When I started the Baby on a Budget series, my intent was to help other parents find ways to make it possible to have a little one on a little budget. What I didn't expect was that it would help me find new ways to save money and new parenting ideas to boot. First, Amanda of Making Memories offered to write a post on Elimination Communication, something that I was interested in but hadn't had time to research. Then, Amy of You Shall Go Out with Joy sent me an email asking if I would be interested in a post on baby-led solids for the series. Lucia just turned three months old, so I haven't had the opportunity to delve into solids yet. Not only is this post providing another money saving solution for my readers, it's also providing me with a much-needed introduction to solids just in time to use the information with my little one. Thanks so much, Amy!
Ahh, bliss. You’ve finally settled into this whole baby thing. Breastfeeding seems like a breeze now, after the first difficult weeks. Alternatively, you’ve finally figured out how to wash the bottles so there is always actually a clean one available when baby is hungry. (Or maybe that is just my own particular fear due to my inability to keep the dishes cleaned!) But then. The six-month mark approaches and people start asking: Has baby started eating food yet? Is your freezer stocked? Mmm, rice cereal!
If the idea of spending hours pureeing food and trying to coax it into your little one’s mouth makes you sweat, never fear: there is another way. Baby-led solids (or baby-led weaning [BLW] here in the UK) is a great alternative way to introduce solids to babies and, as I’ll outline below, can save a few pennies to boot!
But first, what is baby-led solids? Baby-led weaning was first developed (in the modern sense) by a health visitor / public health nurse in England, Gill Rapley, after years of observing children start on solid foods. She has written a great book explaining all the ins and outs that I would definitely recommend if you are interested in the concept. (There are a couple of fact sheets that can give you a good start on it all as well). The basic concept of BLS is that, from about the age of six months, babies have the abilities necessary to feed themselves. Instead of giving purees, the parent/carer offers baby soft finger foods that she can pick up and put into her mouth to lick, taste, gum, chew, or just spit out in disgust!
|steak, yum yum (at 26 weeks)|
With my son Gus, we gave him his first “meal” right at 6 months of age—banana and avocado. He wasn’t that keen on the taste—for a couple of weeks, he would have a horrified look on his face every time he first tasted something—but he loved experimenting with his food, and always went back for more. It was great fun for all of us to sit together as a family at the dinner table, my husband Jon and I eating our dinner and watching Gus explore. As he has grown (he is 15 months now), it has been a real joy to share our meals with him—and has taught me a thing or two about patience, trusting him to know himself and his needs, and accepting a bit of messiness!
Okay, sounds nice enough, but how is this going to save me money?
To be honest, you can probably find ways to spend lots of money using BLW or very little money going the traditional route. But, for our family, it was easier for us to save in various ways by following a baby-led approach.
The beauty of BLW, to me, is that Baby eats what we eat, so there is no separate purchasing and preparation of food (as long as the food is low in salt—add it to the pot after dishing out Baby’s food or to your own plate at the table). This means that we didn’t buy any fancy equipment to make homemade purees or containers to freeze it in. There was no need to buy special spoons with curved heads or bowls with handles for feeding Gus with—we just used our regular old teaspoons, some glass ramekins we already had, and a few little bowls from Ikea. We didn’t buy any foods that are marketed specifically toward babies, which inevitably cost at least twice as much as their “adult” equivalents. When Gus had porridge for breakfast, it was because I was eating oatmeal that day, and I just put a tablespoon or two into a bowl for him. Of course, when we are eating steak or asparagus (two foods that were on his menu quite early on—and very well received), maybe I do wish we had something a bit more cheap and cheerful to give him!
|practicing using a spoon--with mixed results!|
Waste can also potentially be cut down. Since you are serving Baby food that you are also eating yourself, anything that he decides not to eat can easily be consumed by a foraging parent. That is, if it hasn’t been thrown on the floor, chewed up and spit out again, or had half a cup of water dumped on it (and let’s be honest, sometimes that doesn’t seem to stop
you me). I have a friend that started solids the traditional way and has said that she doesn’t serve her son food that she wouldn’t eat herself, which seems to me a pretty good rule, but for me, I am not all that keen on eating leftovers of banana-broccoli puree or whatever weird flavours you find in some weaning cookbooks! Also, you don’t have to worry about half a (rather expensive) jar or pouch of food going uneaten and thrown in the trash.
A major factor, for me, is just the time that is saved by not making separate food for Gus. And time is money, people! I always seem to have such a long to-do list, that I am grateful for one less thing to do. I’ve found that sharing my food with my baby has made me think even more about the healthfulness of my own diet, and not having to make special food for Gus has freed up time to make things that benefit the whole family, such as homemade bread or soup for lunch.
Starting solids is such an adventure, whatever way you go about it. But it should be fun and help babies learn to love food, not be stressful. Hopefully, baby-led solids can help relieve some of the stress from both feeding interactions and to your pocketbook.
- How do we get started with solids, Kellymom.com, which gives lots of info about how to balance milk and solid food intake as baby is starting out
- There are loads of bloggers that have written about the hows and whys of BLW, so here’s just one to whet your appetite: 10 Reasons to Choose Baby-led Weaning, Diary of a First Child
- Some research regarding weaning, food preferences, and weight as a child has recently been reported in the news: NHS Choices and Analytic Armadillo talk about the research behind the headlines
- Some documents on portion sizes for toddlers that were really enlightening to me in terms of how much food a toddler needs (these are for ages 1-4, so a baby just starting out would need even less!): The School Food Trust UK (Section 3 in particular) and the Infant and Toddler Forum (factsheet 1.3)
Amy is originally from the Midwestern USA, but moved across an ocean to be with the man she loves. She and Jon have been married for 5years and have a son called Gus, born in November 2010. She is writes about food,health, and parenting, but mostly just about her little family, at You Shall Go Out with Joy.
Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my Baby on a Budget series.