don't know. I thought it was really tasty, though.

I think it's important to continue to offer Buttercup whatever I'm making Hubby and I for dinner, so we will be trying this again in the future.

PROS: an easy starch option
CONS: didn't care for it

Carrots (Take 2)

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Carrots were the second food Buttercup chose in this multi-food meal. In this picture, she is actually working on carrots. Click back to the previous post on carrots to see our first attempt using the traditional baby-led solid "french fry" shape. She has no problem wolfing these down. But, I know moms might be looking for other preparation options for veggies and this is a good alternative. These carrots were shredded (I used a carrot peeler) and sauteed with green beans in a bit of olive oil.

Shredding or peeling also works well with apples. Just make sure that you don't make the "strings" too long, or they could be uncomfortable going down a throat unchewed. That reminds me of the time I swallowed a long hair - YUCK!

At any rate, Buttercup ate the carrots in their new format and didn't bat an eye.

PROS: an alternative to the "french fry" shape
CONS: make sure they're not too long

Avocado (Take 2)

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I finally got around to trying the Cheerio-dust-covered-avocado trick. I've been seeing that tip floating around the various forums I am a part of, but haven't really needed to try it. Well, we seem to have hit a wall with avocado. Buttercup has been rejecting her once favorite food. I thought maybe she just didn't like picking it up in the big long slices like she used to, as she has been favoring smaller pieces she can pick up with her forefinger and thumb. I tried cutting small pieces of avocado, but they were too slippery for her. So, I rolled them in multi-grain Cheerios. They were definitely easier for her to pick up. The problem was that she kept sucking the Cheerio dust off then discarding the avocado.

I know that babies can reject a food and then later fall back in love with it. The key is to keep occasionally trying and stay calm (that advice could be helpful in so many aspects of life!)

Spaghetti Squash

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Because we've chosen to introduce solid foods to Buttercup using the baby-led solids method, she's had many foods that I didn't have until I was an adult. For example: spaghetti squash. I love spaghetti squash. Absolutely love it. I scoop out the "guts", bake it til tender, fork out the strings, and liberally apply butter, parmesan, salt and pepper. So good! Someday Buttercup will get to eat it the naughty way with me, but for now she gets it plain jane.

I set some squash aside for her before I doctored it all up for myself. I did cut it up a bit so that the strings weren't so long. I plopped a little pile in the middle of Buttercup's tray and she grabbed fists full and put them in her mouth. She made some weird faces at first (probably because of the strings going down her throat), but ate a laudable amount of the stuff.

PROS: yummy and nutritious vegetable
CONS: none

Tofu

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I wish I had remembered to pick up some tofu at the store 2 months ago, because my little hippy baby loves it! She is making up for lost time now, though.

Along with being high in protein, calcium and iron, tofu is a really good consistency for babies. I cut a quarter inch slice off of a block of "raw" tofu, then cut that into one inch squares. I figured that would be easier than cutting it into longer rectangles, which I was sure would get squished to mush. I was right: Buttercup used her fingers to pick up the squares, rather than wrapping her fist around them. I am so enjoying her developing those fine motor skills. After the tofu started crumbling, Buttercup still enjoyed going after the tiny pieces on her tray, to the exclusion of the avocado that was simultaneously offered (one of her favorites).

So, Buttercup loved the tofu, and I love having another protein option for her that requires absolutely no preparation on my part.

PROS: no preparation, good nutrition, easy consistency, no stains
CONS: none!

Peas

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I purposely waited awhile before introducing peas to Buttercup. Because they're round and relatively hard I figured they could pose a choking hazard for inexperienced eaters. I have been looking for signs of readiness. Buttercup has a well developed pincer grasp these days and is able to isolate and pick up tiny pieces of food. Also, she rarely gags and seems to have really good control over the food she puts in her mouth. So, peas made their debut into Buttercup's life.

I poured boiling water over the peas and let them sit for a few minutes. Before serving them, I squeezed each one til they popped, as an extra safety precaution against them slipping down Buttercup's "wrong pipe."

Buttercup loved them. She ate them in the same manner she eats breakfast cereal (and beans and raisins), though the peas proved to be a bit slipperier than other small foods she's had.

PROS: great easy vegetable
CONS: a little slippery, make sure your little one is ready for small foods (has pincer grasp)

Spaghetti

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Buttercup is mainly eating the same dinners as Hubby and I now. When we first started baby-led solids we would give her a single food item to work on. Now she happily chows down on complex meals. For example, I like to make a healthier version of spaghetti bolognese with: whole wheat noodles, Morning Star crumbles (meat alternative), spinach, mushrooms, garden tomatoes, and cream cheese. We gave some to Buttercup 's. The only difference I made to her portion was that I threw in some avocado, because I had to use some up and Buttercup hasn't been too thrilled with avocado lately (see Avocado, take 2). I made a little spaghetti pile on Buttercup's tray, since this is what's worked best with similar items (ex: tabouleh, rice).

Buttercup ate it all with gusto, even the mushrooms and tomatoes. I guess she likes those foods cooked better than raw. Also, this was the first time Buttercup had eaten dairy products that she didn't stink (see dairy posts). It was only a small amount, but maybe her body is getting better at handling it? Anyway, I love that her meals require so little preparation (and virtually no extra cost). BLS is so easy!

PROS: good way to combine lots of healthy foods
CONS: requires a bath afterwards

Mostaccioli

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It was a happy day when Buttercup's grandma showed up on our doorstep with a pan of mostaccioli! I was very prepared to not have to cook dinner, but I was unprepared for Buttercup's response to this new food combo. I have never seen her eat so much in one sitting, consuming about a half cup of mostaccioli. It was a sight to behold!

