Now before you start throwing things at me, please know I completely understand I was and am lucky to have had a great nursing experience from the start. So when I started Lydia on solid foods, I was completely sure it would go great.
It didn't go so well.
Lydia was just over 5 months old when she was given her first spoon full of oatmeal. Chris sat nearby, camera in hand ready to catch the smiles. But what we got instead was coughing and gagging. She did not like it. As an occupational therapist, I knew well enough to not force this on her. But to instead give her a break, take a step back and try again soon. We gave it a couple days but got the same reaction.
I backed completely off of solids and instead put her in her high chair with pureed foods and simply let her play with it. Within a matter of time she began bringing the pureed food slopped on her hands to her mouth. And then I would put purees on a celery stick and let her suck on it on her own time. However, she still wasn't keen on taking food off of a spoon. The OT in me is assuming there was too much texture that she was unable to control having the utensil come from someone else.
After doing some research, I came across "baby led weaning" and saw a picture of a baby gnawing on a pork chop (http://www.babyledweaning.com/). The idea behind it is giving your baby table food (within reason) and letting her decide how much to eat. Additionally, this allows your baby to have control over nursing and solid food porrtions which is something they have very little control over when being spoon fed purees (easy to be over fed).
It made total sense to me. On top of this, it meant Lydia would be exposed to a wide array of textures. More OT approval!
I started Lydia off with soft food that was either cut up so small it would not pose a chocking hazard (steamed peas, black beans, mandarin oranges, bananas) or food so large she would would only be able to suck on it (broccoli stems, large apple slices, even large pieces of steak). I would just put the food in front her and let her go to town. She loved it!
On top of learning to love so many textures and tastes, she developed a pincer grasp within 3 days of feeding herself. I was pretty proud.
One question I have been asked is if I was worried she would continue nursing until she was 4. Ha! It crossed by mind but she reacted so well to feeding herself table food, I knew she would grow tired of breast milk eventually and this has held true. I still nurse Lydia about 3 times a day and have not myself pulled back but completely followed her cues. She has over the past month, however, shown less and less interest in nursing so I think we are within a few months of weaning. Also, at this point, I am convinced it is less about the sustenance and more about the comfort (still needs to nurse to fall asleep much of the time). As she has gotten older, she has simply demanded less breast milk and has become a wonderful eater. I have actually had several people comment how impressed they are with her appetite for different foods.
A concern I had was making sure she still learned to eat from a utensil. When she was about 8 months old, she started taking food off of spoons and forks just fine. I was slightly worried about this because eating from utensils is important for her oral motor skills as well as self care skills.
I am happy with the approach of baby led weaning. It has made food and meal time much less stressful for both Lydia and me (she usually eats just what Chris and I are having), she has been exposed to more food and textures, her fine motor and oral motor skills have benefited and she has been able to control how much solid food she is supplementing with nursing.
For more information on baby led weaning (because I am not an expert, just sharing my experience) visit:
Warning: It can be messy!