‘Baby Led Weaning’ Is Not For Me, Because Choking

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Baby-led weaning – have you heard of it? In this country, it generally means allowing a breastfed baby to decide when it’s time to wean off the boob. Apparently in Britain, it means something different, as explained by a NYT Motherlode blog I read a few days ago titled, Trusting A Baby To Know How To Eat. I’m not trusting my baby to know how to eat. I barely trust adults to know how to eat.

Search American parenting sites for “baby-led weaning” and most of what you’ll find is advice on ending breastfeeding when the child chooses. But here in Britain, the term commonly means letting babies feed themselves from their very first mouthful of solid food at six months. No runny rice cereal, no applesauce, no airplane spoon games. Instead they start exclusively on easy-to-grab finger foods like steamed carrot sticks, hunks of banana, and even skinless chicken drumsticks, then progress at their own pace to more complex dishes.

When I see someone shove a giant bite of steak in their mouth, I start mentally preparing myself to perform the heimlich. I’m not kidding. Is that normal? I don’t think it is. This is why baby-led weaning could never happen in my house – I generally just don’t trust others to know how to effectively swallow things without getting them stuck in their gullets.

I like the first stages of mushy foods; they comfort me. I become a total wreck when I have to start figuring out how big to cut things and how much to cook them. It makes me so nervous. I could never hand my six-month-old a banana without breaking out in a cold sweat. According to the comments on the NYT piece, I’m in the minority:

BLW is great — good for you. My 7-month old loves gnawing on drumsticks (with skin!), ribs and even lamb shanks. Great food, great fun.

There is a broader lesson here. Better than learning from some trendy feeding class, learn from Maria Montessori, who told parents to “follow the child” and said: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

I am a chef and both of my kids were allowed to try anything that they showed a curiosity for. Within a couple of weeks, they would refuse to eat store bought baby food. At 5 months, my son was sent into raptures at his first taste of Oaxocan black mole.

Oh my. I like to ease myself into being ready to feed my child larger chunks of food, instead of going right from boobs to ribs. Once we get to the stage when she’s ready for larger pieces, we won’t refer to it as “baby-led weaning” in my house. We’ll use this fancy term you may have heard before:


(photo: Getty Images)