I'm not sure of the exact recipe, but the dish contained ground turkey meat, penne noodles, tomatoes and portobella mushrooms. We weren't sure if Buttercup would like it, considering her response the first time she tried tomato and mushroom, but after her first little taste she devoured every little scrap she could find on her tray... and then had seconds. Ironically, this was one of her cleanest meals, since no little pieces of food ended up on the floor or in her high chair. Yep, she was that intense!

This meal provided Buttercup with lots of protein and nutrition along with the multiple flavors, and it provided me with the mandatory "baby covered in pasta sauce" photo. I think she will be enjoying this meal again soon.

PROS: yummy yummy
CONS: staining

Salmon (Smoked)

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A great advantage to baby-led solids is that baby eats what we eat. We are a picnic kind of family. As I've mentioned before, we are also not a bring-lots-of-extra-baby-gear-everywhere-we-go kind of family. Baby led solids is a great solution to the baby/picnic dilemma.

On the grownup menu was smoked salmon on baguettes with cucumber and cream cheese. Buttercup, being the little beggar she is, wanted some too. So, she got some smoked salmon. Now, before I get chastised I want to say that smoked salmon is not a food I would regularly feed my baby. It is definitely a special occasion food, due to its high sodium content (though at least I did look for a nitrate-free variety). But, I'm super vigilant about giving salt-free food to Buttercup so I decided it was ok this one time.

Of course she loved it. She is a posh baby of refined palate.

Here is a great article on why fish is so essential for babies. The ironic thing is that scientists are looking at how to make salmon puree baby food (blech!), but they can't find a way to make it appetizing. Hmmm...can you think of a solution?

PROS: high in DHA, portable
CONS: high in sodium. Yowzah.

Beans and Raisins

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I thought since Buttercup was doing so well with her cereal I'd try some other small finger foods. I'd made a moroccan dish that called for beans and raisins so I pulled out a few of each and put them on Buttercup's tray for her. I gave the beans a little pinch first to soften up the skins, but the raisins were already soft from being cooked.

I was so impressed with how well Buttercup did! She hasn't mastered her pincer grasp skill, but I have noticed with her breakfast cereal that she has devised her own method of getting small food items into her mouth: she rakes them into the part of her fist by her thumb then shoves that part of her hand in her mouth while simultaneously opening her fingers. That is what she did with these teeny foods, as well. She enjoyed both of these new foods.

I can see both beans and raisins becoming good staples for Buttercup in the future. And beans are the magical fruit, after all...

PROS: good nutrition, no preparation!
CONS: baby must be able to handle small items

Egg (Hard Boiled)

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One of the Top 10 Things To Love About Baby Led Solids? Cute baby photos! Ok, now that I have that out of my system:

Buttercup has had scrambled egg yolks before, but I decided to try hard boiled eggs for a little something different. I just gave her the yolk for several reasons: egg whites contain allergens (Buttercup has a family history of allergies to egg), most of an egg's nutrition are in the yolk, and the whites are rubbery in texture, thus difficult for little toothless mouths.

Buttercup did enjoy the egg, consuming over half of it. The rest was left in drooly crumbly puddles on her tray.

PROS: good protein
CONS: messier than the average BLS meal

*UPDATE: Although Buttercup likes hard boiled eggs, apparently the eggs do not like her. Twice I've given them to her at lunch. Both of those afternoons she puked a lot and cried through her third nap. Guess we will give eggs a rest. Tragic! Ya live and ya learn...

Pepper (Take 2)

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An important lesson in introducing your child to solid food is to not give up after an unsuccessful food. I had to give bell peppers another chance, after our less-than-successful first attempt. I'm glad I did, because it was a hit.

This time I briefly steamed the pepper. It was still 'al dente', but softer than raw. Buttercup managed to get all the fruit off the peel in about a minute. She cleverly devised a strategy whereby she grabbed one end of the peel and pulled it through her gums, similarly to how one would floss (not that she would know). The problem-solving skills of this kid never cease to amaze me!

If your child has a problem with peels, watch out with this one because apparently bell pepper peels are indestructible. Buttercup did just fine and managed to remove the peel by herself. If you're worried about the peel, you can easily remove it after it has been steamed.

PROS: still high in vitamin C
CONS: watch out for the peel

Tomato

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Buttercup recently had her first tomato experience. Really, is there anything better than a healthy homegrown tomato? One dinnertime, she kept honing in on a tiny piece of tomato that was stuck to one of her offered foods. So, I thought I would try giving her a couple chunks of tomato of her very own. To my surprise, she didn't like it.

I think Buttercup managed to swallow one bite, but mainly she kept putting the same piece in her mouth, making a 'sour face' then spitting it out and repeating the process. I'm pretty sure the acidity was a bit much for her taste buds. You've gotta give her an 'A' for effort, at least.

PROS: high in vitamins
CONS: too sour (though I've heard other babies love tomatoes)

Rice

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Baby-led solids is awesome when taking your baby to a restaurant! We took Buttercup out for dinner with us for the first time, and I purposely didn't bring anything with us: no baby food, no bib, no spoons, no wipes, not even a diaper bag. It was extremely liberating.

We gave Buttercup bits of food off of our plates, including: some baked cod, green beans, carrots, dinner roll and rice. Rice was the only new food she was offered. She managed it really well, scooping up little fistfuls and then opening her palm to get the rice in her mouth. I have to say she enjoyed the rice much more than the lemon we gave her (though it was fun for us to watch her little face pucker). The dinner roll was clearly her favorite food of the meal.

