Becoming a parent is one of the most amazingly wonderful, emotional and overwhelming experiences of life. One day you’re just you, and the next you are responsible for this tiny little human’s every need. There are a million books about the “right” way to do everything, and even if you’ve read them all, the lady in line at the grocery store still thinks she knows better than you how to mother your child.
A while back, when my daughter started on solids, like any first time mom I was super excited, but if I’m completely honest? A little nervous too. I had studied Pediatric Nutrition in school. I knew all of the textbook info about which foods should be first (rice cereal prepared with breast milk or formula) and that 6-months was the proper age, but everything changes when it’s YOUR child. I did even more research on the topic, refreshing my memory on the “Baby Led Weaning” approach and what that really meant in practice. I always thought it was something I might try, but I had to see what my little girl was like and whether I had the guts to stray from the “norm” of purees. I had a lot of doubters, people asking me so many questions like, “But, she has no teeth…won’t she choke?!”, and “Shouldn’t rice cereal be first? Can she HANDLE meat?!!” And in the beginning, I felt like maybe I should be offering pureed food, so I did (for a week or so). It was fine, it really was, but I am such an adventurous eater, and I wanted to share that with my daughter. I wanted to let her experience the wide world of food and all it has to offer…crunchy, creamy, meaty, salty, sweet, spicy…so many tastes and textures, so much more than mush. And so, about 2 weeks into offering her multigrain cereal, applesauce and butternut squash, I switched gears. I put on my “confident mom” hat and decided Baby Led Weaning was best for us. And here’s how I dealt with the doubters and had an amazing time (correction, am STILL having an amazing time) feeding my daughter everything under the sun! I think these tips actually ring true for most parenting decisions you’ll have to make, so read on…
Check with your pediatrician to be sure there is no reason your child should not be eating solids, or should not be introduced using BLW.
There are a few reasons Baby Led Weaning may not be suited to your child. Allergies, developmental delays, and other feeding issues might mean that you’ll have to take things slowly and begin with purees only. Your pediatrician can determine this by examining your child and asking you some questions at baby’s 4 and/or 6 month check-ups.
Do the research, and know why you want to do this.
If you want to be confident in your decision when faced with doubt, you should have some reasons for your choice. Here are some fun facts about BLW supported by scientific research:
-Research has shown that Baby Led Weaning does NOT increase the risk of choking.
-Allowing your child to regulate their food intake may reduce their risk of childhood obesity.
-Waiting until 6 months of age to introduce complementary foods (anything other than breastmilk/formula) may reduce the risk that your child becomes a picky eater.
Know the difference between “gagging” and “choking” and know infant CPR.
It is totally normal for your little one to gag a bit as they are learning to eat. It takes a while for them to learn the proper way to move food around their mouth. Here is an example of a baby gagging, the best I could find via youtube. I have a video of my daughter doing it somewhere, but it has gotten lost in the epic photo/video archive of her life so this will have to do! Basically, if baby gags but keeps on happily eating and shows no signs of distress, everything is fine. You will know if she’s choking because her eyes will get wide, she won’t be getting any air and she will stop eating. This NEVER happened with with my daughter, and is highly unlikely with Baby Led Weaning. Because baby is deciding how much food to take in rather than being fed off a spoon, and because BLW encourages chewing rather than sucking in food, you’ll find babies eat more slowly and very small bits at a time. Offering bigger pieces can help avoid choking, too. In the unlikely event your baby is actually choking, call 911 immediately and be prepared with infant CPR techniques.
Don’t ban purees entirely. There is room for all foods in Baby Led Weaning.
Certain foods that are nutritionally excellent for your baby might not suit themselves to self-feeding. Yogurt, oatmeal, and unsweetened applesauce are just a few examples. However, if you’re creative with your preparation, you can offer these foods in various ways (see my post on Baby Led Weaning Starter Foods). Baby might have fun with these in their purest form, but feel free to mix and match feeding methods if you feel it is best.
Hopefully this has given you a bit more confidence in your decision to try Baby Led Weaning. If you have any more tips for dealing with doubters, please share them in the comments below! Any fun experiences with BLW? Share those too!
For more info about BLW, check out my other posts on the topic here.