Posts Tagged ‘weaning’

Baby-led Weaning

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

I had read about baby-led weaning (BLW for short) at moms4mom.com when researching the whole “eating food” thing. The description by a parent made it sound like you feed them solid solid food (not purees) from the get-go. At first I was confused by the name, since weaning was not what I was looking to do. It’s kind of badly named — I’d call it baby-led feeding.

I read a little bit more online, about the idea. Right now in the US, the conventional first foods for a baby are soupy grain cereals and vegetable purees. Outside of the US, and historically, this has not been the case.

I was excited about the idea of it because it’s apparent that 80 is into eating, and we haven’t had any trouble with her wanting to try new food, gagging on the purees we’d been giving her, or anything else that would be a sign that this wouldn’t be a good idea.

In fact, one big reason why I was so excited is that the babies feed themselves. 80 is acting so independent, and wasn’t very happy being fed. She’d tolerate it at the beginning, but by the middle of the feeding she’d grab at the spoon. It’s amazing how fast her reflexes are, which meant she would have her hand (or hands) around the spoon, and I’d be saying “let go, please” in my nice voice while prying her little fingers off it. This did not make her happy. So then we’d have a crying, frustrated girl, and I’m trying to give her more food ON THE VERY SPOON I’D JUST TAKEN AWAY. It reminded me of that meme crying while eating.

I didn’t find a comprehensive explanation online, so resolved to see if the library had a book on it. I asked at the weekly mom meet-up we have on Friday afternoons, and one of the moms offered to lend me the book she had. Perfect! It’s Baby-led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett.

Basically, the idea is that babies are capable of eating on their own, because their tongue-thrust reflex keeps them from eating before they’re ready, and the gag reflex helps to teach them how far they can put food into their mouths. It takes some courage to just hand your baby a “stick” of food, since we’re told not to let them near anything they could take a bite out of. The only other unpleasant part of starting BLW was freaking out about 80 gagging on food.

The gag reflex is awesome — it lets 80 know when she’s crammed that banana too far into her mouth. It’s just that she then make the “gork gork” noise, and Jason and I jump from our chairs and stare at her with our arms out to the side like we’re ready to tackle her. Just like the book said, she’d gag a bit, spit out the food, then calmly continue eating. All babies are going to do this, even if they’re eating purees. The book goes over in great detail how to handle gagging and choking (which is less likely to happen). 80 hasn’t choked once, but she’s gagged maybe three times — not recently though.

BLW is said to be messy, since your kidlet has access to all the food, but I found purees to be just as messy, since they’re basically food paint.

The big thing on what to feed your baby is that you should be offering them food from your plate, and eating together. Outside of the big no-nos (honey, salt, nuts, peanuts, dairy), you can feed your kid anything. It’s a little hard to wrap my brain around, since we’ve been in a pureed vegetables culture for so long, but once I finished the book, and started offering 80 some different things, it got a lot easier to imagine what I could feed her from my plate.

A side benefit is that you end up eating healthier! It’s hard for me not to eat salt, so this is an excellent exercise in moderation.

I’m going to give you a list of what 80’s eaten so far, but bear in mind that the point is not that she’s ingest much (if any) of all of the foods. The point is that she’s practicing eating for when she’ll need the calories.

Since we’ve started, 80’s eaten sticks of avocado, apple, carrot (baked and peeled first, so it’s solid but not crunchy), potato, rice cake (I found regular old plain rice cakes broken into sticks work better and are cheaper than the baby versions), kale (from a soup), lettuce (she mostly gummed it and didn’t eat any), chicken breast, grapefruit, lemon, and she’s moved on to eating the standard “O”. I looked at Cascadian Farms version of Cheerios, but they had way more sugar. Turns out Cheerios (or their generic equivalent) have the lowest sugar — 1g per serving. Os are great, since they are the perfect shape for little chubby hands. It’s an excellent exercise in the pincer grasp, and it keeps 80 amused for a long time. We brought Os on the plane to NC last week, and she’d pick one from our hand and work on getting it to her mouth — and then we’d put another in our hand for her to take. Not messy on her face or clothes, tiny snack, not hard to clean up even if she got it all soggy and it ended up on the floor, and it was a good way to pass time.

