Monday, February 28, 2011

Baby Led Weaning

Baby still loves avocado but we're currently in a on/off stage of eating it seems. People often comment at how convenient it is that Baby feeds herself and that we don't have to try and convince her to open her mouth while we quickly deposit some food from a spoon on her tongue. We do actually feed her with a spoon once in awhile. Until recently, we spoon fed her yogurt. And for a little while I was spoon feeding her stewed prunes every morning (to keep things moving along...).
photo (and spoon) courtesy of Auntie A
For the most part however we've tried to follow a baby led weaning (blw) approach to eating. It's oddly named because I don't feel it actually means they are weaning themselves from breast milk (or formula). That seems to be the name that has stuck though so I'll go with it.

There are several well documented signs to being ready to start solids at all (whether you are doing blw or purees or cereal, etc.). These are some of the ones I've heard (there may be others but these seem to be the most common).

  1. Your baby can sit up in a high chair on their own. (Personally, I don't think this means sit up completely unassisted because I know lots of babies that can sit perfectly well in a high chair but can't actually get into sitting position on their own yet. But that's just my opinion.) This is an important one because of choking risks. Your baby should at least be able to sit up straight and steady and hold their head up.
  2. Tongue thrust is gone. This one seems obvious to me. If you put something in your baby's mouth and it automatically comes out seemingly unwillingly, I would guess they aren't physically ready for solids. I see a lot of moms pushing food back into their babies mouth over and over again and it just seems odd (and a bit frustrating) to me.
  3. They have at least one tooth. This one doesn't make much sense to me to be honest. Some baby's don't get their first tooth until past 12 months and are able and ready to eat before then. However, I think it's a good guideline because for the most part it does seem that teeth come in around the time all the other "conditions" for starting solids are met.
  4.  Baby is at least 6 months old. There has been some recent controversy around this but I'm too lazy to look up a link to the article that came out.
  5. Baby is developing their "pincer" grasp. The idea here is that if a baby is ready to try and pick up food, they are likely ready to eat.
  6. Interested in food. This is an interesting one. Most people I know with babies always exclaim "they are so interested in our food" and "they stole the food off our plate." I don't doubt these claims. Baby was the same way. However, I realized that if I had had a plate full of rocks and was sitting at the table with them that Baby would have been just as interested. However, I do think this is a good guide - don't force it if your baby isn't interested.

I think one important idea from all these recommendations and the idea behind baby led weaning is to not push your child to eat before they are developmentally ready.  To show respect for your child's readiness and uniqueness. This may happen at 6 months or at 9 months. It really does seem to vary a lot. We chose blw because it's what we were most interested in and what made the most sense to us. I know others that did a combo of blw and purees. And others that only did purees. We've all had different challenges. I've seen all these babies get to the same place in their eating habits and nutrition eventually.

I guess rushing with solids is another way to push our children to grow up. I tend to lean the other way. I don't want Baby to grow up! Well, not too quickly anyway. I may even be guilty of going too slow on some things but eventually I get there. I figure if I'm going too slow, Baby will let me know. I'm committed to following her lead on most things and so far we're doing ok.

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