Posted in Baby-led weaning, Breastfeeding, Health, Real food, Respectful parenting, tagged baby food, baby-led weaning, babyled weaning, healthy eating, real food, solid food, vegetables on September 23, 2012| Leave a Comment »
Posted in Baby-led weaning, Breastfeeding, Health, Real food, Respectful parenting, tagged baby food, baby-led weaning, babyled weaning, blw, breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding, first foods, real food, solid food, sushi on September 22, 2012| 4 Comments »
This is part two of a 3-part series on baby-led solids/weaning (BLW) in honour of Lady Fair’s half-year birthday and consequent move away from exclusive breastfeeding. In part 1 we talked about some of the great reasons to do it, and now we’ll go over some practical tips. The thing about BLW is that it really doesn’t require instructions beyond “give food to the baby”, but people who are used to pureeing usually want some more details, so here they are.
Size & Shape
The main thing about BLW is that the kids are putting the food in their mouths themselves, and they’re starting well before they work out that little pincer grip. In other words, dicing is no-dice. It’s all about the long-skinny so that they can wrap their whole adorable little fist around it and still have an end poking out to get in their mouths.
My favourites for novice eaters are bananas halved lengthwise, avocados cut into longitudinal wedges and broccoli trees. Once they get older and more coordinated, brussels sprouts and scrambled egg yolks are pretty grabable.
Meat always seems to present a difficulty. Some people cut it into really narrow long strips, but my kiddo couldn’t figure out how to flop it into his mouth. He also had front teeth very early, so he’d bite a chunk off and then not be able to chew it and problems would ensue. So I went Alicia Silverstone on it and pre-chewed, then propped it up in a little pile on his plate. Gross, but effective.
As scary and weird as it seems, try to leave peels and rinds on when possible. Bananas are a perfect example. If you take the peel off, that nanner will fly out of baby’s hand like the escargot out of Julia Roberts’ in Pretty Woman. Apples with a skinless landing strip around the equator and peel at each pole are easy to hold onto and run your gums over. If you’re into grains you can also try dusting food with some sort of cereal crumb.
Out & About
First off, BLW makes travelling way easier, and being lazy, that makes me very happy. But what you need to plan/bring changes more rapidly than with pureed food.
If baby is only a few days/weeks onto solids then the biggest question is really whether or not baby actually needs to eat (other than nursing, obviously) while you’re out. Remember the rule of thumb “before 1 it’s just for fun.” Kids really don’t need to be having three squares a day. In fact, in the first couple of weeks they’re unlikely to swallow enough to make the endeavor calorically worthwhile anyway. So there’s the nothing option.
But if your wee one is firmly into the eating world, avocados, bananas and brussels sprouts all travel well and make relatively little mess. For more adventurous babies, order the soup and bread and share dipped bread with them. Alternatively, bits from a garden salad or side baked potato do wonders. And my all-time food court favourite? Sushi rolls. They’re mouthful sized, nutritious and TIDY.
And speaking of tidiness… you know all of those little wee bibbies you were given? Forget them. Truly. So useless. If you must use a cover, then the IKEA full-body smock is the only rational option, but I prefer to strip baby bare. Much easier to swab a baby than wash and fold a stack of smocks. And while we’re at it, the more elaborate your high-chair, the more crevices there are to stick food in. IKEA comes in handy here again with their smooth plastic, single piece, TWENTY DOLLAR high chair. Can’t be beat.
These really should go for all early experiments with food, no matter how you introduce it. The first item on the safety list, is to know the difference between gagging and choking. Both look horrible and can make you panic. One – gagging – tends to be noisy, while the other – choking – is silent. So don’t ever turn your back on baby and assume you’ll hear her choking because you won’t. Ultimately, the qualifier is air. If baby is gagging, he can still breathe in between gags, which makes noise. If baby is making noise (and thus breathing) you should NOT go smacking her on the back because that could make the offending bit of food block the currently unobstructed airway and cause choking.
Item number two is to leave baby UNBUCKLED while feeding. This probably seems a bit counter-intuitive, especially since highchairs these days come with enough snaps and harnesses to rival a carseat, but the reality is that if baby does happen to start choking, you can’t help without removing her from the chair. The harder it is to get her out of the chair, the longer it will take to help her. Here is where we loop back to the previous paragraph and remind you not to turn your back while baby is eating, lest she somersault over the tray.
The final item on the list is to master ye old finger swipe and it is a bit more BLW specific. If a bad gagging fit does hit, or even if you foresee trouble clearing an item from the mouth, the easiest way to help is to reach into the mouth and clear it with your finger. Don’t be alarmed if this actually triggers gagging – you would too if someone reached into your mouth. Also don’t freak out if all of this gagging triggers puking. That’s the body’s way of making sure stuck objects get pushed up and out.
So there you have it. Baby-led weaning in a nutshell. What tricks did you use to make it even easier?
