***** It's been a few months since I posted this originally and am still getting lots of questions from people about Baby led Weaning. That combined with the fact that this post has somehow gotten over 600 views (people read my blog?!) I can't help but think I should come back and add some more and expand on things I barely touched on. I'll mark areas I've updated with an asterisk**********
*I am by NO MEANS and expert on this topic, but I can tell you what has worked for us and that I would definitely recommend BLW to anyone and everyone!*
I am not a wonderful blogger because documenting life with instagram is SO much easier. I added the hashtag #babyledweaning on one picture and have had TONS of questions since. I am by no means an expert in baby led weaning but I have loved this approach to introducing solids to Henry so much I thought I would dedicate a post to it and so I could refer friends to it when I am asked about BLW.
The term "baby led weaning" isn't the American use of the word weaning, but the British, meaning introducing new foods. So, let me clear that up for you if you think I have transitioned Henry off of breastfeeding and onto solids. Breast milk is his most important and nutrient dense food for at least the first year of life. It is comforting to know that on days he eats only one "meal" or mostly gets his food on the floor, it's ok! He is just practicing and most of what he needs comes from me!
I will explain the theory of BLW as I understand it and also let you know we do not practice fundamental BLW. I read up what I could online and then adapted it to Henry and our lifestyle.
The main difference between BLW and the way Americans traditionally introduce solids to babies is that with BLW, you put baby in control of feeding himself from the beginning. Food is introduced for reasons much more than just simply eating. Mealtimes are social experiences, provide a perfect setting for sensory exploration, fine motor practice, and the practicing of so many more skills than just simply eating. My friend Aly was the one who introduced me to BLW and the more I read about it the more I liked it. She has been an excellent resource for me!
With Baby Led Weaning, introducing solids happens when baby is DEVELOPMENTALLY READY and not just a certain age. It is encouraged to wait until at least 6 months (because that is typically when the developmental signs of readiness occur and the gut is developed enough to handle solids). With Henry we started at around 5 1/2 months. Here is how we knew he was ready:
He was extremely interested in the social aspects of meal time. He was also sitting independently well, wasn't just reaching for our food to touch it but I could tell he genuinely wanted to taste it. He intently watched food go up to our mouths and would subtly imitate what our mouths were doing as we ate. He wanted to be eating because we were.
I love parenting strategies that involve lots of observation and that just make sense. It makes sense that babies aren't very good at purees when they can't even sit on their own. If they can't control their large muscle groups, why would they be any better at all the intricate muscles it takes to get food off of a spoon, into the back of their mouth, and down the chute?
The next big part of BLW is letting the child feed themselves. I can't tell you how great it is to just hand something to Henry and let him go at it. No battle of wills or fighting the gauntlet to try and get a spoonful of food into his mouth. The mouth is a very sensitive and guarded area of the body. I would not like anyone else being in control of what goes into it either!
***I think it is important to note that we approached introducing solids as a social experience, and not so much about actually eating food. It was more about us sitting together as a family, Henry observing our mealtime routines and being able to take part in them, and using mealtime as way to teach a variety of other skills. We started using some simple sign language to help Henry communicate More, All Done, and Please. It can be easy to get caught in the trap of being overly concerned with how much baby is eating and totally disregard all the other lessons happening beyond the food that makes it into their stomach. I constantly had to remind myself to just sit and observe, let him be in control, and look for all the other good thing Henry was experiencing at meal times. Did he spend a lot of time figuring out how to use new fine motor skills? Did he pay more attention to what and how we were eating than his own food? Did he have fun squishing, smearing, and experiencing food with his other senses? These are all good lessons to be learning that may not look like eating, but contribute to healthy eating habits.
I often saw the phrase "food before one is just for fun" in my BLW research. I do think that it is important to get nutritious food in their belly. Technically a child can survive on just breast milk (or formula)for their first year of life, but I would never force Henry to ONLY have breast milk for his first year. I think of it this way: Just because reading the scriptures is the best thing you can read, it shouldn't be the only thing you read. There is a lot of value in experiencing the other great literature there is out there. Just because breast milk is the best thing for Henry, I would never imagine keeping him from experiencing the joys of other foods out there. So with all of that said, "Food before one, is Mostly for fun" haha!***
The first food we handed Henry was Watermelon. We gave him a big slice and he went to town on it! I can practically hear the gasps right now. A huge slice? But won't he choke? Nope. Not once. He has yet to choke. Has he gagged? Yep. But he always works the food back into a good position in his mouth and figures out how to spit it out or chew it up better. By handing him large slices of food first, he learns to pick up, hold food, and bring it to his mouth, how to chew, move food around in his mouth, and how to tolerate a variety of textures and flavors, all before swallowing one nibble. Doesn't that sound like how we eat? There are so many things to learn before simply shoveling food down the hatch. (Go back and read those last few sentences again if you want. It really is surprising how much is involved in eating)
I still spoon feed Henry some foods. He adores Greek Yogurt and I make sure he gets plenty of prunes and pears to keep things moving (if you know what I mean). But for the most part, he eats what we eat! It has made me switch up a lot of what we eat to much healthier options because I don't think it is appropriate for some of his first foods to be processed or fried. Yep, you heard me. This woman who loves a good french fry has banned them from her son. And what about all those "baby foods" we see at the store? I like to think God came up with better baby friendly food than Gerber ever could. What is more baby friendly than an avocado, or sweet potatoes, or peaches? ***Besides, I am sure if all of our ancestors saw that we buy special foods for babies, they would think we were crazy. I wouldn't be surprised if Baby Led Weaning is just getting back to what parents have done since the beginning of time.***
Henry had zero teeth when we started and after only a few weeks he could down slices of peaches and bananas like it was his job! He eats a greater variety of foods than most toddlers I know because he has never been limited to "kid foods". Here is a little list of some of the foods Henry enjoyed just in the first month or two of eating solids:
avocado,zucchini, cooked onion, carrots, peach, mango, mushroom, raspberries, olives, watermelon, sweet potatoes, bell pepper, asparagus, noodles, rice, beans, chicken, ribs (you read that right), toast, yogurt, smoothies, apples, spaghetti squash... the list goes on and on
***Now that Henry is one and has four teeth on the bottom and two teeth barely poking through up top, he has gotten really good at taking bites out of food, chewing, and swallowing without having food to be as soft. I now give him smaller chunks and he will usually gobble down just about anything we offer. He has gone through some pickier stages, but with persistence, he would always come back to eating a variety of foods and textures.***
We are not perfect in what, or how, or when we feed Henry, but I like to think we are much better off than we would have been without BLW. If you were looking for more info, I hope this helped. I know this will help me the next time we have to introduce foods to a little tike. If you want more info read up HERE or join the baby led weaning facebook group. Oh! And also don't be shy to ask me more about it! Heaven knows we parents need a support group of friends to help us through it all!
