Monday, December 24, 2012

Starting Solids- Adventures in Baby-Led Weaning

 There are a lot of things I thought I knew about parenting before I had Fynn. I thought I would never co-sleep, that at 4 months I would start giving baby rice cereal and other purees, and that my baby would never watch any tv until she was 2.

Right.

I've discovered since having Fynn that I'm a lot more holistic and attachment parenting focused then I thought I would be. I breastfed exclusively for 5 1/2 months, I'm all about co-sleeping (and anything else that helps use get a little more shut-eye... sleep continues to be an issue for us), Fynn loves watching the tv and our computer screens (we try to avoid it as much as possible, but she's determined)... and purees? Not happening. We have started baby-led weaning (BLW).

What is it?
I've already gotten this question a lot, because it sounds strange. Basically I give Fynn chunks of food and let her feed herself. Which sounds scary and wrong. Won't she choke? Isn't she too young? All things I thought myself before I started my extensive research. As with breastfeeding, I wanted to know everything there was to know about BLW before starting. When she was about 3 months I started reading about it. I read blogs, articles, doctor's advice, basically anything I could get my hands on. 

And I thought about it.

It makes since to me. Why spoon-feed food to a baby if they're not capable of putting it in their mouths to begin with? Why have her learn to swallow food before she learns to chew it? It just made sense to me. It's like breastfeeding in that it lets the baby be in control of their food. When I nurse Fynn, she decides when it's time to switch side and when she's done. There's no coaxing her to finish the last little bit because there's no measurement in breastfeeding. She's done when she wants to be done. That's the same premise in BLW. You give the baby food, baby decides if and how much to eat.

Our first experience was spur of the moment. I had planned to wait until exactly 6 months, following both the American Academy of Pediatrics and our Pediatricians recommendations to exclusively breastfeed until 6 months. At about 4 1/2 months Fynn became SUPER interested in everything food. She watched us like a hawk when we ate. Reached for foods and started doing this weird "chewing" motion when she was hungry (and when she saw us eating). We wanted to hold her off a little longer, so we had her start playing with a spoon (under VERY close supervision) and drinking water/breastmilk from sippy cups and cups.

But last week, when she was 5 1/2 months old, we decided to give it a go. We were making veggie sushi for dinner and had some avocado we were cutting up. I had planned on avocado being her first food as it's very nutrient dense and has a lot of healthy fats in it. Since we had it here, we figured we would try. We gave her some pieces on the tray of her high chair, and just watched. 

Let me tell you, that was hard. I'm a hands-on person, so just standing there while she tired to figure this our was SO,so hard for me, but I did it. That night she mostly just pushed it around her tray. She got a few pieces in her hand and proceeded to jam them up her nose, in her ears, down the side of her chair... I honestly don't think any actually made it in her mouth that night.

The next night we gave her longer chunks. She did a really good job picking up pieces and getting them to her mouth. She managed to suck on them and even bite a few pieces. I think she swallowed a bit that night, but she had a blast with it.

Two nights later we gave it again. This time she chewed up a couple of pieces, swallowed a little... and mashed it all in her hair. So gross. Each time so far we have had to have a full bath after "eating" to clean it all off of her. The most important part is that she is having fun, and learning so much. She's already figured out so much when it comes to this food thing. She gets it. She's getting better at it.

I read in one of the blogs about BLW that "food before one is just for fun", which makes sense seeing that the AAP recommends that breastmilk remain the main source of nutrition until age one. These first foods are just about learning about food and getting some supplemental nutrition.

This realization is VERY different than how I thought of first foods pre-baby. I was under the misconception that breastmilk (or formula, since at the time I didn't know how truly different the two are) was just to sustain them until they were old enough to eat real food. I had always thought that babies stopped drinking breastmilk around the time they started solids.

While we're just started this eating process, it's already a fun adventure and something that we are all enjoying together as a family. 

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