Simon has his 9 month doctor appointment coming up. I was talking about the appointment with one of my Mom friends this weekend, and she asked me a funny question: “Are you going to lie to him?”
Odd question, right? Well, no, not if you know me. Because my response was “Yes”.
Simon’s last appointment was at 6 months, and my Dr was horrified that I had not started him on baby food yet. I breastfed Simon exclusively until he was 6 months old (which is the recommendation of the World Health Organization), at which point, he started eating solid foods. His first food was pretty untraditional:
That’s right, he skipped the baby cereal, passed by the strained peas, forgot about mushed bananas, and has never even heard of pureed carrots. He does love whole carrots, though.
I’m not an expert on Baby-Led Weaning, so I had to do some research. For me, this was mainly from browsing online forums, and reading Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods (the Kindle edition!). But because most people are still interested, but aren’t about to read a whole book on it, here is my description of Baby-Led Weaning.
So why Baby-Led Weaning? Out of everything that I have chosen to do with Simon, this took the longest for me to understand. I think the name was a part of the mental block. It didn’t make sense to me at first, because it seemed to be about introducing food, so why weaning? Essentially, the introduction of solid food coincides with the weaning off of milk. The idea is that by introducing food this way, babies are in control of how much solid food they eat, which at first, isn’t much. For this reason, you will find that this might be a more popular method of introducing food by breastfeeding mothers. Breastfed babies are used to controlling how much they eat. So letting them eat this way allows them to stay in control. It allows them to wean on their own, making the transition from liquid to solid nourishment, when they are ready. You can absolutely do this if you formula feed as well. This is also called Baby-Led Solids, but that term is more popular in the UK (and as a whole, it seems like a more popular practice in the UK altogether).
I started feeding Simon solid foods when he was 6 months old. We always nurse first, because at this point, his main source of nourishment is still breastmilk. When to start solids is up to you, the parent. Being able to sit unsupported, and an apparent interest in food are good signs that baby is ready for solids. Although, babies stick everything in their mouth at that age, so personally, I still waited for the 6 month mark.
So that first time you sit down with your baby and give them food, what do you give them? Essentially, whatever you want, keeping medical considerations (no honey or whole milk, etc. the first year), and choking hazards (popcorn, nuts, etc.) in mind. Babies should also avoid added salt and sugar. Cutting things into sticks makes the food easier for little hands to handle. As they get older and their pincer grips develop, you can prepare baby’s food different ways. Right now Simon is at the
point where he does pretty well feeding himself with a loaded spoon. He had a little fun with some yogurt and unsweetened pumpkin the other day.
The most frequently asked question about Baby-Led Weaning:
Aren’t you worried they will choke?
Understandably, everyone is most concerned about this aspect of Baby-Led Weaning. Everything I have read says the same thing: Babies who are given food this way, do not choke. Babies are pretty cool. Their bodies are designed to protect themselves. Their gag reflex is not only more sensitive, but it is much closer to the front of their mouth. So, say baby gets a chunk of food that is too big and starts gagging. That’s it, they’re gagging, but the food doesn’t get close enough to their throat for them to choke. They just spit it out, and are usually pretty unfazed. Your job is to stay calm and not freak out too much. Simon outgrew the gagging very quickly. It only happened a few times, and he never does it now. I read a few times that you are supposed to leave them alone or you’ll make them nervous about eating, but I couldn’t just leave him there, so I would walk over to him with a big smile, and pat his back.
It is actually spoon fed babies who are going to be more likely to choke when they switch over to finger foods, because spoon feeding overrides the natural gag reflex. No baby should be left alone while they’re eating, and you should always pay close attention while feeding your baby.
Other Frequently Asked Questions:
How much does he really eat? Not much. Something I now heed is “Food before one is just for fun!”. Sometimes he will munch away and eat more than I thought he could. But other times (like tonight), he will just mush everything up and throw it on the floor. He has yet to drop any of his milk feedings, he still nurses about 8 times a day.
What do you do when you’re eating out? Eating out with a Baby-Led Weaning baby is super easy. We just eat at places that have some sort of healthy option. Almost anyplace, at the very least, has broccoli. If nothing else, he will eat lettuce from a salad pretty happily (He loves radicchio).
What’s wrong with baby cereal? There is nothing wrong with baby cereal. We have baby cereal, actually. I bought it because we had a wedding to go to, and I thought maybe he would eat some with breastmilk while we were gone. Now, Simon eats it for breakfast sometimes on days when I have oatmeal. But, I don’t eat white rice. So Simon doesn’t eat white rice cereal. He has both organic brown rice cereal and oatmeal. And while you don’t have to do this, it can be a fun tool for making him his own little “food stuffs” like cereal pancakes.
What is wrong with pureed food? Okay, so there is nothing really wrong with pureed food. Just take a look at the smoothie revolution. We all eat pureed food, and when it’s just fruits and veggies, its really healthy. The “problem”, isn’t purees, its spoon feeding and the lack of control for the little person being fed. And let’s face it….pureed green beans? Really? If you haven’t tasted it, its gross. I was eating very well when I got my wisdom teeth out in Hawaii and was all concerned about not getting veggies, so I bought baby food. Yes, the thing I am not not feeding my child…I’m aware of the irony. And it is icky.
Baby is eating with his hands? Isn’t that messy? Oh. Its messy. More often than not, his sleeves are dirty, something ends up on the floor, and every once in awhile…in his hair. It really is fun though.
Does he drink water or juice? Simon has a straw cup that he drinks water from. I offer it to him a few times a day.
So far, I am happy with all the choices I have made in raising Simon. Baby-Led Weaning may have taken the longest for me to understand, but it was the easiest to implement, is aton of fun, and is one of the most rewarding things we do with Simon.
Looking for more Baby-Led Weaning Resources?:
Facebook: Baby-Led Weaning – Let Your Babies Feed Themselves!
100 Baby-Led Weaning Recipes
The Mush Stops Here
Back to the doctor’s appointment. If I’m so confident and so happy about it, why am I lying to my doctor about it? Great question. When it comes to my baby’s health and safety, I will step up and say something if need be. However, I don’t feel that I need my doctor’s approval on this subject. I know that Simon is healthy, and as long as he is gaining weight, hitting his milestones, and doesn’t have any problems, I don’t feel any need to tell the doctor anything except that he eats lots of fruits and vegetables and still nurses on demand. Which technically…is the truth. However, if I had to defend my choices, writing this has me more prepared for it.
As always, if you have any questions about Baby-Led Weaning, please please leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to talk about it!