A couple days ago I posted this picture of 6 month old Elli on Instagram…
A 6 month old eating solids.
Soon after E was born she and I went on a walk to the Heights Public Library where I brought home multiple books, all having to do with cooking or wee-ones. One of those books had both cooking and babes in their subject matter. I saw it sitting on the shelf, was intrigued, and after much reading and researching and praying we are now trying it on out.
The book says it right on the cover. No pureed foods and no spoon feeding. With baby-led weaning, also known as baby-led solids, you skip right over pureed foods and go straight to solids…and that’s why E has sweet cinnamon-apple wedges, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and chicken on her tray in the picture above.
Before I go any further I want to clarify what BLW (Baby-Led Weaning) is.
BLW is not weaning a baby off of breast milk or formula. In fact, the name is silly and I like to refer to it as Baby-Led Solids since weaning doesn’t occur. Until a baby is a year old the only true nutrients they need are from breastmilk or formula, so the solid foods are simply a complement to all the nutrients they are already receiving through their regular milk feedings.
At 6 months, when the baby is able to sit upright, solid foods are first introduced and explored through gumming, licking, sucking, and tasting. As the weeks and months go by, food exploration begins to turn from just exploration to chewing and then swallowing and digesting food. One of the key things of BLW is that the baby feeds themselves. They are the ones who explore rather than an adult being the one who puts it in her mouth.
I am sure there are SO many questions going through your mind right now…one of them namely being “ISN’T SHE GOING TO CHOKE?!” I can assure you that my husband and I would not do something if we thought it was harmful to our gal. I’ll explain as time continues how choking is not likely to happen. In fact, research states that it actually can be prone to happen more-so when a baby is spoon fed.
The big question I wanted to answer today is…
Why did we decide to do BLW?
To preface, I don’t think there is anything wrong with spoon feeding or pureed foods. The majority of people I know fed their children like this and the kiddos turned out fine (such as myself), had zero to little problems with food in the future, and all was well…but here is what we liked about BLW and why we ultimately decided to at least give it a shot and see what happens…
- Mark & I love food. We love the tastes, smells, textures. We love the memories formed around a hot stove and the conversations had around a dinner table. We want Elli to love food in a healthy and thankful way. BLW emphasizes this time of fellowship and rest around the dinner table. Thinking of spoon feeding pureed foods to Elli I saw myself, in the future, trying to quickly stuff food down her mouth so I could sit at our table and eat. We loved how BLW highly emphasized the value of eating together at a table as a family, eating the same foods, enjoying the same conversation… all together. When E eats her food, we don’t help at all. It’s on her plate (or tray for now) and she goes at it while we do the same.
- With BLW the baby is very much in control of the amount of food he/she eats…which I found very similar to nursing. It’s kind of a scary thing trusting E to know how hungry she is and when she is full, but in all the research and reading we did on BLW we found that it was beneficial for the child in the long run. Supposedly, babies are born with this innate ability to know what amount of caloric intake their bodies need. Some experts believe that feeding children to the point of showing signs of being full may actually contribute to problems with weight gain in later life (Read more about that here).
- On the note of being full and weight gain, BLW also has a big emphasis on eating at the table or a designated space rather than just on the run. I am sure certain situations will present itself where I will need to give E some food while in her carseat, but we do like the emphasis on making eating an important and structured part of the day. According to research, this can help in the future with emotional-eating . My hope is for Elli to not see food as a reward or something to make her feel good, but as a blessing and provision for her body each day.
- Because E is feeding herself she is receiving opportunity after opportunity to work on her fine motor skills. We see her eating time for her much like a “playtime” as she discovers so much and ENJOYS doing it. I have heard multiple stories of how spoon feeding their 6 month old is not an enjoyable thing and can cause many stressful moments. We have only been doing this for 3 days, but so far eating is full of fun for Elli and us. One key part of making this happen is not putting her in her highchair hungry. I typically feed (nurse) Elli an hour before we eat together at the table. If I put her in her high chair hungry she would be upset because she doesn’t realize that these fun colored items on her tray will nourish her hungry tummy. Eventually she will know the difference between a toy and food that gives her energy, but for now when she is hungry she just needs to be nursed.
- One of the big differences in BLW and spoon feeding is the order of learning how to digest foods. With spoon feeding the babies are still using their sucking motion and swallow their foods. As time progresses they get harder foods and they need to transfer from sucking it to the back of their throat to chewing it a little. So with spoon feeding the babies learn to swallow then chew. With BLW the baby learns to chew then swallow. Research suggests that this can help with texture issues that a child might have. Research also suggests that with BLW the chances of your child being a fussy and picky eater slim down…that sounds pretty crazy to me and I have no idea if it’s true…but it makes sense when it comes to texture issues.
- Mark & I are eating better because of it! We eat the same thing as E and we can’t put salt on any of the foods E eats…so we have cut back in salt A LOT. We also are eating more organic and fresh produce because that is what E needs.
So there are some reasons that we decided to give BLW a try. There are others but I will stop there for today 🙂 If you have any questions about it feel free to ask! I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going!