Baby Led Weaning – The 411

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What is baby led weaning (BLW)? (From Mamanatural)

First coined by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett in their book Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods, Baby-led weaning is an approach to introducing solid food where baby is allowed and encouraged to self-feed solid finger foods instead of receiving purées via spoon. For those of us in the US, baby led feeding may be a better term as BLW is not about weaning babies off breastmilk or formula, but is weaning them onto solids. (Although, anytime we introduce food, we are in a sense starting the weaning process, as baby will naturally start to decline her breast milk consumption. But with BLW, the baby is in charge.) BLW babies:

  • Are encouraged to join the family at mealtime and self-feed appropriate finger foods.
  • Choose what, how much, and how quickly to eat.
  • Are given the freedom to explore new tastes and textures without the pressure to eat a set amount or a specific food.
  • Continue to nurse (or receive a bottle) just as often. Solids are to compliment milk, and baby is trusted to know when to increase solid feedings and decrease milk (usually later in the first year).

When is baby ready?

Experts agree that solids should be delayed until the middle of the first year of life. This is when baby’s digestive system is mature. Some babies may seem ready at 5 ½ months, while others may not be ready until 8 months of age. It’s important to take into account ALL readiness signs for each individual child. As always, consult your child’s pediatrician if you are unsure or have questions. Signs of readiness include:

  • Baby can sit up well without support.
  • Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex (automatically pushing solids out of mouth with tongue).
  • Baby has developed the fine motor skills to self feed. Development of a pincer grasp (baby picks up food between thumb and forefinger, not palm and fingers) typically happens at around 6 months, but sometimes as late at 1 year.
  • Baby is willing to chew, even if he has few or no teeth.
  • Baby shows interest in participating at mealtime, and may try to grab food from your plate and put it in his mouth.

What are the benefits of baby led feeding?

It’s easier

  • Purées are time consuming. It’s much easier to adjust what the adults are eating to suit baby instead of having to get out the blender or potato masher.
  • BLW babies aren’t pressured into eating. They are trusted to know when, what, and how much they need to eat. Therefore, there is less stress and everyone can enjoy mealtime. (No more airplane spoons 🙂 )
  • Babies feed themselves, so you can eat at the same time! Baby led weaning gives moms the chance to relax and eat themselves.

Baby develops good eating habits

  • Baby (continues to) learn self regulation, which may set the child up for a healthier BMI in the future according to this study.
  • Self selection of food has even been shown to increase weight in underweight babies, therefore supporting a healthy weight in most babies.
  • Since BLW babies experience a wide range of healthy foods early on, they may be more likely to continue to enjoy those foods later in life.

It’s educational

  • Babies learn to safely handle food (they learn to chew THEN swallow)
  • Babies learn to manage different textures, tastes, sizes, and shapes of food.
  • Babies get lots of hand eye and fine motor practice by learning to grasp food and move it to their mouth.
  • Babies learn best by observing and copying. Eating meals together (and eating similar foods) gives her many opportunities to learn about food.

How to get started with baby led weaning?

The great thing about baby led weaning is that you really don’t need much to get started. The first thing you need is a safe place for baby to sit. A highchair is a great choice, but a parents lap is just as good (remember, baby should be able to sit up unassisted at this point). The next thing you need is healthy, appropriate finger foods (covered below). A BLW baby is offered a variety of healthy whole finger foods (as well as a small amount of water) to choose from and explore. Follow your baby’s cues. Begin offering solids once a day, and gradually increase as the child shows he wants or needs more. Baby-led weaning families are encouraged to make family mealtime a habit. One reason is that baby learns best by observation and imitation. When everyone eats together and eats the same food, baby feels included, and mealtime is a fun experience rather than a battle. If eating meals together doesn’t work for your family, consider eating a snack while baby has his meal.

What foods can I feed my baby?

Baby’s first foods should be a selection of fresh fruits, soft cooked vegetables, healthy carbohydrates, and fats. Think soft and easy to gum and swallow. When given a variety to choose from, baby will naturally choose the foods that meet her nutritional needs.

Baby led weaning BLW finger foods carrots apple Mama Natural

Baby Led Weaning First Foods

Some great first finger foods for baby are:

  • Avocados
  • Banana
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Soft cooked apples
  • Soft cooked carrots, green beans, zucchini, and beets
  • Very ripe peaches and pears, plums, and melon
  • Pumpkin
  • Green beans with the skins removed
  • Egg yolk
  • Meat or poultry
  • Liver
  • Slices of sprouted bread, cooked pasta, brown rice (Some decide to wait until molars come through before introducing grains. Wheat is recommended to be avoided until later in the first year.)

