Thursday, January 14, 2010

Baby Led Weaning

Well Isaac pretty much hates pureed food and baby cereal. He gags and spits it all out. As you can see in this picture...

So as I always do when I have a question or problem, I started doing some research and reading about babies and introducing solids. The first thing I found online when I looked up problems with eating baby food, was something that totally intrigued and fascinated me called Baby Led Weaning. Here is a snippet from the article on Wikipedia:

"Baby-led weaning (often also referred to as BLW) is a method of gradually weaning a baby from a milk diet onto solid foods. It allows a baby to control his solid food intake by self-feeding from the very beginning of the weaning process. Infants are offered a range of foods to provide a balanced diet from around 6 months. They often begin by picking up and licking the food, before progressing to eating. Babies typically begin self feeding around 6 months, although some will reach for food as early as 5 months and some will wait until 7 or 8. The intention of this process is that it is tailored to suit each particular baby and their personal development. The 6 month guideline provided by the World Health Organisation is based on research indicating the internal digestive system matures over the period 4-6 months. It seems reasonable to posit that the gut matures in tandem with the baby's external faculties to self feed. Baby-led weaning places the emphasis on exploring taste, texture, colour and smell as the baby sets their own pace for the meal, choosing which foods to concentrate on. Instead of the traditional method of spooning puréed food into the baby's mouth, the baby is presented with a plate of varied finger food from which to choose. Contrary to popular belief there is no research supporting the introduction of solids by purees and proponents of baby-led weaning argue that babies can become very confused when stage 2 foods are introduced (with lumps) unsure whether to swallow or chew..."

Crazy, huh? Yeah, that's what I thought too. I took the info and starting churning it in my head, thinking more about it and reading as much as I could about it. I got the Baby Led Weaning Book and also found an online forum of other BLW moms, but was still hesitant. It just seemed so bizarre to give a baby "real" food. But after another week of Isaac being miserable eating purees, but of clearly showing an interest in food (he would watch us so intently as we ate and absolutely loved eating Baby Mum Mum's), I thought I should give it a try, after all it couldn't hurt. So one day I tried giving him chunks of apples and he loved them. Then the next day I tried bananas rolled in crushed cheerios. I put them on his tray and he immediately reached for them and went wild! He just loves to feed himself!!! One of the things that is a bit startling is that sometimes he gags on his food. I read about that too and apparently gagging is a good thing, because the baby learns how to control the movements of his tongue and how to prevent future gagging. He has given me a few "scares", but he works it out, it always sounds worse than it really is. Of course, we still have to be careful and provide him with safe and easy to chew foods. But overall, he is doing really well. So far his favorites are bananas, apples, cheerios, sweet potato and chicken! He's even had broccoli, ground beef and buckwheat waffles. It is very amusing to see him feeding himself, he knows how to chew and he's also figured out how to move food around in his mouth to maximize use of his 2 little teeth. I am sure if people saw him and saw the food we give him, they would stare and shake their heads in disapproval. So, if you are out at a restaurant and see us giving our 6 1/2 month old chunks of meat, pieces of toast, a broccoli floret or other chunks of veggies/fruit, know that we have done our research and we are not doing it because we are ignorant parents ;-)

As a related side note, Maddie at 3 1/2 years old still does not like eating certain "textured" foods, such as mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, and the list goes on and on. It will be interesting to see how Isaac's palate develops as he gets older. Another aspect of BLW that I really agree with is that a baby develop a sense of control over his or her consumption of food. However, regardless of whether it's pureed or not, providing babies with a variety of healthy foods is the best way to start their lifelong relationship with food.

Here's Isaac the first time he had bananas rolled in cheerio chunks (to make them easier to grab)...

Here is a little video of his first time eating banana (and you will also hear the infamous cough he's had for weeks)...

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