PROS: doesn't stain clothes
CONS: makes for messy high chair fallout (sorry, waitress)

Cucumber

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Don't be fooled by the picture - Buttercup did enjoy her first cucumber.

To serve, I peeled the cuke, then cut it in half, then into quarters. The cucumber was a good consistency for Buttercup to hold on to while gumming it, though a bit slippery. It didn't fall apart, which can happen with a lot of her foods.

I found the whole experience to be very similar to her first try with melon: it seemed like she wasn't getting much fruit off, but she enjoyed the chewing process. This one might be better with a few teeth.

PROS: doesn't fall apart
CONS: hard to chew with no teeth

Apricot

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Starting baby led solids at this time of year is great. Gotta love summer fruits! They're so yummy and on sale!

I gave Buttercup a whole apricot. I'd taken a few little bites out of it to give her an entry point, but she took it from there. She managed to gnaw it down to the pit (which I promptly removed). Buttercup really enjoyed holding the whole apricot with both hands, and was easily able to rotate it around to access more fruit. Apricots are the perfect size for babies, and I think this method would work well for plums, too.

Apricots are full of fiber (which I definitely noticed in her fragrant diaper the next day), and lots of beta carotene.

PROS: great size for baby
CONS: got a little slippery towards the end of the meal, watch out for the pit!

Pasta

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I made a vegetable lasagna for dinner one night and gave Buttercup a few leftover lasagna noodles. They were a bit tricky for her to pick up because they kept suctioning themselves to her highchair tray, but if we moved them to the edge she could pick them up easily enough. Obviously, something like a penne noodle would have been ideal for baby led solids, but sometimes you just have to make do with what you have! I have since tried rotini noodles and they were much easier for Buttercup to hold on to.

I only ever have whole wheat pasta in my house, so that's what Buttercup had. I read something once about making sure your baby doesn't eat too much fiber/whole grain before they're first birthday. Something about nutrient absorption and making them feel full too soon... I've scoured the internet for that article and can't for the life of me find it, so I guess it's not too important? I am definitely not giving Buttercup too many starches/grains. I want the bulk of her solid foods to be fruits, veggies and meats. Her carbs can come from breastmilk, which is still the best food for her.

PROS: easy to chew
CONS: a little tricky to handle

Banana (Take 3)

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Banana is one of the best foods for introducing solids to your baby. It's nutritious, easily digestible, and a good consistency for chewing and swallowing. Unfortunately, the consistency also makes it easy for little hands to mash into a squishy pulp. Buttercup holds on to bananas so tightly that they smoosh into pieces. I've tried several different ways of serving bananas to her to circumvent this problem (Click Back to see Take 1, and Take 2), and here we are now on Take 3:

I peeled the banana, then cut it into half inch thick slices. This worked really well. Buttercup could pick up the thicker "coins" with both hands and bite them without her fists of steel squishing through them. Because the slices are thicker she is able to pick up smaller pieces after she's already bitten chunks out of it.

I've been reading mothering forums about mommies making their own baby food using bananas mixed with water/breastmilk/Cream of Wheat, getting the desired smoothness/chunkiness using blenders/food processors/forks. It makes me so thankful I can just hand my baby a slice of banana and eat my lunch.

PROS: easier to handle
CONS: none

Strawberry

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Strawberries were one of my favorite foods as a child and I'm proud to say that Buttercup likes them, too. (I'm sure one day she'll like them even more with some shortcake under them and some whipped cream on top of them...MMMmmm...)

You may have read somewhere that strawberries are highly allergenic and you shouldn't let your baby near a mile radius of them. According to wholesomebabyfood.com strawberries are one of the top food allergy culprits. I haven't found anything from other reputable sources to back this up. According to the American Academy of Pedatrics, you can now safely introduce any food to your 6 month old (they don't even mention strawberries). Their latest research shows that delaying the introduction of certain foods does not decrease the incident of food allergies at all. It is important to keep family history as well as other food allergies in mind when introducing foods to your baby. Buttercup has no known allergies, hasn't reacted to anything she's consumed via breastmilk, and has no family history of food allergies. WOW! That was a long-winded way to say "Go for it!" If you're still worried about food allergies when introducing your baby to solid foods, here is an excellent interview discussing the AAP's new recommendations.

So! I washed the strawberry with Fit veggie wash, and handed it over. Buttercup immediately gummed a chunk out of it and began chewing away. I ended up taking it back and cutting it in half, as she kept trying to shove the whole berry in her mouth and it wasn't fitting very well.

PROS: yummy, high in vitamin C
CONS: stains...a lot...(a cold soak for clothing work wonders, though)

Summer Squash

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Squash is Buttercup's new favorite food! She liked this even more than sweet potato, as you can tell by the photo of her attacking a slice.

I had prepared a meal incorporating sliced patty pan squash, so I just pulled a few discs from of my plate and cut them into slices for Buttercup. As you can see, she destroyed them. She also ate like a pig at this meal consuming: two slices squash, one green bean, half a strawberry, quarter of a banana and a quarter of a plum. But, she has enjoyed the squash with as much gusto at each subsequent offering, so I know it wasn't a fluke.

Squash seems like it has a really nice consistency for babies, and it's chock full of vitamins, so that makes mama happy. I highly recommend squash as one of the first vegetables you offer your baby.

Interesting sidenote: did you know that summer squash is any squash with an edible peel and soft seeds (ex: pattypan squash)? Winter squash (ex: pumpkin) has a hard exterior and seeds. Who knew?

PROS: great texture for baby, nutritious food
CONS: NONE!

Melon

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I picked up a honeydew melon for Hubby recently and it seemed like a fun thing for Buttercup to try.

