*** Welcome March Carnival of Breastfeedingreaders.***
I find myself in a strange situation. I am one of my race, yet not of my culture. I fit in to a race that is not mine – yet am part of its culture. But let me start at the beginning and explain myself a little better… (more…)
Before I just rattle off a list of foods, however, here are a few important things to remember: (And if you want to hear it from the expert on Baby Led Weaning, Gill Rapley, you can buy her book.)
Baby Led Weaning shouldn’t be started before your baby is ready, i.e. showing signs of interest in solid foods (which can start as early as four months, but hold out for six), is able to sit up on their own, and is six months old.
Baby Led Weaning is about the experience of food, rather than the nutrition only of it. Food is fun till one. Until they are around one, milk should be your child’s primary source of nutrition, and food should be introduced for the touch, feel, smell factors. Food should be mushed in the fingers, sucked, gummed, smelt and experienced, and how much is eaten is rather irrelevant. Around the first birthday, your child will automatically start eating more of the food.
Baby Led Weaning doesn’t mean you give your child food and then walk away. It’s not ‘hands off’ in the way that scares parents looking in to it. It’s still weaning, there’s still parental involvement. It’s just baby led.
Babies don’t need teeth to eat. They are perfectly capable of breaking down foods with their gums – be smart though. A 500g rump steak isn’t a good idea.
A baby’s gag reflex is in the middle of their mouth, unlike an adults, which is more towards the back. Your baby might sound like he or she is choking, but it’s unlikely. The gag reflex is precisely there to prevent chocking. At the same time, don’t leave an infant unattended when they are eating.
If your child doesn’t like something, it doesn’t matter. Remove it from the plate, and offer it again in a few weeks time. Tastes change as taste buds develop.
Try to use organic foods, and don’t boil them. You’re trying to maintain the flavours – bland food isn’t very interesting. Steaming works best for hard vegetables, or we often pan-fry in a non-stick pan with no oil.
If there is a history of allergies, asthma or eczema in either parent’s family, try to avoid milk products (cow’s milk, cheeses and yogurts), shellfish, citrus fruit and their juices or eggs, until your baby is around eight months old. If there are allergies, also avoid sesame seeds or peanuts. If you’re really concerned, do a blood allergy test, so you know for definite what to avoid and what not. There is also a school of thought that says avoiding these things increases the risk of allergies, rather than reducing it – do your research and decide for yourself.
Honey, salt and wheat products are not recommended until the baby is a year old. This is a strange one for me, as, for example, in South Africa we give babies â€œbiltongâ€ – dried, cured, salty meatâ€ for teething. ‘Regulations’ and ‘recommendations’ vary from country to country and over time, so do what you feel is right for your baby.
You can change to baby led weaning at any time, even if you’ve already started puree feeding, but be aware that babies used to swallowing purees first may be more likely to try to swallow and then gag on finger foods.
We’ve never puree fed, and you don’t have to start with mush.
When you were pregnant, your baby became accustomed to your way of eating. If you’re breastfeeding more so.
These are suggestions for first foods. Use your discretion and if you’re not sure, wait a while. All of these suggestions are aimed at children over six months, some for over one year:
Peaches – if soft, raw is fine, otherwise lightly steam
Nectarines – if soft, raw is fine, otherwise lightly steam
Plums – if soft, raw is fine, otherwise lightly steam
Strawberries – after six months, if no allergies in the family.
Apples – great for teething gums, but do be wary as it is a hard fruit and can be a chocking hazard. Otherwise bake and cut into chunks. With cinnamon. Yum.
Blueberries – cut in half to ensure they aren’t swallowed whole (for smaller babies)
Grapes – great for gumming, but keep an eye on younger babies. Peel if you desire, as the skin can get stuck on the throat, which is quite uncomfortable. Peeled and frozen and halved is also heavenly for sore gums.
Carrots – great for teething, but same criteria as apples. Lightly steamed is preferable.
Broccolli – lightly steam or roast
Cauliflower -lightly steam or roast
Butternut Squash – roast or boil
Sweet potato – roast or boil – cut into thin fry like pieces for easy holding. Don’t deep fry though.
Potato – roast or boil- cut into thin fry like pieces for easy holding. Don’t deep fry though.
Courgette/baby marrow/zucchini – steamed or roasted or lightly fried or grilled
Aubergine/eggplant – good for cutting into squares, roast, steam or grill – taste it to make sure it’s not too bitter.
Cucumber – raw
Asparagus – a favourite in our home, but be aware that it can be stringy and be both in the stomach and the mouth at the same time! Cut into bite-sized bits.
Rice – great for motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination!
Cubes of cheese – no molded or goats or sheeps milk under one
Fish or meat – well cooked. Although Ameli’s been eating raw salmon (sashimi) since 12 months
Hard boiled egg – assuming no allergies
Home-made low sugar seed and nut bars – assuming no allergies
We use loads of herbs and spices in our food.
Cinnamon – supports the digestive system, but delay introduction if there are food allergies in your family. Also a great source of iron – so no need to worry if baby is otherwise breastfed.
