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Baby Led Weaning

When I became a mother I immediately had the mindset that I would take all the research from the last 8 years to choose which foods would be the first for our baby.  Lot

of well-meaning people have opinions and suggestions  but even though someone is sincere they can be sincerely wrong when it comes to studies of the 'health' care and 'food' industry.  Not only that, but as a new mother and all the mom-shaming going on, I chose to guard my heart from all the unnecessary judgments that were sure to come.   

There is a ton of research that has been done on Monsanto from the early 1900s alone that will make one's head dizzy with mind boggling information in light of health and the sanity of mankind in general.   And so it goes with American food choices, it isn't so much what the food is as much as it is the chemicals and GMOs involved.  With all this information, I have been able to mentally download in my studies over the past 8 years while formulating how I would approach feeding my little one.  My goals are to ensure it is the most nutrient-dense choices and age-appropriate for proper gut assimilation and digestion.

I know everyone wants to feed the cute baby, and understandably so!  (They're sooooo adorable!)  But, with most American moms needing to get back to work, we often rush into getting baby ready to fend for themselves and sometimes, to soon.  Unfortunately, we miss out on some really important bonding, immune system-building and the passing-on of generational nutrition our bodies marvelously provide. 

So What Are We Up Against?

Big companies have a huge advantage for those who consume a good amount of advertising through advertisements and most of those who follow their doctors advice religiously.  There is little room for basic natural and primal instincts in todays fast paced lifestyles for mamas to follow a natural birth plan.  Not to mention all the fear surrounding birth, health and food.  All of which are big money makers for the 'health and food industry.

"Almost every childcare book offers the same advice about a baby's first solid meal -- start them first on rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula.

This has been received wisdom for 60 years.

But this is because in the 1950's, baby food companies launched an advertising blitz trumpeting the benefits of white rice cereal.

But there is no scientific basis for this recommendation. None at all. And now, concerned about increasing childhood obesity, some pediatricians want to change how babies eat.

If babies are getting used to the taste of highly processed white rice and flour, it could set them up for a lifetime of bad habits.


USA Today reports: White rice -- after processing strips away fiber, vitamins and other nutrients -- is a 'nutritional disaster' ... White rice and flour turn to sugar in the body 'almost instantly,' ... raising blood sugar and insulin levels." If you want to give your baby the best start nutritionally, do not follow the advice in most baby books encouraging you to start feeding rice cereal. Other than breast milk or formula, rice is the number one source of calories for infants in the first year of life, according to Stanford University pediatrician Alan Greene, and this is a nutritional disaster."-Dr. Mercola.

Given that their precious baby gut is fresh and ready to absorb the abundant nutrition breastmilk has to offer, you most likely won't want to prime them with the glue-like coating of processed bleach flour would you? Think paper mache'. Ideally, your baby should be breastfed exclusively, meaning no other food or water is supplemented for at least the first 6 months.   A baby's gut is still forming as they grow just as you are priming baby's tastebuds to make healthy decisions as they grow into adulthood.  

At the age of 6 or 9 months, you can begin to supplement with solid foods (while still continuing to breastfeed as well).

So What is Baby-Led Weaning?

In short, Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is skipping thin and runny purées and not feeding your baby with a spoon.

And although your baby won't nessarily need solids for a few months, your baby can begin to explore textures, tastes, colors and smells while sharpening their motor skills through grabbing, smashing, squishing, listening to and smearing the foods presented to them.

When and What Signs Let Me Know Baby is Ready?

Whether your baby is breast-fed or bottle-fed, there's no rush to start solids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for about 6 months. If you'd like to introduce solids earlier than that, keep in mind that your baby probably won't show all these signs of readiness – they're just clues to watch for:

  • Can hold head up

  • Sits well in highchair

  • Makes chewing motions

  • Shows significant weight gain (doubled birth weight) and weighs at least 13 pounds

  • Shows interest in food

  • Can close mouth around a spoon

  • Can move food from front to back of mouth

  • Can move tongue back and forth

  • Is losing tendency to push food out of mouth with tongue

What Should I Feed Baby First?

"According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, egg yolk should be your baby's first solid food, starting as early as 4 months, whether your baby is breastfed or formula-fed. Egg yolks from free-range hens will contain the special long-chain fatty acids so critical for the optimal development of your child's brain and nervous system.
However, the egg whites may cause an allergic reaction so they're best avoided until your child is at least 1 year old...   The yolk should be soft and warm, not hot, with its enzyme content intact."-Dr. Mercola

Along with egg yolk, I started my little on the following soft and nutrition-packed foods within a few days of each other and added more in the continuing months as more teeth begin to erupt and the GI tract epithelium began to mature.  Here are some loose guides for month to month foods.  

