I want to start by saying that I, by no means am an expert in this area. I'm just a mama to a micro preemie who is almost a year old and I want to share what has worked for us as we introduced our babe to solids.
Whether you choose to wait until babe is a year or start earlier, whether you do purees or baby led weaning or a mix of both... whatever you decide to do is the best for you and your babe and no one has any right to judge you for the decisions you make in parenting that sweet babe of yours!
We started hazel on purees back in July. I've been asked whether we waited until Hazel could sit unassisted to start feeding solids. The answer is no. Hazel still is learning to sit unassisted because of her tiny frame she hasn't had the strength to. That being said, she has always had EXCELLENT neck control and in her high chair she can sit straight up. We decided to skip cereal entirely and go straight into purees. At first hazel would gag so often I worried she was choking. It took me some time, and a little research to learn that gagging was a normal response when starting to learn how to eat and to know the difference between gagging and choking. From my understanding as well, gagging is extremely common among preemies so mama's.. . Be patient!
Eventually hazel got the hang of it and the gagging stopped so we tried giving her some rice rusks (mum mums) but she would never try to chew it... she just stared at it in her hands. So we tried puffs and those just made her gag so hard she threw up, which freaked me out and I didn't attempt them again. Then around the same time Hazel fell ill again and spent a week in pediatrics so our feeding journey came to a grinding halt until she was discharged and home again.
We were back to square one with the purees. Now a quick little note on purees. I had every intention of making my own but at the time hazel was still on oxygen and never wanted to be put down so I never even had the time to cook for us let alone for her... so we made the decision to buy organic purees. Whatever you decide is your decision!
Once we started over again I was feeling more confident. And then one day I got out of the shower and my husband called to me to come see hazel and there she was happily gumming away at a rice rusk! I was so happy he had no fear in letting her try again because I was still shying away from them.
For a couple weeks we fed purees 3 times a day as much or as little as she wanted and I tried to give her one rice risk a day to practice her chewing and strengthen her jaw. After I saw a little progress I bought lightly textured purees from LOVE CHILD ORGANICS. I tried those and again we were back to gagging. So I started adding the textured in with the puree and saw progress. Over two weeks I slowly decreased the amount of puree added and hazel was happily adjusting to her new foods.
Then came October. We were in whistler and decided to give her a wedge of watermelon and she went crazy over it. After that she seemed uninterested in purees so, I gave her a puff and sure enough that little girl started chewing away without trouble.
I wondered if she was ready for something more.
Thanksgiving weekend came around and I gave her some sweet potato pie and mashed potatoes at our first dinner and she was thrilled. The next morning I gave her scrambled eggs, hashbrowns and pancakes with a little pure maple syrup all mashed up into very tiny bite size pieces and she did so great! That night at Turkey dinner number two I took a little of all the veggies, some stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy and again mashed it super tiny. I started feeding her not expecting great results but she exceeded my expectations and was chewing every bite so two nights later again I gave her what we were eating. Brown rice, falafel, tzaziki, feta cheese... all mashed up again into tiny bite size pieces.
That's where our feeding journey changed. I figured hazel wanted more than purees so I started giving her what we ate just mashed so tiny and forgot about the purees entirely.
Then I came across an Instagram feed called @foodforbubby the suggestion of another mama and she had so many great ideas on her feed that I yet again evolved in the way I was feeding our sweet girl.
So I made her toast. I put peanut butter on (She had tried it previously and ruled out allergies) all the while that voice in my head was saying "are you insane?! She can't eat this!". I cut it into fingers and put them in her EZPZ happy mat for the first time, and chose some puree (going off the suggestion from @foodforbub where having a variety of textures and both finger foods and spoon fed foods is beneficial to their learning to eat and self feed). Before I even had hazel fully in her seat she was reaching for the toast.
Now, just the night before I put some tiny bite sizes pieces of dinner on her tray and she wouldn't even try to pick it up. Suddenly now, hazel wanted that toast more than anything so she grabbed it in her hands and played with it for probably 3 minutes. I wondered if she would ever try to eat it and suddenly she did! She put it to her mouth and from then on she was obsessed. She ate the whole slice of toast and then ate a whole pouch of puree which again was a first.
No gagging. No choking.
I don't understand it. I can't tell you whether it was the bigger purees or simply time but she was like a different baby. So lunch time brought more puree and a few organictomato and carrot corn snacks and I wondered how she would fair with those. But again I put them on her mat and she instantly went for them and this time she put it straight to her mouth.
This morning she had cottage cheese, toast and pear puree. Tonight she will have raviolis and broccoli!
So there you have it... again I am not saying this is the right way or that it's guaranteed to work for your babes but it worked for us. I always tell my hubby "hazel's the boss" and she really is. She had her own unique way of telling me she was ready to move ahead with learning to eat and I'm so thankful for that!
I hope this post helps some of you! If you have any questions as all please drop me a line!