Friday, February 6, 2015

Feeding the baby, the Baby Led Weaning way

Third try to publish this so just ignore if there are spelling or grammatical errors.  I'm tired of re-typing it all.

A lot of people seem to ask similar questions to new parents.  "Is he sleeping through the night?" seems to be a big one.  The other biggie seems to be "how is his eating?".  I never know how to answer that one because we aren't doing the traditional puree feedings, I don't measure how much he eats, and I'm not terribly concerned that he eats any solid food at all since I'm still breastfeeding him.  We are choosing to do "Baby Led Weaning"; don't think of this as the kind of weaning where he's not nursing anymore, but instead it's just a different method of introducing solid food.

I had read a little about it before I was even pregnant (yes I know I'm strange that I did all this way in advance) but then our pediatrician recommended it as well so we gave it a shot.

Just so you know, I've never fed a baby any other way so I don't really know how purees work.  I am no doctor, and read the book in the depths of our sleep deprivation so my facts may be jumbled.  Read the book yourself, Baby Led Weaning by Gill Rapley.  It's a quick read.

That said, it's my understanding that a baby is typically started on rice cereal and smooth purees.  Also, parents are encouraged to wait until 6 months but many start at 4 months.

With baby led weaning, the baby should be started at 6 months.  This is so their gut is ready for solid foods (supposedly this can help reduce the likelihood of allergies or intolerances).  Additionally, the baby needs to be able to sit up on his or her own (to reduce chances of choking.  Can you imagine laying back and eating?? As an adult it sounds tricky) and be coordinated enough to get the food into their own mouth.

Essentially, you put food in front of the baby and let him or her self feed from day one.  No pressure to eat, because baby's main source of nutrition is still breastmilk, hopefully until age one but each family is different.  According to Gill Rapley, as long as a caregiver doesn't interfere and start putting food into the baby's mouth, the risk of choking is the same or less than when baby is spoon-fed purees.

There were some logistical things to figure out (ie. banana gets really slippery so leave the peel on and just have a little part exposed) but we really enjoy how it's going!  In my mind, it makes sense to encourage baby to continue to self regulate eating rather than going from nursing on-demand and then suddenly change and the parent decides when baby has had enough.

As far as what baby eats, you just give him or her what the rest of the family is eating, except honey (although if you have a family history of food allergies you need to do things differently).  We also aren't giving him salt or added sugar.  Yup, no waiting days between introducing foods, no waiting until a certain age to give eggs or dairy.  To keep ourselves from giving him not-so-healthy convenience foods, I'm trying for a protein, two fruits, and two veggies a day.  Thus far we are only giving him breakfast and dinner but lots of other families have different routines, and we are trying hard to let him explore foods (look at me sounding like a hippy) without necessarily eating them. Tasting counts! Squishing counts! Smelling it and seeing if it's hot or cold counts!  It's all good. 

A few of the challenges we have had to tackle include:

finding the right high-chair.  The one we got as a hand-me-down wasn't built to let littles feed themselves.  The tray was up to his armpits and he had a tough time reaching things.  We got this Ikea one now and love it!

The first highchair (and first food ever, broccoli!)

The mess.  Yeah it's messy.  But we have a system now of cleaning up and it's working.  And as he gets older it should get better, right?  It's all part of learning about food.  You can't pick up banana firmly like you can pick up a piece of pepper, and he's learning that.

Just a little messy

Slippery foods.  Especially at the beginning, he had trouble with a lot of food, particularly once his hands were slimy from drool/food.  Avocado, cucumber, banana, cooked fruits, really pretty much everything.  So we left the peels on or cut into different shapes to give him a better shot at them.  But now he has more coordination and is really successful.

Just wash the peel in case he starts at the wrong end but it's much easier to grab this way

Small foods.  At the start, baby will pick things up with his whole fist.  This doesn't allow him to put the food in his mouth if it's all buried in his fist, so foods need to be cut into longer sticks so that the handle can be in his fist and some pokes out that he can eat.  Now, he's much better and uses two fingers and is successful (most of the time) even with peas or beans.

Fear of choking.  This isn't as much Dillon and I as it is other people.  When people see a 6 month old munching on a piece of cucumber, a lot of people get very nervous.  There is some gagging involved with the occasional piece of food (gagging, not choking), and that gets other people VERY nervous.  But a baby's gag reflex is farther forward in the mouth than an adult so gagging happens more often and it's a GOOD thing, to keep the food from going farther back than baby intends.  And the baby hardly notices at all.  We do have a little CPR/Heimlich/poison control phone number sheet posted just in case, and watch him relatively closely while he eats.

Some of the benefits that we've found (or at least read about):

No record-keeping of foods we expose him to.  Just go for it.  I'll admit that I was a little more nervous about eggs and peanut butter (mixed into pancake batter so it wasn't as sticky) so I gave him those in the morning so I could keep an eye on him during the day just in case.

We get to eat at the same time!  Hallelujah no more taking turns eating.  We get to eat alongside him and it's wonderful.

Pasta & Meatballs

Less likelihood of allergies.  According to the book.  Who knows.

Baby gets to self regulate.  I'm hoping he avoids the emotional-eating and overeating his mama has trouble with because he's been in control of his food from day one, rather than eating until he is overfull.  Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.

Sweet potatoes

It's cheaper than purees. 

It's easier than making my own purees.  I just typically make the meal without salt and Dillon and I add our own table salt to our plates. 
Peppers & Cornbread

We all eat healthier.  Nothing like a baby eating the same thing as the adults to keep us honest and make sure we're eating our veggies!

French Toast

Hopegully not a picky eater.  We are trying to expose him to a lot of different flavors and textures, and not just "kid-friendly" foods.  I really don't want to be making just hot-dogs and mac & cheese for the rest of his childhood.  Eating foods as a family starts now- no short-order cooking for us. 
Practicing with a spoon

All in all, we're sold on this way of eating!  And baby is waking up now so wish me luck with king crankypants today!

What do you think? Would you try this way of feeding baby? Have you tried it and found yourself with a non-picky eater?

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