Baby Led Weaning foods to avoid:

Some of these are common sense (popcorn for baby?!) but some good reminders when practicing baby led weaning.

  • High choking risk foods like: grapes, cherry/grape tomatoes, nuts, whole hot dogs. (You can find a full list here.)
  • Allergic foods like: gluten, egg whites, nuts (peanuts), seafood, and citrus, especially if you have family history of sensitivity
  • Added table salt* or sugar
  • Unhealthy and processed foods like: chips, popcorn, sugar-containing foods, breakfast cereals, gum, and hard candy.
  • Honey
  • Stimulants: like chocolate or sugar

* Small amounts of high mineral sea salt can be added with the approval of physician

Baby Led Weaning Safety

There are obvious safety concerns with introducing solids to your baby. Assuming that baby has shown signs of readiness and can sit up unassisted, it’s then important for parents to be vigilant and never leave baby alone when eating. It’s equally important that only baby put food into her own mouth.

Won’t my baby choke?

Choking is a real concern with any supplemental feeding, which is why close supervision is necessary. That said, there needs to be a distinction between gagging – which is a safety mechanism that safeguards against choking by bringing large pieces of food forward to be chewed – and real choking. As baby grows, the place in her mouth that triggers the gag reflex moves further back towards the throat. According to Rapley, this is one reason why baby led weaning is valuable, because baby learns to chew and swallow when this reflex is still very close to the front of the mouth. Of course, for all parents, understanding the signs of choking and knowing how to respond is very important. Here is online education… but better yet, contact your local hospital or community center to find classes.

Will my baby get enough to eat?

Breastmilk (or formula) will make up the majority of baby’s nutrition from 6-12 months of age. The main purpose of solids in the first year is to introduce baby to new tastes and textures while teaching her to chew and swallow food. If baby is gaining normally and thriving, then she is getting enough to eat. Baby-led solid feeding trusts that baby knows when she is hungry, when she is full, and what she needs to meet her nutritional needs. If she is struggling with low weight, you can certainly add in some smoothies, purées, or extra fats like avocado and butter. That’s the beauty of baby led weaning. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Work with your physician to determine what is best.

Will my baby get enough iron without iron-fortified baby cereal?

Yes, if she is breastfed. The iron in breastmilk is absorbed at a percentage of 50-70% while the iron in iron-fortified cereal is absorbed at a rate of 4-10%.  According to Kellymom.com, “Healthy, full-term infants who are breastfed exclusively for periods of 6-9 months have been shown to maintain normal hemoglobin values and normal iron stores.”Breast milk is actually a perfectly sufficient source of iron.”

I would add letting your child’s umbilical cord pulse and wait to clamp for at least 3 minutes after birth helps tremendously since the baby gets 1/3 of his blood supply back! It also probably helps if a breastfeeding mama consumes her placenta and eats red meat a few times a week to replenish her stores.

Formula fed babies may also get enough iron from iron rich finger foods such as:

  • Meat & poultry (especially beef and liver)
  • Winter squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Sea vegetables
  • Greens
  • Beans
  • Egg yolks

If there is a concern about baby’s iron level, have it tested before supplementing.

Tips for BLW (baby-led weaning)

SaveMama NaturalBaby-led weaning allows and encourages baby to self-feed solid finger foods instead of receiving purées via spoon. Here’s how and why to practice it.39115Mama NaturalMama Natural ☝ Blog Posts
  • Hunger can create an unhappy experience for everyone. Be sure to nurse or bottle feed baby up to an hour before offering solids so that his tummy isn’t empty.
  • Forget about expectations and let it be a learning experience. Baby probably won’t eat much at first, and that’s ok!
  • Realize that it may be a slow process. Babies can take a longer time when they’re in charge. As they get the hang of it, feeding time will be quicker.
  • It will be messy. Many parents find a naked baby is easiest to clean up afterwards.
  • Don’t serve small pieces of food but instead serve pieces of food large enough for baby to grasp easily. Some families find cutting food with a crinkle cutter or rolling pieces of food in oat flour can make pieces easier for baby to hold.
  • If food can be smashed between your finger and thumb, it’s probably appropriate for baby.
  • Don’t put more than a few pieces of food on the highchair tray or table at once, so baby won’t get overwhelmed (or have as much to throw!)