6-8 months:

  • Organic Avacados

  • Organic boiled sweet potato with organic unrefined coconut oil

  • Organic carrots

  • Cooked organic greens, finely chopped or pureed, such as kale, chard, collards, spinach 

  • Organic squashes, such as butternut, acorn and other winter squashes 

  • Yolk of a soft boiled egg (organic, non-gmo, pasture raised)

8-12 months (after feeding the savory foods at first we began giving her sweeter foods towards the end of her meals):

  • Organic Bananas

  • Organic Blueberries

  • Organic Watermelon

  • Organic Cantaloupe 

  • Organic Mango

  • Organic Kiwi

  • Organic Raspberries

  • Organic Blackberries

  • Organic raw nut butters 

12 months: They say at this age they can eat anything you're eating.  I would say yes, if you're still eating organic as much as possible.  We aren't feeding our little one dairy and meats until closer to 18-24 months or later and it will be from farms that allow their cows, chickens, etc to roam freely and eat non-gmo natural food like grass.    Here are a few things we are feeding her currently that she loves:

  • boiled and pureed Organic cauliflower and broccoli with celtic sea salt and organic raw olive oil

  • Organic mashed asparagus 

  • Organic seaweeds that become soft on soaking, such as wakame or nori

There are some foods she was totally into and then lost interest or some she had no desire for.  We simply followed her cue and then reintroduced them later.

How Much is Enough?

When we eat, we are not trying to have her 'finish her plate'.  I found that trying to force a little one to eat what we think the amount should be is not only  adding unnecessary frustration but unnecessary expectations.  Remember baby's stomach is considerably smaller than your own and small amounts like a teaspoon or two are more than enough to start off with.  Many who advocate Baby Led Weaning believe that babies who feed themselves early on are better able to control just what their bodies need to nourish them.  If she is hungry, she will eat!

As baby begins to be able to eat more and more variety, you will want to make sure they are getting a consistent well rounded wholesome diet including the following:

  • filtered water

  • Organic vegetables

  • Organic fruits

  • Probiotics - We currently love the Healthy Trinity brand

  • Healthy Fats like avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, raw nut butters

  • brain foods like marine phytoplankton, krill oil, walnuts and/or raw egg yolk

  • Sun shine

  • Love

Formulas, Store bought foods and Outside Contaminants Oh My!

By no means is this a section on judging.  Mothers, father and caregivers do best with the information given to them and so I want to only help spread recent research and studies for the betterment of all babies to be nourished to the best possible.  

"Mead Johnson's Enfagrow, a nutritional supplement for toddlers, is little more than fortified milk with added sugar. The first three ingredients on the label are just that: whole milk, nonfat milk and sugar. Other weaning biscuits for toddlers can contain up to 29 percent sugar or even contain trans fats, both of which are simply atrocious for adults, let alone infants. 

Even organic baby foods can contain excessive amounts of processed salt, or may expose your infant to toxic contaminants like BPA from plastic containers, even if the content itself is agreeable.

When you make homemade baby food, however, you have complete control over the ingredients; no unresolved questions about potential additives, preservatives, mysterious "natural flavors," and so on.

Yes, it may require a little more time -- but in the end, it's up to you to decide what the health of your family is worth to you."-Dr. Mercola

Simply cooking a squash or sweet potato, mashing it up and putting it into an ice cube tray is an easy way to have ready-made multiple servings available for the rest of the week. 

As your child gets older, he can eat most of the same types of foods that you do, simply pureed into a softer form or cut into very small toddler-sized pieces. As with your own diet, whole foods -- not processed "pseudo-foods" -- will give your infant the best nutritional start possible"-Dr. Mercola

"Most people take it for granted that when a baby starts on solid food he will be spoon fed baby rice or mush, one taste at a time, in a schedule decided by his parents. And although most parents hope their child will turn out to be a 'good eater,' the reality is often very different. 

The path to relaxed and healthy family meals turns out to be far more difficult than it should be for many families. Mealtime battles, food phobias and fussy eating are just some of the things that parents can face when they start to introduce their little ones to solid food. Many children end up with a limited diet – often based on soft, processed foods – and childhood obesity is on the rise.

In response, a growing number of parents are rejecting the conventions of spoon feeding, turning instead to an approach called baby-led weaning (BLW), which is fast gaining a reputation as a better way to establish long-term healthy attitudes to food in children. 

Weaning is used in its fullest sense here – the gradual move away from a milk-only diet, starting with the baby’s first taste of solid food through to the last breast or formula feeding, and taking anything from six months to several years. With baby-led weaning there’s no hurry, and no spoon feeding or baby food. Instead, this is what happens:

  • Babies are allowed to join in with nutritious family meals and feed themselves 'real' food with their fingers as soon as they are ready. 

  • They choose what to eat, how much and how quickly. 

  • There is no pressure for the baby to eat a set amount of food or any particular food group – the emphasis is on allowing him to explore and discover a range of healthy food in his own time. 

