There are a lot of tough parenting choices to make. One of them is feeding your child. I really wanted to breastfeed my baby. Not only is it free, but it’s so great for baby. No formula can replicate the medicinal composition of breast milk. Baby gets moms antibodies and also gets a taste and nutrition of all the foods mommy eats. Fortunately I have been able to breastfeed my baby exclusively so far and hope to continue for at least a year.
After extensive research we decided to do Baby Led Weaning (BLW) when it came time to feed our baby solids.
What is Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)?
Baby-Led Weaning is a method of introducing solids that skips the use of infant cereals and purees and focuses on letting baby feed themselves right from the beginning. By waiting until their baby is developmentally ready (around 6mo) they are able to introduce table foods directly from the family meal. Baby east what and when you eat as a family and learns from watching you.
But wouldn’t this be a choking risk?
There is no increased risk for choking with this method vs the traditional weaning method of feeding purées. Ensuring that baby has met all the sign of readiness (more specifically for this question: being able to sit unassisted for longer than 1 minute) means that they are developmentally ready for table foods. Being able to sit unassisted demonstrates that baby’s core muscles have the strength to pull him/herself forward to gag effectively to prevent choking. Being able to sit unassisted ensures that baby will be eating sitting upright, not reclined, to allow for proper swallowing. The gag reflex is situated closer to the front on the mouth in babies that are in the beginning stages of food introduction. As they get older (and their skills improve) the gag reflex moves back, eventually to where yours and mine are. BLW takes advantage of the gag reflex being close to the front of the mouth, allowing babies to learn what size of bites to take. BLW allows them to learn when foods need to be chewed down more for safe swallowing. By offering whole foods in finger shapes when the gag reflex situated closer to the front of the mouth, it allows for it to be triggered before its too close to the throat. This way babies are learning that all foods should be attempted to be chewed before swallowing.
What about iron and other nutrition?
As per WHO, AAP, Health Canada and many other health organizations, Breastmilk and/or Formula should remain baby’s main source of nutrition until 12mo, with solid foods only being complimentary. Not supplemental. Offering a healthy balanced diet with a large variety of foods will ensure that baby is receiving adequate complimentary nutrients. The recommended daily intake of iron for babies aged 7-12mo is 11mg/day. This number is based on the assumption that the average infant does not receive enough Vitamin C in their diets to aid the absorption of iron. If parents offer Vitamin C rich foods with Iron rich foods, baby will absorb more iron than a baby eating just an iron source on its own. If parents avoid calcium rich foods in the same meal as iron sources, this will ensure that the calcium doesn’t interfere with iron absorption. Breastmilk and formula contain enough calcium to meet baby’s needs, but not enough to interfere with iron absorption. In short, if taking calcium and vitamin C into consideration, parents need not dwell on the number. Baby’s irons stores decrease as baby’s eating skills increase. Much like a balancing scale. Heme Iron (animal based) is 3x more easily absorbed by the body than Non-Heme (plant based) Iron sources. Offering tender meats from the beginning will help ensure adequate iron intake.
Wouldn’t tiny pieces be safer than finger shapes?
Finger shapes allow for baby to hold one end, while chewing/gnawing on the other end. Finger shapes allow for baby to learn where their gag reflex is, with a reduced risk of bypassing it. When baby learns to take bites off, they’ve already become familiar with their gag reflex and are more likely to maneuver the food around and chew it down further when they trigger the gag reflex with the pieces they have bitten off. Tiny pieces aren’t a choking hazard, and don’t need to be avoided, but relying on only tiny pieces denies baby the chance to learn about the sizes of bites they should be taking, and how to handle foods that are too big for blind swallowing.
No teeth? No Problem!
Molars generally don’t begin to erupt until after their first birthday. Even traditionally weaned babies learn how to chew with out their molars. Some foods just might take a little longer for them to chew- but this is great for strengthening jaw muscles. The gums and jaws are incredibly strong and do the majority of the work even in adults.
What about potential allergies? How does that play into BLW?
The only foods recommended to be introduced separately are the high-risk allergens, and they should only be introduced separately from each other. Example; not offering peanut butter and eggs together for the first time. Introducing high allergen foods early can help reduce the risk of developing an allergy to them later on. Because allergies can develop at the first exposure or the 1000th, introducing foods separately won’t guarantee that something baby has had before isn’t the culprit. If a reaction occurs, parents are encouraged to try the meal again with out any of the foods from the high-risk allergens list, as the high-risk allergens are more likely to be the culprits than other foods. *
We are currently 2 weeks into BLW and loving it! It’s scary at first because your baby will gag. But this is normal. It’s their way of learning. With practice and watching mom and dad they will master chewing and swallowing and be great eaters. BLW babies also tend to be less picky when eating because they taste a wider variety of foods at such a young age. Introducing allergens were scary too but we have introduced about half of them so far with no reaction. Of course I always have the Benadryl on hand just Incase!
Our goal is 100 foods before age 1. Here is what we have so far in the first two weeks: (I’m realizing I eat the same thing every week and need to diversify lol)
100 foods before age 1:
1. BBQ chicken Crockpot
3. Mashed potatoes (coconut milk)
5. Fake cheese (I’m dairy free 😐)
6. Italian Bread
7. Eggs (A)
8. Strawberry (A)
11. Pumpkin and apple rice husk
15. Wheat bread (A)
19. Tomato sauce
22. Peanut butter (A)
I marked “A” next to the allergens we have tried so far.. still more to go! With no reaction yet! But we are also Soy, dairy and corn free bc of a boob milk intolerance.
Allergens next to try are shellfish, almond butter, fish