I don't want to become the girl who is always writing about her kid, so I do try to temper how often Thatbaby makes an appearance on the blog. But this entry seems really appropriate since it deals with food.
And since our approach isn't yet the "conventional" approach, I thought it would be a great topic to write about in case anyone is interested, and to offer further support for anyone who is considering it.
Shortly after Thatbaby was born I learned about "Baby Led Weaning" (BLW). The approach, which skips cereals and purees entirely, starts babies off with "normal" food when they begin solids.
|Peaches are apparently the nectarine's less delicious cousin|
I did some reading up on the matter and really liked what I read. Other than the fact that it's much cheaper and easier to feed Thatbaby whatever we're eating (nothing extra to buy, no worry about carrying around a bottle of puree when we go out, no extra meals to prepare), the other benefits were even more appealing.
Things like encouraging healthy food choices and eating habits, decrease in childhood obesity, less picky eaters, improved motor skill development, improved speech development. And because the method requires waiting until 6 months (which is recommended by the AAP and WHO anyway), you can add in the benefits of increased immunity, decreased risk of heart disease, and decreased allergies.
|Already a big fan of meats - sausage, steak, porkchops, lamb...|
Never one to enter a situation unprepared, I read the "BLW bible" (Baby-led Weaning by Gill Rapely and Tracey Murkett) from cover to cover. The main idea behind the method is that the use of cereals and purees developed in the early 20th century when doctors, uneducated in infant nutrition (specifically breastfeeding) stepped in and began dictating how it should be done. As women were unable to breastfeed for as long as their predecessors, and formula did not provide the fabulous nutrition it does now, solids had to be introduced at an age when babies were unable to eat/digest it on their own. (This is also why the AAP has recognized that the old method of introducing solids at 4 months is outdated and should be postponed until 6 months, when babies' digestive systems are more developed.)
BLW, as the name implies, allows the "baby" to "lead" in food choices. You offer, and they take what they want/like. As with all methods of introducing solids, the beginning stages are all about playing with food/learning to eat. Since at 6 months infants still have a tongue thrust which pushes food out of their mouth, and a gag reflex far forward in their mouth, the baby doesn't really digest much in the first few weeks. Instead he learns about food's touch, texture, taste, mouthfeel, and all sorts of other good sensory information that just isn't available through spoonfeeding purees.
|Green-beans are a favorite.|
Thatbaby took to eating like a fish takes to water. His first meal consisted of blueberry pancakes, a turkey sausage, some green beans, and some homemade "jello." (grapefruit juice and gelatin, studded with pieces of avocado, grapefruit, and oranges.) We took video of the entire thing. If you watch, you'll see him as he begins to learn how to maneuver the food. You'll also see the infamous "gag" - one of the hallmarks of babyled weaning. Because their gag reflex is so far forward, a baby who puts food in his mouth will trigger the gag reflex much sooner than you or I. This reflex pushes the food forward and out of the mouth, forcing it away from the throat and any choking danger. Babies quickly learn not to put food as far back, which actually makes them less likely to choke than their spoonfed counterparts.
It's amazingly fun to watch him explore a wide variety of foods. Like his mama, Thatbaby is a big fan of vegetables, such as green beans and broccoli. He even seemed to enjoy okra! And he hasn't found a form of potato yet that he hasn't liked. Thatbaby also seems to be thoroughly enamored with fruits. Mango being his favorite, closely followed by watermelon (Thatboy's favorite).
|He's already developing a taste for classic combinations. Perhaps he'll work at Jamba Juice like his dad and uncle.|
|Eating out is ever so easy when you can just feed your offspring from your plate.|
So far we have really enjoyed this approach to the introduction of solids. Mealtimes are fun, easy, and pretty laid back once we get Mr. Impatient his tray of food. It's fun to watch him explore and play. To see his reaction to new foods as well as when he chooses from his favorites. It's also been a really great experience to see him develop - even though we've only been doing this a short time. He's already figured out which things will need two hands to pick up and which he can grab with one. He's figured out which foods are good for sucking on, and which are nice to chomp with his gums. And frankly, it's just about the cutest mess you can watch your kid get into.