At first I gave Buttercup a couple of thin "smiley face" slices with the rind on, thinking it would be easier for her to hold without falling apart. The shape was great for her to hold with two hands, but the rind proved too difficult to get past. Hubby cut off the rind and let Buttercup have another go at it. This worked much better because no matter where she chomped down, she had access to the fruit. Although I don't think she managed to get much fruit off, there must have been something satisfying about chewing on it because she kept at it for a long time. At one point Butterup tried to put the entire thing in her mouth, giving her the appearance of the cheshire cat, so that was amusing.

Maybe I'm biased (because I don't happen to like melons), but I think many other fruits are worthier of baby led solids, both from a nutritional standpoint and from an easy-for-baby-to-eat standpoint. Maybe we will have to reevaluate this one after Buttercup gets a few teeth.

PROS: not messy
CONS: hard to chew

Mushroom

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To prepare the mushroom, I pulled the stem off and peeled the cap, per my peculiar custom. I'm sure it would work fine to just give it an old-fashioned scrub. I handed Buttercup the peeled cap and first she tried to put the whole thing in her mouth, which was funny. But, as soon as she got a bite off she made a horrible "yuck" face. She persevered and kept sticking the mushroom back in her mouth, grimacing every time, and ended up with a whole huge mouthful of mushroom pieces at one point. I'm not sure if she actually swallowed any, but I don't think she was much impressed. I guess mushrooms do have a pretty intense flavor and plenty of grown adults don't like them. I really want Buttercup to like them, though. Maybe we'll try them cooked at a later date.

Did you know that mushrooms are the best food source of the vital micro mineral selenium?

PROS: easy to chew
CONS: strong taste

Apple

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This was our first experience with feeding a baby solid foods away from home. It was blissful to not have to pack food, spoon, bib. I rarely even grab a diaper bag these days if we're out for less time than a nap cycle, so this kind of portability is definitely a must for me. On the menu for the grownups was salads, which meant that there were plenty of things for Buttercup to choose from. In the end she sat on my lap and munched on some grilled chicken, a rice cracker and some finely sliced apples (with skins on). I chose those foods because they weren't going to stain her clothes or be too messy at someone else's house.

Apples are usually one of baby's first foods when introducing solids, due to their mildness of flavor and easy texture. However, since we started this adventure in the middle of summer I found I just couldn't bring myself to pay extra money for a fruit that's so out of season yet. Maybe it's a silly of me, but I'm picky when it comes to quality produce for my baby!

Anyway, Buttercup liked the apples. I think she had 2 or 3 slices. I'm looking forward to the next few weeks when the farmers' markets start carrying locally grown apples and I can buy some nice sweet ones for Buttercup. Or maybe I should buy her a sour one just for fun...

Sidenote: some people think that apples pose a choking risk for babies. I think if they're sliced thinly enough they should be fine. I don't see any possible way Buttercup could have choked on these, especially since she is a seasoned veteran of the baby led solids.

PROS: A great first solid food, mild, easy texture, non-staining
CONS: none!

Breakfast Cereal

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I've been putting Buttercup in her exersaucer to play while I eat my breakfast and clean the kitchen in the mornings. The past few days I've put a handful of breakfast cereal in the "dog bowl" section (as Hubby and I call it). I didn't really expect Buttercup to be able to pick them up and eat them, but I thought she could kind of play with them and work on her pincer skills. Well, she surprised me - she did eat them! Although she can't pick them up with her index finger and thumb, she worked out a method where she rakes them up into her fist, then sticks her whole fist in her mouth. Clever girl! All in all Buttercup probably eats 15-20 pieces in a sitting now.

Buttercup is so in love with cereal. It makes me glad that it wasn't one of her first foods, because I'm convinced she would be a carb addict. She whines like a puppy when there's no cereal in her bowl. So far she's had Kix (43% RDA iron) and Multigrain Cheerios (109% RDA iron). I love that Kix was my baby's first cereal. So much more fun than shoveling awful-tasting mush into her mouth. For more information on commercial baby cereal click Back to check out the BLS FAQ's.

PROS: high in iron, easy snack-type food, non-messy
CONS: difficult for younger babies to handle

Pepper (Take 1)

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On the cover of the Baby-Led Weaning book there is a photo of an adorable baby chewing on a slice of raw bell pepper. This inspired me to try bell pepper out on Buttercup, thinking it must be a super easy early food for babies. Well, that kid must have something mine doesn't (probably a couple of teeth!) because it didn't work out so well for us. Buttercup wasn't able to break any little bits off by sucking or gumming it. In fact, she quickly lost interest in trying to eat it and seemed to prefer brandishing it like a sword.

So, Buttercup may not have the pepper chewing skills of the baby on 'The Book', but maybe when her chompers pop through she'll prove a force to be reckoned with. Watch out, peppers!

PROS: it's high in vitamin C
CONS: couldn't get any bits off, will have to re-evaluate after some teeth come in

Salmon Croquettes

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Up to this point, Buttercup had only had simple one ingredient meals. I made salmon croquettes for dinner so I thought I'd try that out with her. They consisted of salmon, onions, bell peppers, bread crumbs, and egg. Ok, so they're really just salmon patties, but calling them "croquettes" makes me feel more sophisticated. I cut one into thirds and gave it to Buttercup during our dinner.

As far as I could tell she liked it. The multiple ingredients didn't seem to phase her. She smashed a fistful in her mouth like she'd been doing it all her life. Buttercup did get quite a lot of food in her mouth at one point. She had a bit of a coughing fit, but didn't end up spitting anything out. She kept working and eventually swallowed it all! I know that a lot of people have reservations about baby led solids because they are afraid of the choking thing, but honestly I've had more issues with food going down the wrong pipe than my baby has recently. Remember the FAQ's page: coughing and even gagging is a normal part of the learning process.

