Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater. I read this book when Clara was about 5 months old. I had heard so much mixed information on introducing solids and wanted to make an informed choice on how to do this with Clara.
Say No to Purees:
The idea behind BLW, while relatively new in our “modern” society, is actually a very “old” concept. In a nutshell, it’s a no-puree, non-spoon feeding method. Your baby is ready to explore food when she can sit up on her own, reaches for food on your plate and can bring it to her mouth. Readiness is important both developmentally and for their digestive systems. Your baby knows intuitively what they are ready for.
Babies are born with a “leaky gut” so that milk can move freely through the digestive track. Introducing solids, especially grains like cereal, before this gut has closed can lead to health problems such as digestive issues and allergies. It’s hard to resist when people give well-meaning advice to give your baby cereal so they will “sleep” longer. Not only does “filler” take away from nutrition their body needs from milk, but research has found that cereal does not help your baby sleep longer. If someone has found it to help with sleeping in their own experience, it is usually a coincidence.
Spoon-feeding VS. Self-feeding
A self-feeding baby learns to be in control of her food and learns to judge what and how much her body needs. You have to allow time with a self feeding baby. It’s easy to be in a hurry to fill up your baby when spoon feeding, shoveling it in to make sure baby gets enough. Spoon feeding by nature is much faster because there is no chewing, tasting, savoring or exploring. It takes time for your body to feel full. Eating fast can lead to a habit of overeating, not something we want to teach our kids. Also, milk is the most important source of calories and nourishment for the first year of life. When a baby fills up on solids, they are taking in less milk. Solid foods are really not needed until much later, but there is always that pressure to move on to the next stage.
After all, the tooth is the original food processor and an important part in the digestive process! Blenders are obviously a modern invention. Many babies don’t even have molars after the first year of life. Are we meant to eat “solids” so early?
What did I do?
At the same time I ordered BLW, I also ordered Super Baby Food by Yaron which is like a pureed-food encyclopedia. Completely Opposite. Can we just say, this indecisive mama was even more conflicted about how to proceed. I decided to give BLW a try first and hoped to not even go the pureed route. I tend to be drawn toward the road less traveled anyway. However, during my BLW experiment, a few things came up that led to me going the other direction after a few weeks.
I was afraid of choking. Rapley provides safe guidelines regarding this. She also argues that choking is less of a problem with BLW than spoon feeding because babies develop the chewing skill much sooner. She explains the difference between choking and gagging. Gagging is not harmful and the baby learns sooner how to handle food. However, when you see your baby gag for the first time, it’s a scary thing. It really just made me anxious and I didn’t want to have that kind of energy around Clara when she was eating. I started to question this route I was taking.
I was concerned about not implementing the 4-day wait rule for food allergies. According to Rapley, the 4-day wait rule really applies to babies younger than 6 months. But, nevertheless I had also heard that waiting to introduce certain things could keep a child from developing food allergies. If she had a reaction or sensitivity, I wanted to be able to pinpoint the offending food.
I was cooking things separately from our meals. One of the stated pros of BLW is that you can let them eat off of your plate. I eat healthily, but not perfect and I wanted her first foods to be in their purest form with no salt or sugar or processed ingredients. I wanted her to have just steamed veggies and fresh fruits. Although I cook a lot now, I still wasn’t cooking much yet and it was just a pain. It seemed easier and faster to puree my own foods in bulk and freeze them.
In the end, I think I’ll chalk up these 3 concerns I had when doing BLW to being an inexperienced first time mom. My instincts tell me that this way is best, but I didn’t know anyone else at the time who did BLW, so I doubted myself. It’s funny how looking back, I treated so many decisions I made as ridiculously significant that now seem rather insignificant. I know myself pretty well and that probably won’t change much. But, at 16 months, Clara is extremely healthy and eats well. So it all worked out!