  • The baby sets the pace for progress with solid foods and decides how quickly he cuts down his milk feedings. 

The result is a slower and more enjoyable transition than has been the case for many babies in the past, avoiding many of the common mealtime challenges faced by families, and with potentially healthier outcomes for the infant."-Dr. Mercola

"Baby-led weaning is based on how babies develop in their first year. It starts when the baby shows signs of being ready to pick up food. This is usually at around six months of age, when he is able to sit upright with little or no support and reach out accurately to grab things with his hands. At this age, most objects get taken to the mouth automatically, as part of the baby's exploratory play – baby-led weaning extends this natural curiosity to the discovery of food. 

Research shows that around six months is also the age that babies' gastrointestinal and immune systems become able to cope with food other than breastmilk or formula, and their ability to move things around their mouth is mature enough to deal with non-liquids. This is why it's the age recommended by the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics as the optimum time for solids to begin. 

However, the research so far has focused almost exclusively on when to introduce solids, rather than how. Baby-led weaning questions the common assumptions about how babies should be fed. 

Spoon feeding babies of six months and older mashed or pureed food has no research to support it. It's simply left over from when solid foods were given to babies when they were much younger, before they were really ready. Spoon feeding is unnecessary for healthy babies of six months – they are able to feed themselves. 

The physiological readiness of babies for solid foods coincides with their developing abilities to take food to their mouths and begin to chew. If they have the opportunity, many babies will show their parents they are ready simply by helping themselves to food from someone's plate.The benefits of allowing a child to follow their instincts for this important part of development may be considerable."-Dr. Mercola

How to do Baby-Led Weaning:

  1. Choose a time when the baby is not tired or hungry. The baby doesn't yet know solid food can fill his tummy – his appetite is still satisfied by the breast or bottle. Food will be just an exciting new toy at first, and he won't be able to relax or concentrate on exploring it if he is tired or hungry. 

  2. Sit the baby up to the table with everyone else. He can be either in a high chair or on an adult's lap – supported, if necessary, so that he can use his hands and arms freely. Make sure he is sitting upright to handle food, not lying back or slumped.

  3. Dress the baby in a protective bib – or just a diaper, if the house is warm enough - and cover the area under his chair with a large clean cloth or plastic sheet, so that dropped food can be handed back. BLW can be very messy in the beginning but babies learn quickly and, with the opportunity to practice whenever anyone else is eating, they rapidly become skilled eaters and make less mess.

  4. Offer the baby a few pieces at a time of the same healthy food as everyone else (or a selection from it), in a shape and size that he can handle easily and a consistency that is firm enough to grasp while being soft enough to chew. To start with, this means sticks or strips of food but, gradually, he will show that he can manage smaller pieces and a variety of consistencies. Plates and cutlery may be distracting at first so pieces of food can be offered on the highchair tray or clean table top.

  5. Allow the baby to explore the food and to eat at his own pace (if at all). This means no hurrying or trying to persuade him to eat, and allowing him to squidge, smear and examine the food as much as he needs. Don't expect him to eat much at first – he will eat when he is ready.

  6. Offer water in a small shot-sized cup, which will be easy for the baby to pick up, but don't be surprised if a breastfeeding baby continues to prefer to use the breast to quench his thirst for several weeks or months after he has started to eat solid foods.

  7. Don't allow anyone but the baby to put food in his mouth – making sure he is in control of what goes into his mouth is an important part of keeping your baby safe. 

  8. Don't offer small, hard foods – small foods, such as grapes and cherry tomatoes, should be cut in half; stones should be removed from fruits such as olives or plums. Nuts, whole or in pieces, are not suitable for babies.

Baby-led weaning works best when the focus is on opportunities for play and learning, rather than on eating. As the baby's skills develop, he will gradually eat more at shared mealtimes and his appetite for milk will reduce. Provided the parents are responsive to the baby's cues, the changeover from milk to family meals will happen naturally, led by the baby."-Dr. Mercola

"Allowing the baby to remain in control ensures that this sequence is not rushed and keeps the baby safe. Most early bites of food will fall forward, out of the baby's mouth. This protects his airway until he is mature enough to swallow safely – and if he is not able to bite off a piece of food, he is probably not ready to chew it. This is why it is important that no one should try to 'help' the baby by putting pieces of food in his mouth for him.

Gagging (or retching) is common in the early stages of BLW. The gag reflex prevents food being pushed too far back without having been chewed adequately, and it is particularly sensitive between six and eight months. As the baby matures, he becomes more skilled at chewing and the point at which the gag reflex is triggered moves farther back in his mouth, so gagging occurs less often. Although gagging can appear alarming to parents, babies are rarely bothered by it, and it may be that it is an important part of helping them to learn not to overfill their mouths.

