This nugget is going to be 6 months old in just a little under three weeks. 6. Whole.
Where did the past half of a year go? How did I manage to exclusively breastfeed this long
minus a few instances of formula when I didn’t have enough milk in the freezer?
However I managed to survive the first six months of motherhood, I find myself faced with the onset of weaning, and introducing solid foods. My original goal was to breastfeed for six months, then after that I would take it one step at a time. While I have come to dislike breastfeeding (See Why I Hate Breastfeeding) I know that it is the best for my child, and I know I can make it work. So, my new goal is to breastfeed until she is one year, and no longer physically needs (I do know it is beneficial to breastfeed longer) my milk.
If you know me, you know that I am a planner. I love to do research, and figure out all the options out there before committing to something. When I first found out I was pregnant, I figured I would get an epidural even though I am terrified of needles. After researching and hearing more about the benefits and success of natural unmedicated births, I decided to switch gears (Read my birth story here). I assumed I would formula feed, since I have always been self conscious and awkward about my breasts and body. Again, after reading, and discussion, I set my sights on breastfeeding. So, why would it be any other different for feeding my child solids?
To be honest, I planned on going the common puree method. I pinned baby food recipes, my mom got me baby food cookbooks, and I added a food processor to my baby registry. Until on day, amidst all my pinnings, I came across baby led weaning.
What is Baby led weaning?
That my friends, is something I would need to write an entire post about. To keep things brief, it is simply feeding your baby whatever food you and your family are eating in its regular form. So, taking a scoop of mashed potatoes and some steak and putting it on the high chair. You cut the steak into strips, and thats it. Baby has his meal. Baby feeds himself. You get to eat your meal. Voila!
To learn more about what Baby Led Weaning is, I highly recommend this book. It might be a bit repetitive, but it explains the concept clearly. Here are the top ten reasons why I am going to use the BLW approach, and why I would recommend it to anyone.
I have yet to begin feeding my daughter solid food- although I plan to use the BLW approach, keep in mind I have not yet started the process. More posts about our experience to come!
1. It is the safest method for baby.
What? If it is the safest why do so many families do purees? Here is the thing- majority of families will introduce purees or rice cereal (with formula or breastmilk) at age 4-6 months. Pediatricians recommend waiting until your baby is 6 months or older to begin solids of any form, because her digestive tract is still immature to properly digest and absorb nutrients from substances other than milk or formula. So it isn’t the fact that spoon feeding itself is dangerous, it is the fact that many families start their child far too early. Unfortunately, feeding a baby rice cereal or purees (which many start early in hopes of their child sleeping through the night, when research shows that this does nothing in relation to sleeping longer) can strip the child’s intestine of villa needed to absorb nutrients. Therefore, the baby struggles to digest it, and it can cause issues absorbing nutrients later on.
How much easier can it be to simply take what you already cooked for yourself, and just give some to your baby? Nothing can top that! Eating out? Easy- just share your plate. There are some guidelines to BLW- obviously food should be soft enough to be mashed by the gums (you wouldn’t give your 6 month old a raw carrot for instance, rather a steamed carrot), but it is far easier than purees and spoon feeding.
You don’t have to feed your baby- no more airplanes, or coaxing your child to eat. No more scooping the food back into his mouth out as he spits it out (probably naturally due to the thrust reflex if you are starting before 6 months). They will grab the food and play with it, and eventually learn to put it in their mouths.
Im a penny pincher. Yes, I splurge on items I will use often and think should be good quality (I will advocate strongly for my Tieks Ballet Flats, Aveda Shampoo and Conditioner, Kitchenmaid Mixer, etc.). But, when it comes to saving money and doing it yourself, I will. Why spend money on jars of pureed food with added sugar and preservatives when you can give your baby part of the nutritious meal you made?
4. Fun learning experience!
Your baby will thoroughly enjoy BLW. Its messy, its fun, and exciting. They will get to experience new flavors and textures (you don’t need to shy away from spices besides anything overly spicy or salty), colors and food groups. Instead of fighting you to grab at the spoon and explore what you want to shove down her throat, baby will get to eat at his or her own pace and examine their meal.
5. Self Control.
BLW puts baby in control. They eat when they want, and stop when they want. No more “just one more bite” or “they didn’t eat X tablespoons”. It promotes them listening to their body and cues of when they are hungry or full. When baby gets older, they will be able to understand when they need food or not, just like they know when to ask for the breast or a bottle. When we spoon feed, we take that away from them. I truly think that this is a contributing factor to obesity in children (not saying that every spoon fed family is promoting obesity- I just think it is a factor) since the child loses control of the ability to express when they are full. This is along the same lines as to why parenting experts are no longer promoting the “clean plate” guideline.
6. Promotes Family Time and Manners.
Manners? For an infant? Not exactly. But it promotes including them in meal time, versus feeding them before or after the family meal. They get to watch their family members, enjoy conversation, and pay more attention to your habits (i.e. good manners or bad manners). From the research I have done, BLW children learn to use utensils earlier, and mimic other habits of their families and parents. It brings the baby to the table instead of eating before or after everyone else, therefore they will mimic and learn faster!
7. Less likely to be a picky eater!!
Picky eating. I can’t stand it. I once knew a mom who made three separate meals for her kids- one who wanted mac n cheese, another chicken tenders, and a third rice. No. I won’t do it.
When you give your child what you eat, and no other option, they will eat it! You give your baby what you eat, and they trust you so they will eat it! Granted they will most likely not like a few things and that is normal- but a child who is extremely picky normally does so because of watching their parents. If you don’t make a big deal about “giving veggies” they won’t know any different. Plus, they will see you eating it and want the same thing!
Eating out? Awesome! Baby can share your meal. No need to buy off of the nasty kids menu (i’ve seen how they make the kids meals- its packaged precooked macaroni and reheated veggies) only to have your child refuse to eat it and waste the money. If you are worried about your kid eating most of your food… get real. They will probably want to play with it yes, but they won’t realistically eat so you won’t get enough. Besides- restaurant portions are oversized anyway 😉
In the car? Forget buying the little puff snacks or yogurt melts. Give the kid a banana! The peel makes it naturally easy to hold on to, and its perfect for gnawing on. Or what about a pear? Need something dry and packaged? How about a hard boiled egg? Veggie sticks? It is easy to keep things healthy with BLW since they are used to eating the same items at dinner.
9. Anyone can feed baby!
I’ve heard nightmare stories about “Grandpa is the only one who can get him to eat his peas” or “She will only eat potatoes if I give it to her”. Well, thankfully with baby led weaning it doesn’t matter who gives baby the food, because they are feeding themselves! Anyone can put the food on the plate and they will just go to town.
Along with this, is that they can eat anywhere. This might fit better in the “convenient” tip- but you don’t always need a high chair. Plop baby in your laps and sit at the table and they are good to go. No need to worry about having a method to prop them up so you can shovel food in their mouths.
10. It is tried and trusted!
Many people don’t consider baby led weaning a new concept. Families have been doing it for years. The thing is- no one talked about it. Everyone struggled with coaxing their kids to eat purees because it wasn’t natural. But if they talked about giving table food right away instead of the puree-lumpy-soft-solid food graduation program, they were gawked at. When they gave their child table food and things went better, they just kept it to themselves.
If you ask grandmas and grandpas, they often won’t know any other way. Purees weren’t really a thing until mid-century when microwaves and blenders became popular. Until then, they weren’t an option. Your only choice was to give your baby developmentally ready food choices like soft vegetables and fruits, and tender meats. Isn’t it amazing how consumerism can change our parenting methods? We can control it by taking things back to the basics!!