Tuesday, May 8, 2012

baby led weaning

Ellie's first food--apple sticks.
Ellie has started eating solid foods.
For her, though, we are trying something new.  

Nicholas, you see, is probably the pickiest toddler on earth.  Seriously.  
The list of foods he will eat fits on one side of a post-it note.  

I believe that some of that is nature. I was also incredibly picky as a child.  But maybe some of it is nurture too.  I didn't do a good job with introducing new foods to him as we were feeding him baby foods, and I relied too heavily on the "fun stuff" like goldfish crackers and gerber puffs.  And now, the fun stuff is all he ever wants to eat.

So with Ellie, we decided to do things differently.
We figure it can't get any worse, so why not try something new?

I started thinking on my own that it would make so much more sense to just feed my babies the same foods I was eating; just feed them off of my plate, even, and introduce them to all those flavors and textures and let go of the pressure to feed them exact items and exact amounts.

And then I found Baby Led Weaning
a method that mirrors the way that babies were fed before the 50's and 60's where mothers were sent home with strict feeding schedules and guidelines that ended up lessening their milk supply and ended up making experts feel like babies must "need" rice cereal and pureed food to supplement. 
Before all of that, babies weren't given solids until they expressed an interest in food on their own and then,
they were given exactly that.  Solid, real foods. And the parents didn't stress about what or how much the baby was eating, because the baby's main nutrition source remained breastmilk until the baby gradually weaned themselves by eating more and more of the solid foods.  The idea is that the baby, who has been able to know how much and when to nurse up to this point, will continue to instinctively know when and what and how much to eat all on their own.

There are guidelines about what types of food to give to baby, no (or very limited) processed foods, no salt, finger-sized pieces of food that are easy for her to hold and munch on, etc. 

And the risk of choking is surprisingly lower than a baby who is spoon-fed, because the baby is in control of what she's putting into her mouth and when, but of course you never leave the baby alone while she's eating. 

There's a great (and short) post here with the basics if you're interested.

So that's what we're trying.  For our family, it just makes sense, 
and so far, I'm loving it.

Ellie has been eating solid foods with us for just more than two weeks now, and she's had apples, bananas, avocados, pears, cucumbers, bread, carrots, green beans, tortillas, strawberries, and pancakes. I'm getting braver, though, and I'm going to start giving her more complex foods.
Bread is one of her favorites, but I'm learning that it's best if it is toasted or something more like
an English Muffin that doesn't become so "doughy" in her mouth.

And I knew the moment I handed it to her that giving her bread on the couch was a bad idea, but I decided to let her have at it and clean up later.  The only downside we've found so far is that Baby Led Weaning is messy.
It's amazing to me to see how she just seems to know how to eat this stuff. She's already figured out how to use both hands to get something slippery (like her favorite, bananas) up to her mouth.  She can suck on a chunk of cucumber forever, move bits of food around in her mouth and either swallow them or spit them back out, and she really seems to enjoy getting her hands on the food and feeling in control of what she's eating.  

Right now, her "eating" is mostly playing, exploring, and discovering new tastes and textures.  She gets very little actual food and nutrition from what she feeds herself at this point, but 
that's okay because she's still nursing and that's really all she needs for now.  

We're learning as we go, 
but for us, this makes sense and we are really happy with it so far.

And an unexpected plus?  The other night Nicholas watched Ellie gumming her carrot sticks and he decided to give them a try...and he liked them!


Teresa said...

That is basically how we fed our kids....which I learned from my Mother.
It will work....I remember taking all our kids to a restaurant when they were little and they all asked for salad and broccoli...the waiter couldn't believe it...oh and they used to fight over asparagus and Brussels sprouts.... =)

Dorothy said...

I love this, Becca. It makes sense, and it's what our family started doing intuitively with little Henry. Thank you for sharing!

magunn said...

HA! Love it! Belen is doing that herself ... she won't eat off a spoon, and doesn't seem to like the pureed stuff much. But if I just pile food in front of her, she's all over it.

This seems a thousand times easier. Thank you.