Thursday, October 20, 2011

baby led weaning.

I don't remember the first time I read about baby-led weaning... it was probably quite some time ago. When I was younger, I thought it was just a normal thing to fight a battle with your little one at each meal, trying to spoon a mushy substance into a moving target... all while your own food gets cold and unappealing. When I heard about baby-led weaning, it just made sense to me. So Jake and I decided that this was the route we were going to go with our kids... specifically Ryan, because he's our one and only right now ;]

Baby-led weaning is just simply a way to introduce solids that allows the baby to feed himself at his own pace. The term is a British term, so their take on "weaning" is quite different than the American's take on weaning. When they say weaning, they simply mean the introduction of solids. When we say weaning, we mean literally weaning from breastfeeding (or bottle feeding), decreasing milk feeds and increasing solid food. Baby-led weaning could also be called "baby-led solids," and, in fact, I like this term better because of the association we have with weaning. We aren't weaning Ryan at all, but we ARE introducing solids. I'll probably refer to it as baby-led solids from now on, or BLS.

It's pretty common now days to start your baby on solids when they are 3-4 months old, starting out with a cereal made of rice (which really isn't nutritious or a good food to start your baby on anyway). Sometimes I wonder if people just "do" things without researching them; they just do something because that's what they were told, or because that's what is "normal." I can't stress enough how important it is to make your own decisions, especially as a parent. But please do your research. Listen to the advice given, do your research, and THEN make your decision. (for more information on rice cereal, visit WhiteOut. They have a ton of articles like this on why rice cereal isn't the best option for feeding your baby, and what better alternatives are out there!)

As "normal" as it might seem to start giving your baby pureed foods between 3-4 months, it's actually recommended to wait until at least 6 months before introducing solid foods... whether or not you do BLS or if you spoon feed purees. This article on explains the importance of waiting until 6 months to give solid foods, because before then, it is very unlikely that the baby's intestines are ready to digest solid food. It's called "open gut." Sure, babies develop and mature at different rates, but the only way to tell if a baby's tummy is ready for solids is to take a peek inside... and since that isn't exactly possible, it's just best to wait until 6 months when most babies are developmentally ready for solids. If you start too early, you run the risk of your little one having damages done to their stomachs and digestive systems.

I won't get into the developmental signs that show that your baby is ready for solid foods (things like being able to sit up unassisted), but you can do some more reading here and here. The last link is the "official" BLW/S website, and it explains a lot about BLW in general.

One thing I love about breastfeeding is that the baby can take in the same AMOUNT of breastmilk, but as the baby grows, the calorie content of the breastmilk changes so the baby gets the adequate nutrition. Not so with formula; the calorie content cannot change... you just have to feed more as the baby gets hungrier and grows bigger. That's why this saying is true, for most breastfed babies, anyways: "Food before [the age of] one is just for fun!" Minus a few exceptions, really the only reason solids should be given before the age of one is for exploration of taste and texture, and well, for fun! Babies under 6 months should get ALL of their nutrition from breastmilk or formula, but even after the age of 6 months, breastmilk or formula should still be the primary source of their nutrition until the age of one. Then, as they start "figuring out" how to feed themselves solids, and understand "Hey, this stuff fills me up!" they, on their own, will reduce their milk feeds.

That brings me to... yes... "extended" breastfeeding. It's such a "taboo" topic in our culture... but did you know that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that a child be breastfed until the age of 2, and then to continue for as long as mutually desired by mother and child? Again, referring to kellymom,com, this article on breastfeeding past infancy is golden. Please don't even try to tell me that breastfeeding a toddler is "only for the mom..." I don't know of any woman who is willing to stick her sensitive lady bits into the gnashing mouth of an unwilling toddler "just for her own comfort." :]

Back to BLS... a few of my favorite things about BLS are that...

-Ryan eats what we eat! There's no separate food to make, nothing to puree, nothing to have to spoon feed him... as long as what we are eating is reasonably healthy and is cooked properly, there is no reason why he can't have it.

-I get to eat my food while it is hot (if it is supposed to be hot) or cold (if it is supposed to be cold).

-If I need to leave the house in a hurry, I don't need to worry about packing up jars of food or something that Ryan can eat... I have all he really "needs" attatched to me (haha) and he can just eat whatever food I happen to be eating, as long as it is reasonably healthy (which I try to do anyway, so it's not too much of a problem).

...and, not gonna lie, Ryan looks pretty cute munching on a piece of home made pizza, or expertly holding a cob of corn between his little hands, or using his mastered "pincer-grasp" to pick up a pea or pomegrante and bring it to his mouth.

The only con I can think of is that it can be quite messy. But then again, spoon feeding purees into a moving target is messy, too, so I think that one needs to be crossed off. It can be hard, sometimes, to stand back and let Ryan do his own thing... sometimes I just want to "help" him pick up that piece of... whatever... but he learns quickly when he does things on his own. It can also take a lot of trust to let them figure out the appropriate sized bites of food. But I've read, and learned first hand, that it is SO much better in the long run to let them do this on their own. They need to be in control of the amount of food that goes into their mouths because then they will be able to learn how to handle it.