Sidenote: I'm starting to really wish we had a dog. A dog would come in really handy for cleaning up high chair fallout.

Check out this great article outlining the necessities of introducing fish to your baby early on.

PROS: great nutrition (hello Omega-3s), easy to chew
CONS: Hubby said it made Buttercup's face smell like the lake

Plum

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This is a great early food for introducing solid foods to your baby. The flesh is soft and easily managed by baby. For some reason, though, I only just finally got around to buying some even though they are currently in season.

We actually had two "first tries" of plum. The first time I didn't think to check if the plum was ripe yet or not. It wasn't... Buttercup was a little trooper, though, and gave it a puckery try. I tried it again after a few days of ripening and she seemed much more pleased with the experience. She sucked all the fruit off of her first slice and most of a second. It's still amazing to me how well she does at holding on to the peel and sucking the fruit off things.

PROS: another great fruit for the repertoire
CONS: should be properly ripened due to tartness

Egg (Scrambled)

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It had been awhile since Buttercup had had a new food. So, this morning she had her first taste of eggs. I scrambled two egg yolks into a little patty then cut it into strips. The reason I only did egg yolks is because she has a family history of reactions to hard-boiled eggs, and I've noticed that her eczema gets worse when I've eaten hard-boiled eggs. Even though I was giving her scrambled eggs I decided to leave out the whites, which is the part of the egg that contain allergens.

It could be because it was morning and Buttercup isn't used to eating in the morning, but she didn't seem all that impressed. She nibbled on all the pieces, but eventually started playing with them, and kept begging for her water. I definitely plan to try this food again with her in a week or so, though, because it is so nutritious.

PROS: high nutritional value (including iron), not messy, easy to eat
CONS: I wish she liked it more...

Banana (Take 2)

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I finally got around to going to the grocery store, and even remembered to buy bananas this time. Gold star for me. Buttercup hadn't had banana since her first ever experiment with BLS. We had handling issues with our first attempt, so this time I took a different approach: I washed the outside of the banana with Fit, cut the top half off, then cut in quarters, lengthwise, leaving the skin on (but I cut off the stem). This gave Buttercup a non-slip grip for each slice. This is exactly what I do for avocados now. It works so well I thought I'd try it for bananas, too.

Much. More. Successful. Buttercup managed to get little pieces (and some not-so-little pieces) off while holding on to the skin. She really enjoyed the fruit, and gnawing on the skin. She probably managed to properly consume over half of what I gave her.

Another helpful tip: banana fruit sticks to its peel much better when it isn't too ripe. Once a banana starts to get brown spots it becomes much more difficult for baby to handle.

PROS: great nutritious and easily digestible food
CONS: none!

Chicken (Dark Meat)

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I decided after the last time I offered Buttercup chicken that I would try dark meat next. Well, we never have dark meat in the house, since I usually buy chicken breasts. However, Hubby bought a rotisserie chicken as a special Sunday treat, so I set some dark meat aside for experimentation purposes. Basically I just pulled out some 2 inch strips that looked manageable for little hands, making sure there were no bones, gristle or fat.

I was right - dark meat was much easier! The white meat from our first chicken experiment seemed a bit dry and difficult to swallow. Buttercup seemed to enjoy the taste of the dark meat a lot more, too. Who wouldn't enjoy the extra greasy yumminess of dark meat? A lot more of the meat went down her throat than last time, though that could be owed to the mad eating skills she's developed in the last few weeks.

PROS: easier to chew than white mean, loads of absorbable iron
CONS: a bit slippier than white mean, beware of gristle and fat chunks on meat.

Water (Shot Glass)

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Although we've had pretty good success with our previous method of water-drinking (Click Back to Read), we decided to try having Buttercup drink out of a shot glass. As strange as it is to think about my baby girl drinking out of a shot glass (especially one that has a pi–a colada recipe on it), it seemed like a good idea so I tried it. It was so much easier for Buttercup that I think we'll stick with this method for the time being. Her little lips seemed to seal around the shot glass easier than with the plastic cup we'd been using. And her hands could wrap around it, too. (Click Back to "Lessons Learned" to view a video of Buttercup drinking from a shot glass)

Try it, you'll like it!

Fish

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I made pan-fried tilapia fillets (with a corn meal/flour coating), smashed potatoes and green beans (from my garden!). I was thinking about what to give Buttercup for dinner when I thought, "What the heck! I'll just give her what we're having!" That's one of the main advantages to BLS, right? So, Buttercup had her first taste of fish, and her first multi-food meal.

She loved it all. This kid must have been adopted. I didn't have tilapia for the first time until I was 21. In fact, I think my only experience of fish until college was canned tuna and frozen fish sticks. I'm so happy that Buttercup is getting to try so many different things and is developing a love of healthy food. It warms the cockles of my heart. And I'm SOOO relieved that she isn't picky...

I digress. Buttercup enjoyed the green beans more than her last try of them. I steamed them a bit longer and I think that made the difference. I cut the smallest tilapia fillet into four long strips. She managed the pieces pretty easily. The only challenge for her was the little end bits that were cooked a bit crispier than the rest. I should have cut those off first. Challenges aside, she probably swallowed a third of the fish I gave her. The potatoes were a bit more of a challenge, as I anticipated they would be. I tried giving her a pre-loaded spoon of them, but she wasn't interested. She did managed to pick up a few fistfuls and squish it into her gob. I was proud.

