I admit that there were the odd occasions when I panicked that she wasn't eating enough and tried to 'encourage' her to take a little more - usually with very little success and a lot of tears. On the whole though, I have followed the BLW approach, letting her feed herself the majority of the meals that she has. However, in the early days, if I was out and about with my mum friends when I needed to feed her I would quite often go with the traditional approach and spoon feed something alongside her finger foods, because I felt a little bit awkward about explaining the way I had chosen to wean her. Next time, I will trust this method more as I have found it to be very effective.
I have never puréed or mashed anything for Freyja, apart from the very first meal she had when I chickened out of the whole finger foods thing and presented her with a plate of mashed broccoli and carrots to play around with. For the first month she lived on steamed broccoli florets , rice cakes, cubes of pear (and sometimes whole ones) and cubes of avocado, with the odd taste of other things here and there.
She very quickly got the hang of getting the food into her mouth. I had no problems moving her onto the sort of food that we eat for dinner and she was eating stews, pasta dishes and risottos by the time she was 8 months old. I did sometimes give her the more messy foods by spoon - spaghetti bolognaise, that sort of thing - although even this I would often just leave her to dive into!
There were many times in the early days when I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I found it hard to overcome my concerns about her choking, even though I trusted the reasoning behind why she wouldn't choke (in fact she has only ever 'gagged' occasionally and I can count the number of times on one hand). I was extremely careful not to let her have food that was too hard or too difficult to chew and I am still quite paranoid about it now - after all, even an adult can choke. I will cut up her food if I think it is a choking risk. I also found comparing the amount she was eating to other babies being weaned in the more traditional approach quite disconcerting. Often, we would go out and they would all wolf down a bowl of baby food while Freyja ate a rice cake and maybe a chip or two. This was one of the main reasons that I sometimes ended up spoon feeding when I was out with friends; I felt very conscious about how I would be perceived thinking it was okay to have my daughter survive on half a rice cake for lunch. Again, next time I will not be so worried about what others think.
I can't actually remember when it happened but certainly by 9 months, when we went on holiday to France, she had 'got it' and was pretty much eating her meals with us and, in general, happily taking the same foods as we were eating. Here she is eating dinner at about 9 and half months:
Now, at 14 months, Freyja is very self-sufficient when it comes to feeding herself (and has been for quite some time). Again, for the odd 'messy' meal I do spoon feed her but on the whole it is put on her tray and she shovels it in herself. I have introduced the spoon - she's actually been capable of getting a loaded spoon into her mouth almost from the outset - but I need to be better at encouraging her to use it. She loves doing it but, as I still need to load the spoon for her at this stage, it's so much quicker when she uses her hands and I can leave her to it. This is her using a spoon:
I don't want this to sound like some big old brag about how well I have weaned my baby, because I haven't. There have been ups and downs, successes and failures; the same as with any approach to the challenges of first-time motherhood (and very possibly 2nd and 3rd time too...) but I just wanted to take some time to outline my experience of the approach I chose to follow. I've had many weeks when she has thrown everything I've offered her on to the floor and has hardly eaten a thing and with that came the obvious doubts about whether I was doing the right thing. But, on the whole, it has worked very well for us. I would say she is now a 'good eater' but it certainly hasn't been plain sailing. She took a quite a long time her to develop her appetite but that's kind of the point of baby-led weaning: they'll start eating when they are ready.