I guess I should add that while BLW can be extra messy, it really is worth the effort because all that mess now means less mess and fights over food later.
11 February 2014
To celebrate Henry's first birthday, I felt a little silly throwing a party when I knew he wouldn't know the difference, but when I found out about a place in Provo where you can rent puppies, I knew that I just had to rent Henry a couple of puppies. It was so fun to get family and friends together and see just how much Henry is loved! We have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams with an abundance of friendship. Henry is a lucky boy to have such an endless amount of love.
Henry is doing so many cute things lately that it really is hard not to be his biggest fan. I've written a few things in his baby book, but since I haven't given an update on here in a while, I will use this first birthday milestone as a way to remember all the cute new things he is doing now before he moves onto even newer things.
Henry crawls all day long and loves to explore and touch everything. The night lights I have plugged in around the house are a particular favorite of his to track down and unplug.
He loves to imitate the things we are doing and has become so interactive and fun. If I am talking to someone on the phone, he loves to have me hold the phone up to his mouth so he can squeal and babble into the phone. If his cousins are laughing at something silly, he is pushing out a laugh to fit right in. It is so great to see him doing so many social things and to see them come so naturally.
Books. Henry has a serious thing for books. He has for months now, and it makes me so happy that he enjoys them so much. He has yet to go through the rip out pages or just chew on books stage. He loves to pull them off the shelf, turn the pages, and "read". He is particularly fond of books with animals. He will point to a book with a cow in it and say "moo" to get me to read it to him. For church and long car rides I can generally just bring books and that will keep him entertained.
Henry is still a great eater. The other day he chowed down asparagus,tilapia, and scalloped potatoes with us, and just like his mama, he loves pasta and anything bread. He drinks great from straws and loves a smoothie in the morning with me.
Henry's communication has really taken off in the past month. I am constantly amazed at everything he understand and all the words and sounds he is picking up. Just the other day we noticed that he can follow really familiar one step directions: "Go get the ball"
The sounds, words, and signs Henry are using:
Signs: more, all done, please, dog, cat, elephant, bird
sounds: cow, dog, cat, elephant, lion, car, and monkey
words: Ball, Mama, Dada, bye bye, no no
Henry has recently started dancing along when he hears music and will sing in a soft, high voice singing "nanana". He also loves to wave hello and goodbye to anyone and everyone and well as blow kisses. It's truly hard not to just give him everything he wants when he does that.
I can't believe how much he has changed and grown in the first year of life, and am continually in awe. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this next year will slow down, even just a little bit.
Posted by Mikael Squire at 10:18 AM
04 February 2014
I will admit, at that particular moment I wasn't giving the stay at home mom gig a great image. Even so, I could tell that thought of pushing a ball back and forth and saying "Yes, the cow says Moo" for the 7,000th time looked terribly boring and mind numbing to such a beautiful and inquisitive mind like hers.
Since that little interaction I have been trying to put into words for myself what exactly it is I "do" everyday. It only took Ronnie a few times of asking "So what did you guys do today?" before he quickly learned that it is the worst possible question you can ask a stay at home mom. You see, when I try and answer that question it comes out sounding so boring and unimportant. I hear myself rattling off words like nap, lunch, clean, and play. If I try and go into further detail it gets even more depressing because there are only so many times you can say "we did the animal puzzle and read books" before it hits you just how many times you've done those things. It's so hard to put into words what we have "done" each day because what we are really doing is hidden beneath all those boring explanations.
Yes, there were messes at breakfast, and lunch, and dinner. There were toys pushed across every square inch of floor and diapers messier than you can imagine. Somewhere in the mess of toys, and repetition of animal sounds for the millionth time, something that can only be explained as magic or a miracle happens. That glorious little brain of Henry's make beautiful sense of the world.
So yes, to many it looks like we are stacking the same old blocks, and knocking them over...again, but when I spend each moment of the day doing these things, I see that it is SO much more than that. I see that amazing brain of his connect words and sounds with objects, understand balance, and cause and effect. I get to see his face light up when he rediscovers that ugly little stuffed lamb that was hiding at the bottom of a basket, and watch as he kisses and hugs it because thats what he has learned to do when we love something. Watching Henry grow isn't simply just looking for milestones and checking them off as soon as he has accomplished them. I get to watch in awe as he observes, practices, tests, repeats, and discovers who he is, one messy day at a time.
Posted by Mikael Squire at 3:31 PM