It’s been 15 years since the U.K.-based author Gill Rapley introduced the term "baby-led weaning" to describe the method of introducing babies to solid food by letting them feed themselves rather than eating pureed foods by the spoonful or from a pouch.
This method of transitioning babies from breast milk or formula to everyday foods has been around since long before parents were inundated with jars and pouches and baby food-making machines, but Rapley gave it a name and started writing books and conducting research around its efficacy.
Rapley, with the help of journalist Tracey Murkett, helped repopularize this technique to parents around the world, including this one, who first heard about BLW, as it is known, in 2007, when I had a newborn at home. The idea that I could let my baby explore tastes and textures on his own, with my supervision and direction, was liberating, but it wasn’t until I saw baby-led weaning in practice that I became an advocate.
I learned the difference between gagging and choking (gagging is the natural way that the mouth expels foods in order to prevent choking) and that babies’ gums are perfectly capable of chewing many foods long before they have teeth. I saw how much my son loved grasping food and exploring all its sensory elements. I watched him develop dexterity as he picked up black beans with his little fingers and delight in new flavors, but most of all, we each developed a sense of trust in this process of transitioning from breast milk to table food.
Rapley and Murkett’s latest book, "The Baby-Led Weaning Family Cookbook — Volume 2" (The Experiment, $15.95), covers all the safety basics — don’t let baby eat alone, make sure she’s sitting fully upright and that no one else, especially well-meaning toddlers, puts food into their mouths — and includes nearly 100 baby-friendly recipes that will appeal to the whole family. It’s a great guide if you’re new to this concept and need a guidebook to help you through this stage of parenthood.
Pan-fried Fish With Lemon and Herb Butter
This delicious fish dish is full of protein, and the boneless, buttery chunks are ideal for babies to pick up. This recipe works best with firm white fish, such as cod or haddock, because they break easily into chunks. Flat fish, such as sole, bream or bass, is good once your baby can manage smaller flakes.
— Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
4 white fish fillets, skin on (about 14 ounces total)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or dill
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Ensure the fish fillets are boneless and dry before you start. Pick any visible bones out from the flesh and dry the fillets by patting them with paper towels.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, allowing it to foam. Add the fish, skin side down, and cook for around 3 minutes in the melted butter. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the fish. Add the herbs and black pepper (if using).
Turn the fish over and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. When it’s cooked, it will be bright white throughout and flake when you try and pull it apart with a fork. If it looks translucent, it’s still raw, so let it cook for a little longer. Remove the skin and any remaining bones. Serve warm, cut into manageable chunks for your baby.
To serve: Serve with steamed new potatoes and vegetables or salad. Serves 4.
— From "The Baby-Led Weaning Family Cookbook — Volume 2: 99 More No-Stress Recipes for the Whole Family" by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett (The Experiment, $15.95)