Progress Not Perfection

Keep in mind that you can always do a hybrid approach to feeding. Super soft foods like avocado and sweet potato might be better served with a spoon. Let your child play and try to feed herself using the utensil. You’d be surprised just how well she can imitate you! Some moms let baby gnaw on soft pear slices, but prefer to spoon feed foods like puréed meat or bone broth. I know some parents who make smoothies, which a baby can drink through a straw if the family is on the go. Just know that you can experiment with feeding approaches that work best for your family and lifestyle. (Although it’s best to probably stick with a few set routines so your baby doesn’t get confused.)

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Twenty Weeks Post Partum – The 411

My angel is now 20 weeks old !  

She is growing by leaps and bounds and is growing super long.  She now weighs almost 16 pounds.

She can sit up with assistance for a little while before falling forward. 

She hates to sit down or lie down. She now prefers to sit up and stand up.  

A friend sent her an Amazon gift card for her christening so we ordered her a Fisher Price Jumperoo. I am still trying to put it together.  I deplore reading instructions and putting things together. Hopefully I will figure out how to get this seat part together this weekend before calling in the calvary lol.

I am completely and head over heels in love with my daughter !  She is the culmination of every dream I have ever had of a child.  

I soooo want to give her a sibling. I have been very depressed about that lately.   Because of the emergency hysterectomy,  I can not carry another baby. I am blessed to have four eggs on ice so that once I find a willing surrogate, my little girl can have a sibling.   I worry about leaving her in the world alone.  I want her to have a sibling that she is close to and to experience having a life growing up fighting and loving a sibling.   There is nothing like it !

I can’t believe that in a few short days, my baby will be five months old !  I am starting to plan her 1st birthday event.  I am doing a safari theme and am looking at trip packages to either Tampa Busche Gardens Africa or to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.   I am hoping my family will be able to go, but if not, it will be just us.

I ask that you all keep my mom in your prayers.  Not only has a knot formed under her breast that she just had surgery on (hoping its just scar tissue) but her anemia seems to be caused by something other than iron deficiency.   The doctor has ordered a colonoscopy and referred her to a Gastroenterologist for further review.  She is nauseated all the time and has been for quite some time.   The doctor assumed is was reflux.  Now I am scared to death, that given how much she sleeps and the fact that even with nausea medications are not very effective, that we are dealing with something far more serious. It is my prayer that God could not and would not be that cruel to allow her to be sick again.  There is only so much the human body can withstand.   Now that she is retired, I want her to be able to travel and enjoy her life and not have it marred by illness and fear of illness. 

Until next week….

Eighteen Weeks – Sick Baby- The 411

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On the day my baby turned 18 weeks, at the exact hour, we were sitting in the Children’s ER getting dexymethasone for a Croup diagnosis. 

My baby became increasingly hoarse on Wednesday and Thursday, so I text my sister, who is a Pediatric RN and she said the baby has Croup and to put her under the vaporizer and call her doctor the next morning and see for she should receive a steroidal breathing treatment. We were traveling back to the beach so when we got back, I put Vicks in the vaporizer and put her in the room with the door closed.  After a few hours, she became more audible  ( she sounded like a faint baby seal) and the coughing and heavy breathing lessened.  Her doctor called me back that afternoon and instructed me to take her to the ER because she was so young. The ER staff was really attentive and quick.  

What a scary way to come down off the high of the week; baby girl  being handpicked to do a Target national print ad and having three agencies wanting to add her to their roster !  We are still holding out for the agency that my friend’s children are signed to, but they don’t usually take babies until they are six months.

While sitting in ER, another major agency called wanting to add her to their roster.  

Because of these developments, we are going to have to stay within 2 hours of NYC. So…. back to up North we go for six months.  We are putting plans to go West for 1/2 the year on hold unless the baby can get the same number of gigs in LA.   The agency we are holding out for will exclusively rep her in NY and LA.
This week, my mom added a little cereal to the baby’s last evening bottle. It is helping her stay asleep without waking to eat in the middle of the night. 


Sixteen Weeks Post Partum – The 411

16-weeks-post-partum

16 weeks ago, God gifted me the most precious gift, my baby girl.  She is hands down the love of my life and I could not imagine how I lived or loved before her.

She is such a good baby and has the most pleasant disposition !  She is incredible.

She has amped up her conversation when she is spoken to or if you sing or read to her.  She laughs and giggles and smiles so…   Her latest milestone or developmental fete is that she completely rolls over and back.  She enjoys tummy time and she is not as cranky in her carseat anymore.  She travels a lot better !  Thank goodness.

This week, we are headed to NYC, as she has her 4 month well baby checkup and vaccines. I hated watching her get vaccinated last time, but realize it is necessary to keep her healthy. She did not cry long and she slept a lot after she got her vaccines.  I had given her Tylenol and Motrin before we went to help offset a fever.