PROS: Omega-3 = brain food
CONS: Watch out for the tough end bits, which are harder for baby to "chew"

Zucchini

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This was a special night - the night I picked the first zucchini from my garden. I am a nerd.

I was in a quandary as to how to prepare said zucchini. In the end I tried it two ways: raw and steamed. I washed the outside with Fit and cut several 3 inch-ish sticks. I gave Buttercup the steamed zucchini first. She was pretty excited about it. When I gave her the raw sticks, she gnawed on it for about a second, threw it on the floor and looked at me like, "what the heck was that all about?" Yeah...I should have known, but sometimes a girl's just gotta try things!

Interesting to note in the photo that Buttercup is developing her "pincer" skill. So far she only manages to pincer larger items. I haven't seen her do it with small things. Until I see that consistently I won't let her have any small pieces of food (peas, blueberries, raisins, etc.). We will stick with the classic BLS french fry shape portions for now.

PROS: I grew it myself (can't get more organic than that!)
CONS: none

Spreads

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Along with rice cakes, toast makes a good carrier for spreads. Other spreads worth trying are: smashed avocado, smashed banana, cream cheese, and thinly spread peanut butter. Interesting to note that the American Association of Pediatrics has changed their recommendations on delaying giving peanut butter to children under a year. That practice hasn't been shown to reduce peanut allergies in children so pediatricians have lifted the advice. The only thing to keep an eye out for with peanut butter is its consistency. If you put too much on, it can be too thick for your little one to safely manage without gagging and possibly choking.

By the way, we use Smucker's natural peanut butter. One ingredient = good. Although I think cream cheese is a good idea, we are waiting on that one because of the "cheese incident." (Click Back to Read) Since discovering an easier way to serve bananas and avocados we haven't done as much of those as spreads, but I would recommend them to babies having issues with hand-mouth coordination.

PROS: a great way to boost nutritional value of grain foods and add variety
CONS: messy.

Cheese

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While snacking in our hotel room, Hubby & I shared some cheese with Buttercup. I don't even know what kind it was, but I think it was a mild cheddar. Anyway, she seemed to like it, but I don't think it liked her. It made her smell like rotten cheese all day, even after her bath. I don't know what the deal was, but it seemed to be emanating from her pores (and she definitely had bad breath the rest of the day). I'm not sure what that means? Ewwww!

I know cheese is tasty and all, but really there isn't anything in it nutritionally that Buttercup can't get from yogurt or other foods (except tons of salt) so maybe I will just leave this one for now.

PROS: easy to chew and swallow
CONS: messy/slimy, made my baby STINKY!!!

Avocado (Take 1)

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What an adventure this was! I don't think Hubby & I have ever laughed so hard during a meal. Ok, first I washed the whole avocado with Fit veggie wash (I should get corporate sponsorship, shouldn't I?). I cut the avocado in half, then cut one of the halves into quarter strips leaving the skins on.

Buttercup immediately picked up a slice and put it in her mouth. She was able to suck pieces off pretty easily. She did manage to suck a piece of skin off and had it in her mouth. I fished it out, but that's something to keep an eye on in the future. Another benefit to BLS that I'm noticing is that Buttercup's motor skills, especially her hand-eye coordination, are improving exponentially with each meal in a way that I don't think would happen with just her normal playtimes. I guess food is a good motivator for her. She must take after her dad.

The hilarity of the mealtime came from the fact that once Buttercup started getting the fruit mashed up in her mouth everything within her grasp became very slippery. She'd pick up a slice and it would pop right out of her hand. Then I would try to pick it up and hand it to her and I couldn't pick it up either! Everything was just slip-sliding all over the place. Also, her bib is permanently green, I think.

PROS: high nutrition, good-fat and comedic value, yummy, easy to chew and swallow
CONS: slippery, very messy and staining

Rice Cakes

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I read somewhere that rice cakes were a good first food so I picked some up at the store. I couldn't find unflavored mini ones so I bought the big ones, selecting the salt-free version. I was disappointed when I later read the package to see that there wasn't much to recommend the rice cakes nutritionally. I guess they are a whole grain, but there were no vitamins, minerals, protein... Oh well, I figure I can always spread stuff on them. Maybe they will prove an easier way to transport slimy things like avocado and banana? For the first experiment I gave Buttercup a few strips I'd cut off the rice cake.

After she smashed the strips of rice cake into smithereens I was impressed to watch her still going after the smaller pieces. Thus far she hadn't managed to pick up small chunks and get them to her mouth. I think it helped that rice cakes become tacky as soon as little hands get a bit of drool on them.

Buttercup swallowed all of the rice cake but the tiniest crumbs (unless she's hiding it somewhere, and I wouldn't put it past the clever girl).

PROS: easy handling
CONS: low in nutritional value

Peaches

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One of the great things about giving birth in the dead of winter is that your baby is starting solids during the yummy summer months. So much fresh produce, so little time!

First I washed a piece with Fit veggie wash. Ideally, I would like to be feeding my family organic produce, especially the "Dirty Dozen." But, I'm not. Until we can do that, I'm using Fit veggie wash. It helps me sleep better at night. Anyway, I cut the side off my washed peach, then sliced that chunk into thirds (leaving skins on). I have to say that I am noticing that I think Buttercup does better with shapes that are more ball-like/chunk-like than the classic BLS "baton" or french-fry shape. But, she does pretty well.

She seemed to like it pretty well, but spat out all the skins. Fair enough, really. Does anyone actually LIKE peach skin? Also, as I said above, I think she may have done a bit better maintaining her grasp if the chunks were chunkier. Maybe next time I will give her the whole peach with a bit sliced off to provide an entry point.

