Baby led weaning isn't what it sounds like to the American ear. There's no weaning off of mommy's milk/formula. It is 'wean' in the British sense, which means to add something to the diet. Milk is still the primary source of nutrition until 1.
Miss Em was offered pieces of foods, not purees, starting at the point she could sit on her own, which was a bit past 6 months. However, she showed little interest until 8 months. Now she eats anything she can get her little fingers on. Especially if it comes from the dog bowl. (-.-)
First question, why did we wait until she could sit on her own?
- Baby's gut needs time to close up, mature, and be ready to digest real food. This will help prevent medical issues, including diabetes, allergies, and intestinal trouble.
- They also do not have the enzymes needed to digest some fats, carbohydrates, and starches.
- Babies have a tongue-thrust reflex to prevent choking before they're ready for solids. This goes away around 6 months, when they start to move food from the front of their mouth to the back.
- Once babies can sit up on their own, these factors tend to be resolved.
- There's no rush. They have to eat food eventually. It's an extra expense, cleanup, and for some extra cooking.
- Solids should NOT replace milk intake. Starting too early tends to lead to replacing milk feeds, and baby needs the nutrition from the milk/formula.
- Other readiness signs are misleading and just something babies do to explore everything in their world, they're not about the food. (IE reaching, mouthing, etc)
Second question, why didn't we do purees and cereal?
- White rice cereal is roughly 95% starch. Thus you're basically feeding baby a spoonful of sugar. White rice cereal is also low in protein. Brown rice cereal and oatmeal are a little better, but...meh.
- Feeding grains that can't be digested takes up space for something that could provide nutrients.
- It doesn't actually help them sleep better.
- Baby may not actually eat the foods at first, they're learning how to chew before they swallow. There may be less chance for baby to choke if they learn this way. Purees can get past the tongue-thrust reflex if introduced too early and cause choking.
- There's no guesswork about how much is too much - you won't overfeed by shoveling "one more bite" into their mouths and they learn to recognize hunger cues
- You don't have to do much! Baby is self-feeding, so all you need to do is watch.
There's nothing wrong with spoon-feeding, but it takes more patience, time, and observation of your baby's hunger cues.