Choking... I'll just cover that before anyone asks. If anyone has watched Ryan eat lately, they might be concerned that he is "choking" on his food. Actually, it's called gagging, and it's harmless. It actually HELPS him figure out how to take appropriate sized bites of food. Gagging and choking are two completely different things. Gagging = helpful, but not necessarily fun... choking = dangerous and scary. You know what happens when you stick something too far back in your throat, like your toothbrush? You gag. Sometimes Ryan gets a little piece of food in just the right place on his tongue, and he gags... and sometimes he throws it up. Other times, like lately (now that he has learned how to do it), he figures out how to manuever the food around his tongue so that he doesn't gag. But he definitely isn't choking. Choking is accompanied by mostly silence with a panicked look on the little one's face. I haven't ever seen it, nor do I want to! BLS is all about common sense... you don't give things to your little one that are obviously dangerous (nuts, popcorn, seeds, etc), but you should allow him to explore. It's all about finding a balance.

And by the way, choking is actually just as likely, if not more, to happen when someone spoon feeds a baby purees:

"This is based on the premise that a baby is able to intentionally move food to the back of his throat only after he has developed the ability to chew it. The theory is that a baby who is controlling what goes into his mouth is less likely to choke than a spoon fed baby, who may suck food to the back of his throat before he is properly able to deal with it. This is why it is very important NOT to assist your baby when eating, should you choose to follow the baby led solids approach. If you help your little one to get pieces of food into his mouth that he could not have placed there by himself then the risk of choking increases significantly."

So what has our little guy eaten so far? Here's a list (in no particular order other than what comes to mind first): 

green beans
corn on the cob
green pepper
roast beef
tater tot hotdish
stir fry
pea pods
puffed rice cereal
rice chex
wild rice soup
egg bake
bbq chicken
mashed potatoes
chicken pot pie

...I know there is more, but I think that's a good enough list to show you that Ryan has had quite a variety of things to taste in only 3 months. When we first started BLS, he would literally just put things to his mouth, but not eat... which is why it is important to let the little ones decrease the milk feeds on their own... but now that he is older, and nearing 9 months, he is actually *eating* some of the solid foods now.  And he really enjoys it! He hasn't started to decrease his nursing sessions at all yet, which is fine with me. There is nothing (so far) that he won't try, but he has made it pretty clear which things are his favorite (pizza, zucchini, rice chex, sandwiches, and avocados) and which things he doesn't really care for (of all things... pears and cantaloupe!).

I think that's about all I'm gonna cover for tonight on BLS... I'm no professional, but it's what we are doing with Ryan, so if you have any questions, or if you need clarification, don't hesitate to ask. All I ask of YOU is that you do your research before starting your baby on solid foods, especially looking for information on topics such as "open gut," "breastfeeding and solids," "delaying solids," and "knowing if your baby is developmentally ready for solids." Make the decision that you feel is right for you. Knowing the "why's" behind what you do is what is important. If you've read a lot of information and have done your research but still feel that feeding your baby pureed food is the best, more power to ya! Just know the "why's."

And now for the fun part... the fluff! Here are some photos of Ryan enjoying some food in the early days of BLS, up until now:

[roasted chicken - 6 months]

[banana - 6 months]

[avocado - 6 months]

[steamed broccoli - 6 months]

[steamed carrot - 6 months]

[corn on the cob - 6 months]

[spaghetti - 6 months]

[yogurt - 7 months]

[tater tot hotdish - 7 months]

[stir fried veggies and noodles - 7 months]

[apple - 7 months]

[canteloupe - 8 months (not a fan, mama!)]

[alfredo chicken pizza - 8 months]

[waffle - 8 months]

[toast and eggs - 8 months]

[beef enchiladas - 9 months]

[potatoes - 9 months]

[chicken penne pasta and broccoli - 9 months]

[avocado sandwich - 9 months]

[chicken pot pie - 9 months]

[beef stroganoff and cheddar biscuits - 9 months]

[spicy peanut noodles and veggies - 9 months]

and photos from 1yr +...



Stephanie said...

Hey Laura,

This is GREAT! :D What would you think about sharing it on the CFPN blog?


Laura said...

Steph, I'd love it :]

Stephanie said...

Ok! I'll just steal it from here and get it up! Do you want me to link back to your blog?

Wendy said...

Great job, Laura & Jake!

We tried the pureed baby foods with Jessie & Maggie, but they were both always more interested in our food. Not sure what it is about spaghetti that kids love so much!

Though, I can say that part of me is extended breastfeeding with Jessie for me -- I like my sleep and it gets her to calm down and go to sleep. :) But trying to nurse an active, curious 17 month old is not easy, or pleasant especially if we are not home. At least I have gotten her to sign "eat" when she wants to nurse instead of pulling at my shirt.

Keep up the good work!