PROS: great in-season fruit
CONS: slippery

Water

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Ok, so not much of an experiment; I'm pretty sure water isn't going to kill my baby. I'm not even convinced it's necessary, but some BLS mamas do it. I'm sure Buttercup is still drinking a lot, because she's still nursing the same as before.

I do give Buttercup water when I feel like she might have a bunch of food hanging out in her mouth or throat. Also, it's summer so sometimes I give it to her when she's hot. She never drinks more than an ounce at most, and I give it to her out of a regular small cup (the old school tupperware cups from the 70's). I figured, "why teach her to drink of out one kind of cup and then have to re-teach with another kind when when she gets older?" It also helps that my baby is a genius who doesn't need help with such menial tasks as drinking water. Naturally!

I started practicing drinking out of a cup with Buttercup after a bath. I figured, "Hey, she's naked and already wet!" I was surprised how little went down her front the first few times. She does have a tendency to try to lap it up like a little puppy, though.

Potato (White)

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Buttercup and I had potatoes for lunch. I baked the potatoes, then cut a few slices off for Buttercup, placing hers in the freezer for a few minutes to cool down.

She did pretty well with them. She's really getting used to the whole eating experience. The look of intense concentration she gets on her face while bringing a piece of food to her mouth is classic.

I did wonder if this potato is drier than the sweet potato Buttercup has been eating. She did gag more with this food than she has with any other. I think part of it was because large-ish chunks were falling off in her mouth, too. I could tell Buttercup enjoyed it, though, because she was doing her excited fast breathing thing she does. When she does that while eating it's enough to make me have a heart attack. I guess she knows what she's doing, though, because she hasn't choked!

PROS: non-messy, in the staining kind of way
CONS: a bit dry

Chicken (White Meat)

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Although American pediatricians recommend introducing meats last, it is actually one of the best first foods. Did you know that in Africa meat is the FIRST food introduced to babies? Also, the iron found in meat is the most easily digestible (which makes one wonder why pediatricians want you feed your kid synthetically iron fortified baby cereal and not meat). I am not a red meat eater, so I decided chicken would be Buttercup's first meat. I pan fried chicken breasts in a bit of olive oil (no salt) and let Buttercup's cool. I cut it into strips lengthwise before giving them to her.

She liked it a lot, and kept squawking whenever she'd accidentally dropped a piece. She was working hard to get bits off, though she didn't seem to mind. She did manage to soften the pieces up impressively well with her gums.

Hubby suggested that next time I cut the chicken width-wise ("against the grain") so that it comes apart in Buttercup's mouth easier. Also, I'm wondering if dark meat would be a better option for babies. It is higher in iron, and the fat would probably make for easier munching.

PROS: a good source of nutrients and iron, not too messy
CONS: a bit difficult to chew and swallow

Banana (Take 1)

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First of all, I am not breastfeeding any less just because we are starting to offer foods at meals. Buttercup nurses 5-6 times a day, and we will offer her solid food two times a day at this point.

Ok, so I decided to start Buttercup off with banana. It's easily digestible, full of good nutrients, yadda yadda. I thought it might work best to peel the banana down a couple of inches, then trim off the peel so that it didn't get in her way. That way, she'd have a "handle." Yeah, that worked for about 10 seconds, until she squooshed the top part off into a big slimy mess. I think she got some in her mouth, though, judging by her grimace. It was really difficult for her to hold any of the pieces after that, and she got frustrated being in the bumbo (hand-crafted highchair still forthcoming, according to Grandpa). So...that was our first experience.

PROS: easily digestible food
CONS: need to find a better way to serve... (check out a later experiment with banana)

Pear

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Our second experiment worked much better. First of all, I put Buttercup in her baby poppadom chair, so I think that helped. I washed the pear with Fit veggie wash, cut off a circular slice of pear (with skin on), then cut it in two so I was left with two chunks about the size and shape of my pinky. I offered one to her, she grabbed it and shoved it in her mouth and proceeded to suck it! I was pretty amazed. She got little bits off - some of them went down and she gagged some out. (Click Back to see FAQ's page for more on the gagging reflex). After a little while Buttercup decided she was more interested in the rest of the pear that I was munching on. Since I was mostly done with it I handed it over and she grabbed it with both tiny mitts and went to town on it! Needless to say, I found pear skin in her diaper the next morning. HA HA!

(I guess I didn't take a picture of her finger-sized original portion, which was very unhelpful of me. Sorry!)

PROS: yummy!
CONS: messy! Be forewarned: pears WILL stain clothing

Broccoli and Beans

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I decided to do some green veggies for this meal. I don't want Buttercup to have a sweet tooth. I've read that babies are actually hard-wired to prefer sweets (especially if they've been breastfed), but I still want her to have a good balance in her diet. Secondly, I'd read that broccoli makes for a really good first food, as it has built in handles. Also, it's also a good source of iron, which is of some consideration if you're passing on baby cereal (Click Back to see FAQs page for a blurb about baby cereal and iron). I grabbed a green bean out of my garden as an afterthought, mainly to see what Buttercup would do with it. My poor little lab rat...heh heh.

I pulled 3 frozen broccoli florets out of the freezer and steamed them along with the green bean. Before you think I'm horrible person for feeding my baby frozen broccoli I think it's worth noting that most of the time frozen veggies are actually better quality than fresh. They are picked at peak ripeness and frozen within hours, whereas fresh veggies are picked under-ripe and shipped halfway across the country (sometimes world) and sit in the back warehouse of Walmart for several days before the customer brings them home to sit in their fridge for several more days...I digress...Anyway, I let the broccoli and green bean get just soft enough that I thought they'd be easy to gum up, then I let them cool off.