Turmeric – great for adding flavour to food and also a powerful anti-oxidant
Cumin – supports digestion
Coriander – again good for iron among other things and great with chicken dishes
Nutmeg – also good with chicken, soothes the tummy
Ginger – also good for upset tummies (hello, morning sickness!) . It also eliminates gas from the intestines, and is an all-round good food.
Garlic – adds masses of flavour, an anti-oxidant and apparently improves breastfeeding if mama eats garlic.
And a final note:
We try to avoid adding sugar to anything, because really, glucose does nothing good to the body. Instead, replace it with Xylitol. It is slightly more expensive, but is sweeter and actively helps prevent tooth decay and can even reverse the effects of some decay.
In truth, the best way to Baby Led Wean is to cook your own dinner, and take a few bits and pieces of age-appropriate foods off your plate and onto your baby’s. That way there’s much less wastage, no extra preparation, and you end up eating healthier too, since you want to give your baby the best.
I once tried to explain Baby Led Weaning to mothers on a parenting forum and what amazed me the most was how negative they all were: the most common argument was how ‘scary’ it sounded, or how ‘dangerous’. Which I felt was a little sad. I mean really, which parts of parenting don’t feel scary or dangerous at times?
*** Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists
So, here are seven reasons why I think Baby Led Weaning is better for babies:
Benefits of longer milk feeding/ digestive preparedness
Baby led weaning doesn’t normally start until the baby is around six months old, able to sit up on his/her own and has shown some interest in food. As a result, a baby led weaned baby will probably stay on milk feeds until around a year before solids really make up much of the diet at all. Following the ‘food is fun till one’ principle, a BLW baby will receive most of their nutrients by milk while playing with food until one, when they’ll start eating more. With my little girl, there was a marked difference in the quantity of solid food she ate before her first birthday compared to how much she ate a few weeks down the line.
Since baby is still on milk, they are getting all the nutrients required, and you don’t have to worry about force feeding a child that doesn’t want to eat.
Natural motion of babies mouth
The mouth is designed for food. When a baby breastfeeds, their sucking motion isn’t actually sucking at all. If you watch a breastfeeding baby, you’ll see the jaw moves almost in a chewing motion â€“ which it doesn’t do with bottle feeding. Breastfeeding prepares a baby for chewing, and baby led weaning helps them to take food in, chew and swallow, rather than puree feeding which simply requires them to suck back (which is where choking hazards come in) and swallow.
Natural desire to feed self
Babies have a natural instinctive desire to feed themselves. Have you ever seen a baby fighting to try and grab the spoon? They are naturally inclined to learn to feed themselves. And why not? If your 12 month old can feed herself, you won’t still be having to spoon feed at 3 years old. And you won’t be making airoplane noises or choo chooing around the room to get your child to eat either.
Experience of different textures and flavours
Food is fun till one is a great, and messy, principle. It means that everything that goes on the plate becomes an experiment of flavours and textures. Mushing marrow between the fingers, slip-sliding mango up and down the plate, ‘tearing’ pieces of bread or meat, and spearing sashimi (raw salmon) are all great explorations and help prevent pickiness.
Promotes development of hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity
Picking up kernels of rice one at a time requires quite a bit of dexterity and concentration, so it’s great for developing these essential skills. Chasing a cherry tomato around a plate and capturing it requires hand-eye coordination. And the reward is tasty.
Less picky eaters
It is said that BLW toddlers aren’t as picky eaters as their puree fed counterparts. This is partly due to having been exposed to different foods (I don’t see sushi and asparagus flavours in pots), but also to the different textures so there’s not the expectation of mush â€“ blended mush- and baby gets to know individual flavours, sharp tastes, sour tastes and so on.
Baby listens to own body
Although I can’t find much by way of scientific evidence for this â€“ after all, who’s going to pay for a study that’s not going to make anyone any money? – it is anecdotally claimed that babies won’t eat food that is later found to be bad for them. I have personal experience of this with my daughter. I’m willing to trust it, because in the end it can’t hurt.
But there are also at least three benefits for mama, and the family as a whole:
Less strain in terms ofÂ time and cost
I don’t know what a month’s worth of puree feeding costs, but I understand it’s quite a lot. At least with baby led weaning, you don’t have to spend money on bottles of food, and you don’t have to spend time on spoon feeding.
No need to puree, easier to prepare food
Maybe you’ve always made your own purees, so it hasn’t cost you that much? That’s fine, but with no need for puree’s you don’t need to stand praparing seperate meals. You don’t have to wash your blender every day. You don’t need to buy special food pureeing equipment. You make your family meal, and everyone eats the same thing.
Family eats healthier, mum doesn’t finish off baby’s food
Everyone eating the same thing is also healthier for the whole family. For the most part, we all try to do the best we can for our babies, and we want to give them as healthy food as possible, which generally means the whole family eats healthier. In addition, there’s no weight gain from finishing little Johnny’s fishfingers after your own meal. What we do is simple: I prepare the same amount of food as we’ve always done, and take a few bits and pieces off each of our plates to give to Ameli. She doesn’t eat a huge amount anyway, but now that her appetite is increasing, I just make a little bit more, and any left overs go into the freezer for days when I don’t have time to cook.
These are my reasons for baby led weaning. Can you think of any more?
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