Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's suppertime!!!

Many of my readers are aware that we subscribe to the Baby-Led Weaning manner of feeding The Boy. What that means is that rather that start giving him pureed food at 4 or even 6 months old, we started offering him food that is easy to pick up and soft to chew/gum. He had just the very tips of his first two teeth when we first started offering him food (although he did enjoy carrot chips, hard and cold, to soothe his gums) yet he was still able to handle things like bananas broken into thirds, sweet potato, green beans, and of course, broccoli. Baby-Led Weaning has been awesome through and through because right from the beginning, The Boy was sitting at the table and participating in meals, which also meant that neither Musical Daddy nor I had to scramble to feed him before dinner was ready or feed him and watch our food get cold.

As an aside, "Baby-Led Weaning" was a term coined by Gill Rapley, who was also working with UNICEF and the Baby-Friendly Initiative UK, although this work was separate from that. Weaning in the UK just means getting nutrition from somewhere other than the breast (as opposed to the cessation of breastfeeding). It does eventually lead to the child eating more food and nursing less. Or so I've heard...I have yet to observe this pattern in my own child...

Anyhow, I cannot recommend this way of feeding enough. Anyone with infants should really do some reading on this subject. There is a Facebook group for it. There is a Facebook group for everything.

Just a few things that prospective BLWers need for understanding:

1. Babies lose their tongue thrust reflex sometime between 4 and 6 months usually, and the feeding of pureed food overrides that to some extent (or, if a baby rejects puree, that may be why). It is only after a baby has lost that reflex, is able to sit up in the high chair, and is able to put objects in his mouth that he is "ready" for food.

2. The child will not finish all of his food right away or even eat any of it at first. It's a process. Food is a toy like any other when he gets it and it takes awhile for him to realize that food is a special toy that can be eaten. It takes even longer for him to realize that eating food means being less hungry afterwards.

EDIT: Also, you cannot concern yourself with the exact amounts of food and trying to measure it against the amount of milk that the baby takes. This is why this method works better with breastfed babies, because they are entirely in control of how much milk they take in, but bottlefed babies who are fed more on demand than on a strict schedule have also done well. Since we only "know" how much milk The Boy has when he was having pumped bottles while I was at work, and that it isn't an accurate representation, we don't have any idea "how much he's getting" but looking at the output--diaper-wise--we know he's getting enough to eat. Not to mention, if you've seen The Boy, he doesn't look like he misses a meal although he has gotten longer and thinner since really starting to crawl and cruise.

3. The best way to start is with sticks and trees. That is, anything that has a handle. Babies at this age do not understand object permanence, that the food in their fist is still there, so they need something that will stick out of a baby fist. As a corollary, it takes a few more months before the pincer grasp is developed--long thin pieces of food, or just "trees" like broccoli/cauliflower are the way to go when starting out, NOT tiny diced things. Peas will have to wait.

EDIT: 4. The baby will not choke. That's the most common fear. Actually, you have a lot more to worry about when starting "real" food after a baby has been fed puree, and a lot more trouble to boot. If the food that you're using is appropriate, you have to trust that the baby will learn to work the food himself. That will likely mean that the food will go in and out of his mouth several times. Sometimes as ABC food (already been chewed!) but that's just his way of experimenting. It's gross, but so is a baby covered in the contents of a jar of "chicken surprise."

The Boy's favorite foods, for a long time, were chicken and broccoli. Right now his favorites are blueberries and soybeans. He is actually enjoying the challenge of picking things up that are tiny. He had peas today for the first time in awhile.

Interestingly enough, I very rarely shop in the baby aisle at the supermarket.

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