Ok, so I held up a broccoli floret and Buttercup promptly wrapped her fist around it, and shoved it in her mouth. She definitely has this game figured out! But, I was amazed when the broccoli reemerged several seconds later with many of the green knubbly bits missing, presumably down her gullet. When she dropped it she made little frustrated yelling noises until I helped her get it again. I never knew my amazingly calm content baby had an impatient side until we started "real" food! The bean wasn't as much of a success. She chewed on it a bit, made a horrible face, then dropped it. I offered it back and she refused to touch it.

I found little tiny broccoli "leaves" in Buttercup's diaper the next day, which made me chuckle. This is a good time to mention that it is perfectly normal to find seemingly undigested bits of food in baby's diaper when introducing foods. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your baby's digestive system (much to Hubby's relief).

Broccoli -
PROS: very easy to manage and eat, and high in iron
CONS: none!

Green beans -
PROS: nice built-in BLS shape
CONS: a bit difficult to gnaw on

Yogurt

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Most mornings I make myself a smoothie for breakfast. I usually throw in a banana and some spinach, then throw in whatever else I have lying around. The past few mornings I have thrown in whatever bits of food Buttercup was offered/played with/did not consume into the blender and drank them myself. Maybe that sounds gross to some people, but I cannot bear the thought of wasted food. We're in a recession, people!!

This morning I tossed some yogurt into my smoothie (nothing fancy, just plain-label low-fat yogurt) and decided to offer some to Buttercup. One of the reasons I'm doing Baby-Led Solids is that I want my baby to be an independent little food explorer. So, with that in mind, I put some yogurt on a grippable spoon and handed it to her to feed. My kid's no dummy! She put it straight in her mouth and started sucking on the yogurt! Then she made a horrible face. I'm sensing a theme here. Honestly, I think the face-making thing is just her way of saying, "Hey, now that's a new sensation!" But, she didn't seem overly excited about the yogurt. She had about three spoonfuls and I ate the rest.

Interesting funfact: yogurt apparently stings when it gets in your eyes. That's what Buttercup thought, at least. Who knew?

PROS: cute to watch baby use a spoon by herself
CONS: hurts the peepers

Toast

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I toasted myself some whole wheat bread for a PB&J lunch, and a little scrap of heel fell off in the toaster. I thought, "perfect size for baby!" I know some people have qualms about introducing wheat products to babies under a year due to possible allergies, but Hubby and I are both non-allergic-types, and I didn't think that Buttercup would end up swallowing much of it at this stage anyway. So, I handed it over.

I've read that toast is better for BLS than bread, as the bread can get mushy and stuck to the roof of baby's mouth. I have to admit I was still a little nervous about that, but Buttercup didn't really seem to have much of an issue with it. She gagged maybe once?

I've been meaning to mention: Buttercup has no teeth. Didn't know if you were wondering that or not...Teeth are not necessary equipment for baby-led solids.

PROS: I imagine this will be a good grain staple in future, especially with healthy toppings as Buttercup grows
CONS: A tiny bit nerve-wracking for the BLS newbie P.S. Have you noticed how happy Buttercup looks in all these pics? I like it.

Sweet Potato

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This meal was an instant hit! Buttercup LOVED it! She loved it so much she was squealing the whole time!

I selected a small sweet potato and baked it, let it cool, then peeled the skin off. I cut it into quarters and put them on the tray of Buttercup's brand new high chair. Props to Grandpa's mad wood-working skills (and Grandma's sewing)!

sidenote: I've been meaning to say that I never put food to Buttercup's mouth. I put it by her hand and let her grab it and put it in her mouth on her own. That's what I do with her toys so we already have mutual understanding.

Buttercup's attention span definitely grew during this meal. She sat contentedly smooshing food and mawing on it for our entire dinnertime. It's interesting how each time we offer her food more of it ends up in her belly, too. This was evidenced both by how little was left of the sweet potato and by how many little orange chunks I found in her diaper the next day. While I'm on the topic of diapers (though this is NOT a blog about cloth diapering...), I just folded her newly laundered cloth diapers and they had stains for the first time. *SNIFF* Goodbye, days of exclusively breastfed poopies and your magical non-staining properties. Oh well, it had to happen someday.

PROS: she loved it!
CONS: like all things that are squishy, Buttercup vice-gripped it to a pulp (check out the photo).

P.S. I just learned that the sweet potato is the #1 ranking vegetable for nutrition value!

Carrot (Take 1)

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For lunch today I grabbed a smallish carrot from the fridge, peeled it, cut it in half, baked it, then soaked in the cold water while I ran around the house like a headless chicken taking care of business. I wanted to make sure that the carrot was really soft because the idea of a hard carrot chunk lodging in Buttercup's windpipe did not appeal to this first-time mom, thank you very much.

I handed half of the carrot over and Buttercup shoved the whole thing in her mouth (moments after the first photo was taken). It appeared as though she was enjoying herself, as she worked quite diligently to consume much of the carrot. At the end, she'd mangled the second carrot half into two bits and had them dangling from her mouth. I laughed at her and she looked proud of herself. The carrot seemed easier for Buttercup to handle without turning into mush, which was nice. Also, I was too lazy to take her white dress off so I was refreshingly surprised to see that carrot didn't stain her clothes (which cannot be said for carrot puree, that's for darn sure!)

I did notice with a subsequent carrot offering that it is possible to cook the carrot for too long, making it rubbery and impossible to eat...

PROS: easy to gum without being too squishy, shockingly non-messy
CONS: proper cooking is essential

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