BLW Part III: The Cuteness
There are so many reasons I do Baby-led weaning. If I had to boil it down I’d say it just feels right. Remember my cave-woman test for babies? This one scores an A+. But in the interest of fleshing out a blog post, here are (in no particular order) my top 5 reasons for choosing BLW.
Fun for baby
Babies so dislike the airplane-spoon game that it’s become cliché. What they do like and, unless you’ve had blinders on for the last 2 months of baby’s life you’ll be well aware of this, is to grab stuff and put it in their mouths. I can’t even count how many hours have I spent lately trying to stop Lady Fair from eating my hair, jewelery, coffee mug and car keys. Not to mention leaves whenever I reach into the garden while babywearing. She keeps trying though – it really is her favourite thing to do – so why not let her do it with her food?
Do these ‘puffed snacks’ have too much salt? Does the lid of the apple sauce jar have BPA in it? Who knows? And with BLW, who cares? I’m so tired of worrying whether something is healthy or not, especially since the stuff that appears to be healthy is often not all it’s cracked up to be. But with broccoli, there isn’t really that much to wonder about.
Healthy food relationships
I am a woman who was born and raised in North America. In other words, my relationship with food is seriously messed up. I’m also slightly overweight, due, in large part, to those messed up food attitudes. If I’m unable to listen to my own body speaking to me, why on earth would I think I could hear someone else’s from across the table? Bottom line, the less I control how (and how much) my kids eat, the better for them.
True story: when Little Man was about seven months old he went on a very uncharacteristic food jag. All of a sudden he was a meataholic. His veggies, even his beloved brussels sprouts (not kidding, that was his FAVOURITE food as a baby) went straight to the ground for a solid week. Just when I was starting to thoroughly panic about it, I got my first post-partum period and man, was it a doozie. Clearly I had been serving up some very low-iron boob juice and his little body knew that. Had I been spooning food into his mouth as per my own judgement, I would have been putting in things his body didn’t need.
Einstein famously bought 7 copies of the same suit so he wouldn’t need to waste mental energy choosing his clothes every day. BLW allows for the same mental efficiency: “should we eat this vegetable today, or that vegetable?” Pretty easy decision.
Menu planning aside, the prep is also incredibly easy. No strainers, food mills or special little ice cube trays needed. Step one, make yourself a meal. Step two, put some of it on baby’s plate. Ta-da!! Going to be away from home? No problem. Pack an avocado and a knife. Alternatively, you can probably find something in your restaurant meal that’s baby-appropriate.
I’ve watched in awe as parents I know order a coffee they don’t want just so they can ask the Tim Horton’s cashier to microwave their pureed turkey-sicle, for which they needed to lug around a cooler. Ya, I’m so not that energetic.
Safety – the Biggie
The thing with pureeing food is that it’s like putting a life-jacket on during your swimming lesson. No one drowns during a structured, supervised swimming lesson. They drown when no one is looking, especially if they weren’t allowed to properly learn to swim. Kids are at risk for choking, there’s no doubt about that. Part of the risk comes from having small throats that food can get stuck in easily, but the other part is from not having the skill to coordinate jaw, lip and tongue movements to control where food goes. Just like you can’t learn a proper breast stroke with a lifejacket, you also can’t learn to move food around your mouth if your food is always inserted to the back of your moth where you have no choice but to swallow. Letting kids eat pieces of (appropriately soft) food helps them master the skills of not choking so when they get hold of a pebble or piece of lego when it isn’t meal time, they’ll be safer.
Stay tuned for Part II where I get into some of the practical how-to’s of BLW!
BLW Part III: The Cuteness
It happened the other day. My beautiful, squishy, delicious baby girl had her first experience with the four-letter word that starts with F:
Yes, that’s right. At just 3 days shy of 6 months old, with a stack of ripe organic bananas on the counter, I dropped the F-bomb on my baby. And she promptly dropped it on the floor 🙂
It was a spur of the moment decision to start. The beauty of baby-led solids is that the prep is virtually non-existant. But I’ll get into that in my next post on why we do babyled. Up after that, some of the practicals for how to do it. Stay tuned.
The good thing about having your second baby is that the quantity of unsolicited advice you get goes down substantially. It doesn’t disappear completely though. It can be hard to parse it all out and know which bits are good and which are… less so. And of course, if you lean to the attachment end of the parenting spectrum, a lot of it is just plain angering.
In the last 2 years (and more, since the tips started flooding in before Little Man’s birth) I’ve found it really helpful to think things through with a few simple mental hacks. I’ve also found these really helpful as a way of explaining to other people why I do or don’t do certain things. It makes the subject tangible to people who often simply haven’t thought it through, and it adds a bit of levity to discussions that can very easily become tense.
1. What would a cavemother do?
Here’s something to keep in mind: babies don’t know it’s the 21st century, they think it’s still the stone age. The primal instincts babies follow are certainly not always convenient in a modern world, but they serve a very important purpose and for the most part you’ll save yourself a lot of stress if you use modern tools to meet those instinctual needs, rather than to try to suppress them. So, when given a piece of baby advice, simply ask yourself ‘what would a cavemother do’. The answer to that question is going to paint a really clear picture for you of what your baby needs, biologically speaking. The only thing you ‘need‘ to do, then, is find the best way for you to approximate the cavemother’s response and still get your laundry done.
