Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Baby-Led Weaning...with added Caution

Prior to having a little one, I never even thought about the transition from nursing to eating solids. Once my little one was was born, I began looking into it, and after speaking with the pediatrician, set my sights on beginning solids at 6 months.  At 4 months old, I started looking into baby foods and the proper process for transition.  I was actually looking forward to adding solids into her diet! Physically, I was literally getting drained trying to keep up with how much milk she was drinking... mainly due to the stress of starting back work and pumping. (Stress is a MAJOR milk-making killer...if you need some milk supply tips, check this blog post out !).

Ironically, once my little bird was 6 months old, I had found a new balance, and we were smooth sailing with exclusive breast milk.  Such smooth sailing, that I half-heartedly started solids.  I made three different kinds of homemade baby food: green bean, apple, and sweet potato.  I froze the baby food in ice cube trays.  This created perfect sized portions!--IF she had eaten it, that is.

Each night I would thaw one of the types, and she would try it, but without much appreciation.  Most of the meal, she spent watching our food go from plate to mouth.  Since she didn't seem interested in the baby food, I didn't push it...but since I didn't think she was prepared to handle anything with more substance, we pretty much kept exclusively nursing until she was about 7 months. Even then, she honestly wasn't relying on food as a true source of nutrients until she was closer to 9-10 months probably....breastmilk was just such an easy go-to and I knew it was certainly healthy!

Luckily, my baby food making efforts didn't go to waste, as my nephew loved baby food :)

If you look up baby-led weaning online, you will, per usual, find a spectra of opinions. For the most part, TRUE baby-led weaning is when you immediately give them large pieces of regular food and they learn to feed themselves. While that sounds lovely in some respect, I was concerned about two key points:

1. It could get too messy for my style.  I've got enough to deal with besides a huge mess of food on her tray, in her seat, on the floor, in her lap, hair, clothes....

2. First time mom here!! Safety is always analyzed.  What if she didn't realize it was too big for her? What if she took too much at once and choked?!  That scared me...still does.

So here were the steps to OUR version of baby lead weaning. In my opinion, it's a good balance of baby-led weaning with some added caution

1. Provide her with what we are eating just mashed up a bit. (still has texture and lumps)
Some of this was mashed with a fork or spoon, others were literally chewed up a little in our mouths, and then passed on to her via spoon....Ok, I'll give you a moment to process what I've just described.   You are either thinking: A) Is that child abuse? B) That's weird...but ok  C) Are you a bird now?  D) HEY! That's what I did!

Regardless of where you are on the spectra...I understand.  If I had seen someone doing this prior to my own, I would have thought it was a bit gross myself.  Heck, even my family looked at us sometimes like we were going a bit too far.  But Noah and I thought nothing of it.  It seemed natural. Our little bird (no pun intended...ok, maybe a little) was enjoying her food, loved being a part of meal time, and greatly appreciated eating exactly what mama and daddy were eating! (Which let's be honest, is the easiest for everyone!!!...I am not about to fix a different meal for my kid....)

2. As she got older, and we felt that she was handling pieces of food better, we simply decreased the amount of mashing or chewing, until she was getting small pieces of our fruits and vegetables.  I was still wary with meat so I continued to do a pre-chew on that.  What size are we at?  Think the little frozen mixed vegetables you get for soup?  This was cooked with a lot of my meals, because it was already a perfect size!

3. Continue allowing food pieces to get larger until you are not changing it at all!  This happens surprisingly quickly.  I know our little one began having her plate look like a miniature version of ours before she was 18 months old.  At age 2, I help her cut up meat or noodles, but that is about all we change.

With this process, my little one has become an excellent eater! Occasionally she has overfilled her mouth, and she will spit it out into her hand. For the most part, she has learned how much she can put in her mouth at a time, and she has never had a choking episode.

The following is a short clip of her eating right after she turned 19 months old:

2nd Birthday Dinner.  (And those are not grapes, but her favorite--black olives!)

No matter how you go about it, your child will become a successful self-feeder!  Just like your child will become successful with the potty, and sleeping through the night, and all the other big concerns that we have as parents.  We know our kids will get there, but that doesn't mean we won't try to help them in what we believe is the best way possible.

Upcoming Blog post??  How to raise an eclectic eater that enjoys their food... without the battles!  It just takes ONE Phrase and some time. I'm not saying it would work for every kid, but it certainly was the golden ticket for our little one!

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