At first I thought I would wait until 6 months before introducing solids to Henry. I waited as close to that time as I felt was beneficial for him, but also let him lead me. Once he started grabbing our plates and putting them in his mouth, trying to jump out of my lap to get to our food, and sitting up well in his high chair, I decided we could give it a go. We started 8 days before his 6 month old birthday.
I read a lot about baby led weaning before he started solids and thought that was the route I would go. As it got closer, I started to worry more about Henry choking. I read up on my CPR and first aid before giving him his first taste of solids, and I settled on something that I feel was the perfect compromise.
I bought food feeders and I highly recommend them! This is the set I got and it has been perfect for Henry. I put the food in the plastic feeder and let him feed himself. This way, I am getting what I wanted from baby led weaning without the fear of him choking.
So, why did I decide to go this route? Why not purees? I believe that the best nutrition I can give to my son over his first year of life is my breast milk. I'm sticking to the notion that "food before one is just for fun." I want him to develop a positive relationship with food. With the high rates of obesity and eating disorders, I want to encourage healthy habits from early on. I don't want to force him to eat. I worry that with purees I am teaching him the lesson that he is not in control of what goes into his body. Instead, I choose to offer him food and let him explore it.
In addition to using the feeders sometimes I'll put food on his high chair tray. Usually it's more of an art project for him. I'm fine with that. He's learning textures and smell and taste (if it does get in his mouth).
Another "rule" I broke is the "wait three days before introducing new foods" rule. At first I thought I needed to follow this guideline as it is purported to ensure your child isn't allergic to a specific food. I decided that if Henry was allergic I would probably notice a reaction before the three day mark. I am still not overwhelming his system by introducing too many new flavors at once, but in just over a week, we have tried four items (sweet potato on Tuesday, avocado on Saturday, banana on Monday, and pear on Wednesday). I introduced each of these using the feeders. I've also frozen some breast milk, sweet potato, and avocado ice cubes for when I do want to mix flavors and/or to help with teething pain.
I know others may have different ideas than I do, and that is perfectly fine. I don't want anyone to feel that I am judging his or her choice, but this method is what has worked for my family, and I'll keep it until it no longer works for us.
Update: Below I'll keep an active list of what he's eaten (by date) along with any notable reactions and/or notes on the preparation.
10/20 - Sweet potato - baked in oven
10/24 - Avocado
10/26 - Banana - seemed to be his favorite so far
10/28 - Pear - sliced in small pieces and fed in food feeder
10/29 - Carrot - sliced in small pieces, steamed, and fed in food feeder
10/30 - Pumpkin - canned pumpkin
11/2 - Apple, Raspberries, and Spaghetti Squash - Henry didn't really have this many new foods in one day. I offered him apple at breakfast (which he didn't eat), raspberries at lunch (again he didn't eat), and then spaghetti squash at dinner which he seemed to really enjoy
11/4 - Broccoli - steamed and placed in his food feeder
11/6 - Blueberries
11/8 - Strawberry - frozen strawberry microwaved and fed in food feeder
11/9 - Green bean - I steamed and gave them to him whole, but we started to get nervous about choking once he got a piece of it off so I switched to the food feeder