2. As to big people, so to little people.
Another astonishing fact: babies are actually people! What does that mean? It means that aside form certain biological norms (eg every person – big or small – eats, sleeps and poops) each little person is as different from the rest as each big person is. And little peoples’ needs are not, as a group, so vastly different from big peoples’ needs. If you remember this, then babies don’t seem like such a mystery. Simply ask if a generalization or rule about babies would hold true for full sized people. If not, then it’s probably not such a great rule for the little ones either.
3. The Granny Test.
I’ve talked about this before, in relation to nighttime needs, but it’s a good overall test. If you replace the word ‘baby’ in any baby advice with ‘sick Granny’, how would you feel about following that advice? What would be the outcome of following the advice? A healthier Granny? A closer relationship between you and your Granny? If yes, then it’s good advice. If no, then… you get the picture.
So, let’s run a couple of examples of baby advice I’ve heard (yet again) in the short days since Lady Fair was born through the checks and see what we come up with.
“Babies get all they need (from the breast) in the first 10 minutes”
What would a cavemama have to say about that? I think she’d probably say ‘what’s 10 minutes’? Cavemothers likely had a pretty good sense of time, but they weren’t sporting a Timex on their wrist. They likely would have decided the baby was done eating when it was… well, done eating, and minutes shminutes. So our advice failed the first test.
What if we applied this rule to fully grown people? If you sat 10 (or 1000) adults down with 10 different meals (remember, each baby is eating from a different breast), how likely is it that they would all take their last mouthful at exactly the same time? Um, I think that number is approaching zero. We’ll call this one a fail too.
As for the Granny Test, how likely would you be to pull Granny’s half-finished plate away after an arbitrarily determined amount of time and tell her she got all she needed? Especially if you started timing from the arrival of the appetizers (the non-breast equivalent of the first let down, for moms who have several) instead of the entree? Fail, fail, fail.
I think we can safely say this bit of wisdom, which was given my mother by her doctor when she had me and eagerly handed down when Little Man came and now again with Lady Fair, is a dud.
“Sleeping with your baby is a bad habit.”
What would a cavemother do? Well, not only did cavemama not have an AngelCare monitor at her disposal to make sure the baby is still breathing in the nursery cave, she also had large nocturnal carnivores to deal with. If she had to weigh the theoretical possibility of overly attached offspring against the less theoretical possibility of tiger-mauled offspring, I’m thinking she’d go with door number one.
As to big people, so to little people. This one is a bit harder to gauge because the parent-infant relationship doesn’t really have an adult-only equivalent, given that infants are sexually immature. Let’s look at an adult child and his/her parent, and leave sexual propriety out of it as much as possible. If you are contemplating bedsharing with your mom, you’re probably going to base your decision on things like does she already live in your house (probably not), do either of you have romantic partners you’d rather sleep with (probably yes), do either of you fart or snore incessantly in your sleep keeping the other up (maybe, maybe not)? ‘Bad habit’ probably isn’t the first reason you would think of for not bedsharing with mom, so it probably shouldn’t be the sole reason you don’t bedshare with baby.
The Granny Test. This runs along the same lines of our previous test, but with one better similarity to babies – the Granny in our test is physically incapable of meeting her own needs, whether it’s day or night. This is pretty much the same deal as a baby. If Granny’s needs at night included temperature regulation, apnea (i.e. SIDS) prevention, reduction of brain-damaging stress hormones and frequent nourishment, would ‘bad habit’ really be the deciding factor in how to care for her?
This one goes down the tubes too.
“At 6 months, babies should be introduced to iron-fortified rice cereal.”
Our cavemema’s idea of rice cereal would be grass seeds pounded between rocks. And iron-fortification? Maybe she could prop up a pile of the seeds with some pieces of flint… Really this test shows us that not only do babies not need wallpaper paste, they don’t need pureed food at all, since it was impossible to even create such food until the release of the electric blender in the 1930’s. Cavemama would have waited until baby could wrangle a piece of food into its mouth on its own. She might have chewed it up a bit first, but nothing more complicated than that.
Ah, the big people. When, in the age of low-carb diets, did you last see an adult sit down with a bowl of processed starch and iron filings and pat themselves on the back for their nutritionally superior meal? ‘Nuff said.
As for our Granny… When, in the age of low-carb diets, did you last see a nursing home serve bowls of processed starch and iron filings and pat themselves on the back for their nutritionally superior meal? Thought so. As an added question – if your Granny’s nursing home was indeed feeding her this stuff, how long would you leave her there?
Obviously, these examples are pretty clear-cut. They all fail all of the tests. Parenting is rarely this straightforward, though, and there are a lot of times when you have to make much more difficult decisions, but if nothing else, these will lend hours of amusement to your decision-making tasks.