Saturday, July 20, 2013

Introducing Solids The Easy Way; Baby-Led Weaning

What do you think of when you hear the phrase, "Baby-led Weaning"? When my oldest was a little one, probably around 10 months old, I became obsessed with how we were feeding him. He was spoon fed purees, and was starting to reject the chunkier purees. I always home made all his food, and I couldn't figure out why he just kept spitting the chunks back at me. I started searching Amazon for baby food books, I found the classic puree books, but in my quest to discover them I came across another book. "Baby-led Weaning". "The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods - And Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater," it boldly proclaimed. I was so surprised that had I never seen this before. This is exactly what I had been looking for, right? Who doesn't want a happy and confident eater?

My oldest, 11 months and still spoon fed

So I bought it and I read, and I thought "This is insane!! Who would give a carrot to a 6 month old! Are these people crazy?" I dismissed the whole book, put it into my inventory on my kindle, and didn't think of it again.

Fast forward 18 months. My second son was a few months old, and the topic of starting solids came up in a group I was in. By this point I knew that we would be skipping rice cereal no matter what, but I was still planning on pureeing my own food. I had a nagging thought in the back of my mind, but I carried on with my plans. Around 5 months people started to ask "So, when are you going to feed him cereal? What food is he going to get?" One of my friends mentioned that they would be doing baby-led weaning with her baby, who was the same age as mine, and that's when it hit me, I had read that book! I decided to give it a second chance, I pulled it back out and read it again.

I will tell you, I was scared of baby-led weaning. What if he chokes? What if it doesn't work? Doesn't he need the food? He won't eat much, so how will he get nutrition?

First taste of Avocado - 6.5 months

Baby-led weaning really is an amazing thing. We chose to use it, instead of puree's for our second child, and I couldn't have been, and still are, happier with his introduction to food.

Here are some of the great benefits of baby led weaning:

- Baby-led weaning happens when the baby is ready. A lot of times babies are given food before they would be ready to eat it. Your baby needs to be sitting unassisted, with no tongue thrust, and at least 6 months old before getting any solids.

-Baby-led weaning allows babies to choose when they want to eat. Food before one is just for fun. The main source of nutrition for a child under 12 months should be breast milk. Solids should not be the bulk of your baby's diet. Allowing your child to go at their own pace, through baby led weaning allows them to slowly up their solid intake.

Oh, that tastes funny!

-Baby-led feeding is what breastfeeding is all about anyways. When your baby is first born, one of the most important things we hear is "Feed the baby when he is hungry, no schedules, no waiting, if the baby is hungry, feed him." By doing that we teach our babies multiple lessons, one of them is to eat when they are hungry. Baby-led weaning allows babies to eat when they are hungry, and the BABY chooses when they are full, not the mom trying to airplane in a spoonful of squash. Baby-led weaning is the perfect extension to baby-led feeding.

-Baby-led weaning allows babies to follow and learn their own body cues. When you spoon feed a baby, you feed them till you feel they are satisfied, or until they seem to be done. But how do we know they are really done? How many of us have "choo-choo'd" the spoon into the mouth, trying to get a few more bites and finish off the jar? When you breastfeed, your babies get to decide when they are full. They comfort nurse instead, getting no milk, or they pop off the breast. With baby-led weaning those same babies continue on learning the same things they were taught at an early age. They stop when they are full, they eat till they are done, and no one cajoles them into taking anymore bites.

-Baby-led weaning teaches babies to chew, before it teaches them to swallow. I don't know about you, but I would rather my baby learn to chew his food before he learn to swallow whatever I put in his mouth. Chewing is very important, if I do say so myself. Watching my 7 month old move food around in his mouth, gum it down, and swallow it was an amazing experience.

-Baby-led weaning is an amazing sensory experience. With baby-led weaning you are feeding your baby whatever you are eating. Babies get to smoosh, and smash, and hold slippery food. They get to taste different textures, rice, pasta, banana, carrot, etc. They get to see the beautiful food on their tray. It really is an amazing learning experience all around.

Learning that Spaghetti is slippery, and yummy

-Baby-led weaning does lead to confident, happy, well rounded eaters. I have talked to many moms, and I have found the same thing. My oldest is a picky, picky eater. He is finicky about his food. My youngest will eat anything we put in front of him. He loves food. He has gone through many little picky phases, I'm not saying baby-led weaning babies are not picky, they go through those stages as well, but they seem to rebound a lot quicker, and move forward. He is an adventurous eater, trying new tastes often.

I'm not saying that puree fed babies will be picky, horrible children, swallowing everything in their path before they try chewing it. I'm simply saying that baby-led weaning is an amazing extension from breastfeeding. I want to teach my children to follow their own instincts, I want them to learn to trust their bodies, I want them to know that I trust that they can nourish themselves, and teaching them to eat confidently, by breastfeeding and allowing them to feed themselves, is the best way to do that.

7 months, eating a whole apple
The first time my 8 month old picked up a whole plum, chowed it down and spit the pit out at me, I was stunned. His older brother wouldn't even touch plums! Was I initially worried about choking? Yes, but guess what, he never, ever choked. He gagged a few times, and spit up once when he was gagging, but he never choked. I was right there supervising him every time he ate. We took a baby cpr class which I advise all parents to do, no matter how you feed your baby. We knew how to deal with an emergency, but we never needed to. I feel confident now that he won't choke, or over-stuff his mouth, because of how he learned to eat.

Trusting my baby to feed himself, and learn about himself, watching him use his instincts, has been one of the best experiences I have had in learning about my child. It has been an amazing experience.

For more info check out the book about Baby-Led weaning, linked at the top.

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