In other news, our mother retired on Friday and also won her EEO complaint she filed against the new Director who started targeting female employees.  She is so happy to be a full time Grandmother now !  She says she and baby girl will be hitting the road and traveling the globe.

I am still losing weight… just a pound or two every few weeks.  I feel great.  I assume it is because I am nursing. I have to see my doctor this week because the front of my left leg is numb.  My sister thinks I have a pinched nerve.  We shall see…

I am trying to pull myself out of the dumps.  My make up artist / dear friend died on December 2nd and last week, my friend, comedian/ actor Ricky Harris passed away of a sudden heart attack.  I had just communicated with him two days prior.  I am labeling 2016 a serial killer !   I went to church this morning with my mom and the baby and it was announced at the end of service that one of our Ministers, Karen Hampton passed away after a long battle with cancer.  She was in the choir with me when I was there full time. I am so sick of hearing about death, I do not know what to do !

Anyway, Happy New Year to you all !   I am spending the day with my family and my sister and I are cooking a fabulous meal.

Four Month Well Baby Check Up and Vaccination – The 411

Yesterday, we arrived in NYC early am for baby girl’s four month well baby visit and second round of vaccinations. 

The baby is 14 pounds 4 ounces and now 24 inches long.

She is growing well according to her Pediatrician and the doctor said we can start her on solids anytime between now and six months of age. She suggested we start her with cereal and then wait a few days to introduce a pureed fruit or vegetable.  I am going to wait a little while and introduce cereal when her demand for more ounces of milk is noticed.   Currently, she still drinks 3-4 ounces per feeding and averages 18-24 ounces per twenty four hour period. She seems to be going through a growth spurt the last few days and has taken in 5 – 6 ounces at a few of her feedings. She still doesn’t like medication so I have been putting the Benedryl and Tylenol in her bottle with a 1/2 ounce or so of milk to get her to take it.  Otherwise, she spits out most of the medication.  

The baby demonstrated her newly found skill of flipping over by trying to flip over and off the exam table !

She is doing better with taking in formula.  Most days we are doing 1/2 Breast milk and 1/2 Earth’sBest Organic Sensitivity Formula.   I add probiotics to the 1st bottle of the day, every other day and that seems to be working for us. 

After the vaccines last time, I gave the baby Tylenol, Benedryl and Motrin for two days. This time I gave her dose before we left for the doctor and once when we got back that afternoon.   This morning, she awoke with a 102.1 fever.   I gave her Tylenol and Motrin and called her doctor. Her doc says it’s normal after vaccinations and to give her 2ml of Tylenol only and hold off on Motrin until after 6 months of age.   She said she doesn’t need the Benedryl now.

I gave the baby the additional dose of Tylenol mixed with a little formula and her fever has finally broken.

I am in love with her Kinsa thermometer that attaches to the smartphone and works via an app.

Now that the baby is no longer feverish, we will head out and grab some lunch before going to the post office to retrieve mail and packages.

I just hope the Tylenol keeps her fever under control and that she feels better.   It is horrible watching your baby be miserable.   

Fourteen Weeks After Baby Eviction – The 411

Mommy’s angel will be 14 weeks old at 4:18 pm today !

I can’t believe how fast time is going by.

The baby holds her head up and pushes up off the floor.  She has gotten very proficient at scooting across the bed in her sleep so that she ends up right on my side.   

She is now pitching a fit when she is given a bottle and it’s not breastmilk.   I’m still pumping ,  but only enough for her to snack on !  

I am going to join the local Le Leche and also another breast milk group and try to get donated milk for her.   I am unsure if she will balk at another’s breast milk and if it would have a different taste.  She eventually will settle down and drink the formula but she definitely prefers breast milk.  

Baby girl now weighs 14 pounds. She is getting heavy.  She has the cutest little fat rolls and gets mad when I have to clean them all. She decides when she likes her bath or not.  Diva baby for sure ! 

She still doesn’t like getting her hair done, getting lotioned, getting dressed, nor sleeping in her bassinet. All of her #OOTD pics are of her screeching !

This little one has developed a real temper.  To show disdain, she will stretch out and tantrum!  Oh boy !!!

It is truly amazing to watch her personality shine thru and trying to figure out who this little person is.

This weekend, we are going to take passport photos and send in the application for the baby’s passport so that we can take a trip soon.  

I am hoping that funding for my feature comes in after the new year and that we can start shooting by mid Spring.  Fingers crossed ! Prayers Up !