Baby-led weaning is based on the understanding that most feeding difficulties and mealtime battles stem from the fact that the goals of the parent are in conflict with the instincts of the child. Now that we know there is no need to introduce solid foods until six months – and certainly no need for jars or mush – it's time to look again at what babies can do, and accord them the respect, autonomy and 'real' food they deserve. The result will be happier – and healthier – shared eating experiences for all."-Dr. Mercola

"The potential Advantages of BLW are:

  • Healthy food choices – babies are allowed to explore the tastes, textures and smells of nutritious family food, rather than the blandness and combined flavours associated with baby foods. Some research suggests children who have done BLW as babies make healthier food choices. Most parents report that BLW babies are adventurous, non-fussy eaters.

  • Less obesity – babies are allowed to eat according to their appetite. They can stop eating when they are no longer hungry and are not encouraged to eat more quickly than they want to, have 'one more spoonful' or 'make a clean plate'. Many non-BLW babies have their natural appetite recognition overridden and are encouraged to eat more than they need from the earliest age. Research suggests lower BMI in children age 2-6 years who have done BLW.

  • Natural jaw development – babies experience a range of textures from the start, allowing chewing skills to develop naturally. This may facilitate speech development and help to reduce the need for orthodontic treatment later. And, because food that requires chewing spends longer being mixed with saliva in the mouth, BLW may promote enhanced digestion. 

  • Improved hand-eye coordination and dexterity – BLW babies have lots of practice exploring different shapes and textures in food, learning how to grip them and get them to their mouth, and later how to manage silverware.

  • Confidence and enjoyment at mealtimes – No pressure to eat means no mealtime battles, making eating as a family more relaxed and enjoyable. Shared mealtimes also allow babies to copy siblings and parents, learning to share and take turns, and developing social skills."-Dr.Mercola

"While breastfeeding is the perfect food for baby, at some point, baby will want or need solid food. Ask most mothers you know what their pediatricians recommend as first foods for their babies and most will say oatmeal or rice cereal. After that, most parents get the recommendation to add in fruit purees, starchy veggies like squash, various watered down mixtures of processed meats, over-steamed veggies and eventually a nauseating array of fluffy, puffy, and sweet snacks or juices.

For those of you who haven’t already guessed my response to this: forget the grains! If they are damaging to an adult body (and they are), imagine what they can do to the stomach of a small child who has never digested anything but breast milk! Doctors say to try oatmeal and rice first because they are least likely to cause an allergic reaction, which is ironic, since both contain lectins, water soluble proteins that have been linked to formation of allergies. From a previous post:

Gluten’s sidekicks, the posse of Lectins, are mild toxins the inhibit the repair of the GI track. Lectins are not broken down in the digestive process and bind to receptors in the intestine, allowing them and other food particles to leech into your bloodstream. Nothing like pre-digested food circulating the blood stream! The body views these lectins and the food they bring with them as dangerous invaders and initiates an immune response to get rid of them. This immune response to particles of common foods explains the allergy creating potential of grains.

Grains are not a necessary part of a childhood diet, or anyone’s diet, for that matter. So what foods should you introduce to your baby first? I recommend vegetables."-WellnessMama



  • Give avocado as a first food. It has enough fat to keep baby satisfied longer and a few spoon fulls of avocado put a whole bowl of rice cereal to shame on nutrient content. I always carry a ripe avocado and a spoon in the diaper bag. If baby gets hungry, I just peel a little of the skin off, scoop out avocado and feed him. Any extra can be stored in a ziploc until you get home. No bowl or bottled water needed!

  • Other great first foods are sweet potato, winter squash, asparagus, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, spinach, greens, or green beans.

  • Baby foods don’t even need to be pureed. Once baby is 6 months old (earliest you should introduce solids anyway), you can just cook vegetables until soft, cut into small pieces and put in front of baby. He or she will eat when hungry.

  • Go organic whenever you can. Even small amounts of pesticides and chemicals can have a damaging effect on little bodies!  (((I would emphasis this MORE due to the GMO's out there today!-MLoveLife)))

  • By 7-8 months, you can introduce cooked (but still soft) egg yolks to baby. This is a great source of protein, cholesterol and fat. Also by this point, you can start introducing small pieces of meat to baby… they love protein!"-WellnessMama  

Conclusion:

My husband said it best, "In the end, you are her mom and you will make the decision on what is right for our little one."  With every move forward my wonderful husband has helped shape me into a confident mother as I tread through a multitude of firsts.  For the most part moms want the best for their babies and do the best with the knowledge they have been given or read up on for themselves.

Sources:

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/12/20/get-the-white-out-of-babys-first-foods.aspx

http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/babyledweaning.htm#64f4FcZgyL4i8u7f.99

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8713721

http://www.babycenter.com/0_age-by-age-guide-to-feeding-your-baby_1400680.bc

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