Parents need to trust in their instincts. As parents, you are the experts in your babies and don’t let anyone make you feel like you are not! When my daughter snatched a piece of chocolate cake right before my eyes (I know BAD) I was pretty sure she was ready for solids. I allowed her to guide me. Signs your baby may be ready for solids include;
- Grabbing at foods
- 6 months of age (approx.)
- Sitting up unsupported
Raising children has become complicated but it doesn’t have to be. Especially when it comes to food introduction. The idea of introducing one food at a time for three days before the next seemed wildly complicated and ridiculous to me, and it is. Let me assure you, it is so much easier to introduce the same foods everyone else is eating. As research evolves we now know there is no reason to withhold particular foods with the exception of honey. Although if you have a strong family history of allergies consult with your paediatrician.
What is Baby-led Weaning?
The first time a baby eats is definitely an exciting milestone! But many parents find the first few years of food introduction stressful. They struggle with common issues like having their baby accept and swallow the purees or they fight with a toddler who has all of a sudden become a picky eater. But what if I told you it didn’t have to be this way.
What if you allowed your baby to decide when they are ready for solids? What happens if you allow them to play and discover “real” food? Essentially what would happen if you allowed your baby to lead the way? This sounds more fun doesn’t it?
What fascinates me is breastfed babies actually feed themselves at the breast. Yes, the mother positions the baby but the baby scoops the breast into his mouth then lets go when he is full. The reality is, it is impossible to force-fed a breastfed baby — as you’ll know if you’ve tried it. So our babies have fed themselves long before the introduction of solids.
You would expect a 2-3 year old child to feed themselves right? And if we just learnt above new babies feed themselves, does it make sense that the natural self-feeding progression be interrupted at six months by spoon feeding? Not really… So, lets forgo the usual puree and move straight to whole foods while continuing to breastfeed.
Benefits of Baby-led weaning
- develops their ability to chew which is important for the development of speech, good digestion as well as safe eating.
- enhances manual dexterity
- promotes hand eye coordination
- teaches social skills
- babies only eat as much as they need
- Incredibly FUN
- Happy and confident baby & parents
- easy no puree prep required
- trusting your babies skills instinctively makes sense
- baby is included in meal time
When Should a Baby Start Solids?
The WHO and UNICEF recommend that babies should be exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life and introduced gradually to nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods at 6 months together with continued breastfeeding until to 2 years of age or beyond (YEAHH!!) (1).
My Suggestions To Get Started
It is important that initially when you sit down for a meal your baby is not hungry. The early weeks of baby-led weaning are all about exploring and discovering. To start it is not about satisfying hunger but rather to play, share, and imitate others— to learn.
“Breastmilk is still the main source of nourishment so offer solids after nursing when your baby is not hungry”
Another important thing is to make sure your baby is sitting up right and supported in a safe highchair or on your lap. This allows for your baby to be involved in mealtimes and minimizes the potential risk of chocking.
Won’t my baby choke?
An recent 2016 study in the Journal of Paediatrics concluded that Infants who feed themselves are no more likely to experience choking than infants who are spoon-fed. However, they also found a high number of infants in both groups were offered foods that posed a chocking risk, and were left unsupervised while eating. Foods in particular that pose a chocking hazard include; raw nuts, raw vegetables, hard fruits, cores of fruit, popcorn, sausages, or foods that are round or coin shaped like grapes. My recommendation is to always supervise all infants while eating on all occasions. In addition steam vegetables until soft and cut foods into long strips opposed to leaving them round. Bottom line BLW can be done safely with proper education which includes advice on minimizing choking risk.
My Suggestions for “Good” First foods
The first solid foods I like to think of as “complementary” foods. This means they are not intended to replace breastfeeding all together but rather to complement the babies diet. Baby-led weaning does not happen over night, In fact, it takes years. Remember that..
A healthy diet is for Everyone. Feed your entire family nutrient dense foods, including your baby
To start offer finger foods. Babies around six months old use their whole hand to pick up foods as their pincher grip has yet to be developed. Provide foods they can easily pick up at least 2 inches long.
- Fruits & Vegestables: Cook veggies until they are soft but not soggy. Cut the veggies and fruit into easy to hold sticks. Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potatoes, parsnips, cucumber, melon, papaya, watermelon, apples, pears, mango, avocado, peaches, banana, berries
- Meat: To make more tender I would recommend stewing your meats. I found it easier to start off offering larger pieces that can be held easy but this is not always required. When cutting meat try to cut across the fibres rather than along. Ground meats are also great options.
- Beans & Lentils: Babies love hummus, bean dips. dhal (lentils with spices). Beans & lentils not only provide dense nutrition but can be prepared to a soft consistency.
My Final Tips
- Be patient: Allow time to explore and discover
- Expect a mess: This is my biggest complaint. This BLW is messy and theres not much way around it. Have your camera ready.
- Talk to your baby: make meal times social.
- Spice things up: There is no need to avoid things like garlic, curcumin, onion etc. Broaden your babies palate.
- Share in the enjoyment: This is suppose to be fun!
- Get Creative: Use crinkle-cutters to make fruit & vegetables easier to hold.
***Remember, always consult with your paediatrician regarding introducing solid foods to your baby and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy risks for your baby.
Read more at http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/babyledweaning.htm#8DHw1WwRcfoohCpH.99
Want more? Schedule a one-on-one consult with me to discuss more tips, strategies and practical ways to seamlessly transition with baby-led weaning.
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Series papers: Breastfeeding: The Lancet (www.thelancet.com/series/breastfeeding). Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. Victora, Cesar G et al. The Lancet , Volume 387 , Issue 10017 , 475 – 490. Why invest, and what it will take to improve breastfeeding practices? Rollins, Nigel C et al. The Lancet , Volume 387 , Issue 10017 , 491 – 504