Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Baby Led Weaning vs. The Puree & Tips for Starting Solids

Ezra is edging ever closer to that infamous six month mark. You know, the mark when he will start reaching for food off of MY fork and sticking it into HIS mouth. I still can't believe he'll be capable of that so soon!

I can't believe my peanut is almost 5 months!
But, I am hesitant to start him on food. We've got a good thing going right now. I eat & he gets it secondhand- one meal, two full bellies. Do I really want to go through all the extra effort of making his meals on top of mine?

That's when I started researching. Turns out, you can actually go a few different routes.

But first, here are good pointers from Best Foods for Your Baby & Toddler on when to start solids.

1). When baby reaches for food with that "I want that!" attitude. Babies will also try for silverware too because it's shiny so don't let that fool you.

2). If baby still seems hungry after a feeding, wants to eat quicker than normal after feedings, and/or starts waking up for more night feedings, first try increasing nursing/bottles, but know this may be a sign of readiness.

3). If baby uses the extrusion reflux to push food out, wait a few more weeks before introducing. Baby isn't ready yet...

Ok, and now on to the different routes of introducing solids!

Route 1: Down with the mush! Would you want to eat mush? Yuck. Baby Led Weaning, as it's called, is a term related to introducing your child to table foods you eat, but in smaller bite size pieces. As the advocates of BLW say, "No purees, no ice cube trays, no food processor, no potato masher, no baby rice, no weird fruit and veg combos… just you and your child, eating food that you enjoy with you and your family."

One of the main reasons I like this approach is that it teaches a child to chew first, then swallow. It also allows baby to experience different textures early on, and forces you to eat healthier.  And, come on, could it get ANY easier?

If you find this is a suitable route for you, I would follow the guidelines outlined on (beware of the British terminology). Those guideines are as follows:
  1. Have a good trawl on the internet for blogs, info and in particular video clips of BLW babies. Seeing little tiny 6-month-old babies demolishing their food and hearing the gasps of admiration from the proud parent behind the camera (and by parent I mean Dad. It’s always the Dad), will do your confidence the power of good.
  2. Next, forget ‘baby food’. Food’s food, as long as you’re not adding salt. To start off with, think chip-sized because it’s an easy shape for little 6-month-olds to grip, but you’ll soon move on to smaller pieces as it’s more interesting for a child developing a pincer grip.
  3. As a first food most people steam carrots (to about the degree that they can be smushed ‘twixt your thumb and finger), cut up cucumbers, make toast fingers or crinkle cut bits of mango, that sort of thing, but remember if there’s no reason whatsoever why your baby can’t have a pile of Spaghetti Bolognese or mashed potato to dig into if that’s what the rest of the family is having.
  4. No bowls, they’re just asking to be flung heavenwards. Put the food on the highchair tray or table and remember, it’s all a learning experience for the baby at this point. They really don’t care whether the experience is ‘oooooh, mango is in my mouth’ or ‘ooooooh, a bowl is flying across the room’.
  5. As an experienced eater yourself, you already have all the ‘equipment’ you’ll need to feed your child, but there are some things to consider. An easy-to-clean highchair is a must, so head to Ikea for a fifteen quid Antilop, which will even fit in the shower for a hose-down on a bad broccoli day.
  6. There will be mess, oh yes there will, so if you are weaning in summer don’t be afraid to eat outside or semi-naked (and the baby too, if you like, hem hem) and for winter Ikea and Tommee Tippee make great cover-all and pelican bibs.
  7. Putting a wipe-clean tablecloth under the highchair is a good idea if you have carpets and some people find that a crinkle cutter is handy to make food extra-grippable.
  8. (Slightly bitter) experience suggests that the more effort you put into making something special for the baby, the less likely they are to eat it. Give them what you’re having. If they hate it, fine, they’re getting their calories from milk anyway.
  9. Of course it would be perfect if we ate every meal as a family, just like the Waltons but this isn’t always possible. Try to keep your ‘social activity’ head on, though, even if it’s just you and your baby sharing a sandwich at lunch. Keep smiling, keep enjoying, keep paying attention. It’s just good manners at the end of the day, something it’s never too early for a child to learn.
  10. Don’t get too hung up on three meals a day, it may take a while to work up to that. Whatever’s convenient and enjoyable for you is best.
  11. And don’t put too much on the highchair tray at the one time, just a couple of pieces of food will stop them feeling overwhelmed.
  12. Actual hunger can be frustrating for the babies when they’re still getting to grips (quite literally) with things. Timing ‘meals’ to between milk feeds seems to be best, and because it’s just finger food you aren’t limited to staying in. There’s no reason why you can’t pack a wee Tupperware with some carrot or cucumber, buy a banana when you’re out or just pull some bits out of an undressed salad.
  13. Never put food into a child’s mouth, let them put it in by themselves so that they can control it as it moves backwards. If the baby gags, remember that it’s their way of moving food around in the mouth and don’t panic. Some parents have found that making exaggerated chewing faces and noises reminds the child to get back on track.
  14. Nappies and their contents will soon fascinate you in ways you never thought possible. Raisins rehydrate, little pieces of still-green broccoli sneak through the digestive system and bananas produce poo with strange black threads. Look and learn, ladies.
  15. Have a camera ready to capture those first gummy, carroty smiles because as daunting as it may seem, weaning is a very short time in your child’s life. So remember to enjoy it…
I recently met a dietician, Megan McNamee, who says that "iron-fortified rice cereal has been traditionally recommended as the first solid food because it's usually more easily digestible and is a good source of iron (which is a key nutrient at that age, especially in breastfed infants)." However, with her own daughter, since Megan doesn't "want to introduce a lot of highly refined carbohydrates right off the bat" but does want her daughter to get the iron, she "will probably do organic, pasture-raised meats along with veggies..."  

Megan also told me about how some research is leaning towards introducing dairy &gluten instead of avoiding it so baby is less likely to develop an allergy. Click here for more information on that topic.

I found that quite interesting & I'm sure BLW advocates would be thrilled with her decision.

 P.S. Click here for a whole list of recipes for BLW.

 Route 2: Puree it up! I bought a book awhile back called Best Food for Your Baby & Toddler. With a name like that, you know they get a momma's attention. The book has plenty of insight, including waiting for baby to show feeding readiness before introducing foods. They do, however, support introducing rice first, and here's why:

it's sweet, gluten-free & easy to digest.

They also believe purees, like sweet potatoes, applesauce, banana & avocado, are best for baby in the beginning because they are easier to digest in their little tummy's. Unlike BLW, the authors believe you feed baby his/her first bites from your finger & continue to offer baby the same foods 3-4 days in a row to see if they have any allergies.

Route 3: Combining both BLW & Purees. I plan on skipping the rice cereal. For us, I feel like it's not a good starting point. I plan to make my own purees here & there, and also allow Ezra to experience our food too, so long as no salt was added. I just want to avoid having a child addicted to sweets & soda pops!

What about you?

TIPS for introducing foods.

1).  Make sure baby is sitting upright & away from his other food source (bottle or breast) so he doesn't get confused.

2). Try a half feed first with nursing or bottle feeding before introducing a few bites. Then, finish out with nursing. Remember, this doesn't replace a feed at first, you are just introducing solids!

3).  Try to introduce foods one at a time so you can pinpoint any allergen causing foods.

4). Expect baby to still nurse every four hours between 6-9 months of age.

5). Avoid juice and cow's milk until one year of age. Juice has too much sugar & cow's milk is hard on their early digestive system. If you breastfeed beyond a year, which is highly recommended because of the vitamins & reduced illness/allergy reactions, there is no need to introduce cow's milk.

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