7/20/12

Baby-Led Weaning – the Simpleton Edition



(It is with great excitement that I get to present today's post by Guest Blogger, Mrs. Loquacious, author of, The Loquacious Family!  She is one of my very favorite Mommy bloggers, a childhood development specialist and a modern day pioneer for Baby-Led Weaning.  I find this concept very interesting and have begun feeding Ollie snacks using this method. I asked Mrs. Loquacious to share her understanding and experience with us today.  Enjoy!)


Baby-Led Weaning – the Simpleton Edition
In my adventures as a new momma with a slightly crunchy bent, I’ve been consulting with Dr. Google on how to introduce solid foods to my 5-month old in the most natural, granola-y, and developmentally appropriate way possible.

Which led me to this “revolutionary” idea called Baby-Led Weaning.  I use parentheses because the truth is, there is nothing new under the sun, and BLW is actually what was practiced by mommas all over the globe prior to the invention of jarred baby mush and kitchen appliances like blenders and food processors.  So really, it’s not new at all.  It’s just new again, much like how breastfeeding sort of fell out of vogue when infant formula was created, and is only now (in the past decade or so) getting back into prominence.  

Anyway, what is BLW? If you Google it, you’ll come across Gill Rapley’s name, an informative Wiki page, and tons of very useful sites with info and recipes and tips, so I’ll let you just go ahead and do that on your free time (ha! What free time?).  Exactly.  So here it is in a nutshell: 

  • Baby eats what you eat (real food - no mush!) but in smaller, softer, unsalted finger-food-sized pieces
  • Baby feeds herself (I’ll use the feminine since my baby’s a girl) without parents feeding her
  • Baby learns to chew before she learns to swallow (the opposite of what occurs when baby eats purees and learns to swallow first)
  • Baby explores all sorts of food flavours, textures, smells and colours and develops a diverse palate for (hopefully) different kinds of healthy food
  • Baby approaches food as a fun exploratory activity rather than as nourishment for the first year of life, and eventually develops a healthy attitude towards eating that seems to minimize the risk of obesity

Yeah, I know.  Sounds kind of hokey and non-intuitive at first, no? I thought so, too.  (And BTW, I am by no means an expert on this; I’ve just been spending a lot of my “free” time reading about it over the past few weeks, so here’s my two cents, for what it’s worth).  But in keeping with my slightly-crunchy perspective on child-rearing, it made sense to me to “teach” her to chew before swallowing.  That is actually one of the critiques of the puree-first approach: babes learn to swallow from a spoon before they learn to chew, so when “solids” (aka Stage 2 foods) are introduced, many infants will want to swallow without chewing first, resulting in a choking hazard.  Not so with BLW, since the wee one needs to actually do some sort of chewing to get the food into her mouth in the first place.
In fact, Baby Loquacious hasn’t choked on her food yet, despite shoving a giant piece of MumMum cracker into her mouth.  I was worried when half a wedge of her orange also disappeared between her lips, so I went in to try and fish it out.  Baby L clamped down and wouldn’t let me get very far, so half of that piece stayed inside her mouth.  She promptly swallowed it, without choking or gagging or anything (and keep in mind, this is a pulpy piece of orange – she must have really gummed it up well).  She did gag slightly when she gummed off a larger piece of banana, but again she swallowed that chunk within seconds, averting crisis and the need for the Heimlich.

BLW suggests beginning to introduce solids at 6 months, but we started at 5 because Baby L told us she was ready.  How? Well, she is strong enough to sit up.  She stops, stares, drools, mimics chewing and then gives us the stink eye whenever we eat in front of her without sharing.  And the other day, while Hubbs was talking with a yam fry in his hand, she actually reached out and stole it from him, shoving it straight into her mouth.  

We’ve already given her avocado, oranges, MumMum crackers, strawberries, lasagna (pasta only), yam fries, toast, bananas, spinach, and steamed carrots.  We’ll soon be offering her steamed broccoli, steamed zucchini, and peaches. 

The biggest weakness of BLW, I think, is the mess factor.  Letting your baby feed herself is like inviting a tornado to tear through your dining area.  There is food everywhere, in her hair, on her clothes, in cracks and crevices of the floor and the high chair, on the walls, on you… so it’s not for the super clean freaks out there.  You pretty much sign up for nightly baby baths and high chair scrub-downs if you decide to go the BLW route. 

But is it fun? Heck yeah.  Baby L has totally enjoyed sitting at the dining table and eating when we eat, making a big ol’ mess all the while.  LOL!).  

Anyway, I’m pretty sold on BLW even though I know that it is a pretty radical shift from the “conventional” approach, and probably doesn’t sit well with all those baby food manufacturers out there.  Very little research exists to support the puree-first method, and only a handful of studies on BLW (all of the ones I’ve seen have been favourable) have been done.  But as with all mommas, in the end it’s not the research or the reviews that sway me (nor you); it’s my own gut feeling, and this gut is telling me that BLW is the way to go. 



     



Two confused parents=One amused baby Hopelessly we are trying raise a baby who is clearly smarter than both of us. April is an award-winning writer and blogger. Her work has been published in over ten countries and four languages. From books to newspapers, to print/online magazines and everything in between, you can find her work. For more on April, Visit AprilMcCormick.com

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