I’d suggest the book I read — it’s well written, it has a nice balance of historical information, reasons to BLW with reasonable encouragement (not making you feel like you’re signing up for a cult), and lots of suggestions for foods.

The only downside for me was that it’s British, and I had to look up what a rusk was, as well as try to remember the American words for aubergine and courgette.

If you’re not a fan of personal stories (they are in all the baby books I read), you can just skip them. In fact, if you don’t care about the history of feeding babies, you can just skip to chapter 4 where it gets down to the nitty gritty.

Eating food! (pause) Oh.

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Right before Thanksgiving, we started feeding 80 … food. It seems redundant to say feeding food, but up until this point, she’d only had breast milk and formula.1. We decided 80 was ready for food because she’d been staring at us eating in front of her and my impression was that she thought it looked like fun, she was sitting up well, and she generally seemed game to try new experiences.

Wearing a bib, ready to go.

I’d read a while ago about what to feed babies, and at the 6mo checkup, our doctor reminded us about the things NOT to feed babies until they’re older. You might find it surprising what’s not OK: honey, peanut butter or peanuts, any dairy, salt, sugar (everything I love, basically). I checked my favorite parenting site Moms4Mom to see what other parents have opined about what to feed your 6mo.

I knew the basics, but was surprised to find out about feeding theories that weren’t covered in the books I had read. I had come to the site to find out if I should start with rice cereal with breastmilk, or some sort of vegetable. I wasn’t expecting to find anything else. I settled on rice cereal as 80’s first food, because it is iron fortified, and at 6 months there isn’t much else she needs other than breastmilk.

The other feeding theory had caught my eye. At the time, I was impatient to start in on the food, and didn’t want to wait, so I made a mental note to look it up later.

I also read about other good first foods, things that are easily gummed. I decided that 80 should also try avocado, because I find it so incredibly delicious. Plus, as Keem says, “It’s the cheese of the vegetable kingdom.” So we sat down to try eating.

And it was awesome! The rice cereal was mostly milk, and 80 slurped it down. There was no pushing it out of her mouth with her tongue (this being a reflex that younger babies have, and a good indicator that they’re not ready for food yet), and not that much mess … until she realized that the spoon was the food vehicle. Then it was not so awesome. She wanted to hold the spoooooooon. Why couldn’t she just hold the spoooooooon? (Answer: because she would gnaw on it, not give it back for a refill, and couldn’t get it into her mouth without rotating it so all the cereal fell off.)

But whatever, it was eating food! This meant the eventual freedom of my boobs.2 It meant new adventures.

Within 24 hours, I was reminded of the other aspect to starting solid foods. The poop. I’d forgotten that it changes, even though everyone who’s had a baby talks about it. I wouldn’t have been so excited about food if I’d remembered. I now understand why people get a Diaper Genie.

See, breastmilk poop doesn’t smell that bad at all. I think it smells vaguely like bagels. It’s a subtle odor. Everything-else poop is wow. Like adult poop.

We realized we’d need to start using a sprayer or liners with her cloth diapers. The trash can in her room was suddenly smelly. My favorite baby book ever, Be Prepared, suggests having a trash can outside the window, and dropping diapers out the window into the trash can below. I seriously considered it.3

What can be done about this new development in diapers? Nothing. As long as we keep feeding her food, her poop is going to stink just like everybody else. Perhaps we could just feed her roses.

Next up, I’ll explain moving from shoving gruel into my angry baby’s mouth, to the much more fun Baby-led Weaning!

1. We gave her formula the first week of her life, as a means to flush out the jaundice she had.
2. This was a bigger thing than just having my boobs to myself again. I have a low-level amount of worry that 80 will be hungry and I won’t be around.
3. I’m sure the other condo owners are glad I didn’t.