“Food is essential to life; therefore, make it good.” -S. Truett Cathy
We are almost a month into our experience with Baby Led Weaning, and after our well-baby- check today, it is time to share how our experience with it is going! Annabelle Grace is three days shy of her seven month birthday! Today she weighed 15 pounds, 9 ounces; she has jumped from 19% to 29% on her growth chart line! This girl LOVES food! So, today I figured I would share some answers to some questions and often concerns we get on this type of transition to eating. (our pediatrician was very impressed with Annabelle Grace’s ability to eat food, hold a spoon, and said she was ahead of schedule- in a good way!) So, here you go:
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby Led Weaning is a way to transition a baby ON to food, not OFF of milk (breastmilk or formula.) You basically skip any and all purees, and NO one spoon feeds the baby, EVER. Milk (again- breastmilk or formula) is still the most essential part of a baby’s diet up until a year old. Milk should be offered 30 minutes to an hour before the baby receives any solid food. The baby should still be taking in as much milk as he/she was before solid food was introduced.
So what and when does your baby eat?
We all eat the same thing and we all eat at the SAME times! Annabelle Grace never eats alone, ever. If we’re having eggs and toast for breakfast, that’s what Annabelle Grace gets. If we’re eating baked chicken and broccoli for dinner, that’s what Annabelle Grace gets. If we eat a protein bar for a snack, we have special bars for her to eat also! Basically, all food is fair game! The biggest thing to remember is to limit salt (babies need less than 400 mG of sodium a day), limit added sugars, and absolutely NO honey before the age of one. When serving your baby any solid foods, you cut them into finger-shaped pieces, not itty bitty pieces. If you want to give your baby yogurt, mashed potatoes, or something like apple sauce, you either pre-load the spoon for baby to pick up, or you offer pieces of food for the baby to dip into the “softer” foods.
How do you ensure your baby is getting all of the vitamins and minerals she needs?
So this question always seems to be a big one for people. First, the baby, no matter what method is used to teach them how to eat, milk is still supposed to be the most important part of the baby’s diet the whole first year. The milk is what gives a majority of the nutrition the baby needs. It is true that if you are breastfeeding/giving breastmilk, that after six months, the amount of iron stores begin to slowly deplete, and not as much is produced in breastmilk. If you are offering your baby solids, you should be offering a healthy diet- one with plenty of fruits and vegetables, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, and not many processed foods. The baby will still get much of the nutrition just from sucking on these foods. When I get asked the question about Annabelle Grace’s nutrition, my biggest question back for people who traditional wean (spoon feed purees first), is similar- how do those few jars of baby food offer enough of the vitamins and minerals either? If you look at the back labels- many have a select few individual nutrients- not much more than what a baby would get from sucking on these foods, too. While my body may not produce as much iron in her milk as it did the first six months, it also doesn’t just disappear when she turns six months, the amount just gets smaller- almost in sync with a baby getting better and more experienced with solid foods.
How can you expect a baby to actually eat solid food?
When starting baby led weaning, you don’t expect the baby to automatically “eat.” Babies have to learn. They learn by exploring themselves, and they learn from watching you. It is natural for a baby to pick things up and put those things right into their mouth! So, if you’re offering food to the baby, chances are, they will try to get it to their mouth! People are often concerned about the “choking hazard,” and assume food has to be completely pureed, or chopped into itty bitty pieces for the baby to consume it without choking. Have you choked on a drink before when taking a sip of a liquid? Chances are, you probably have- and it was a liquid. One of the biggest helps when offering solids, is that has a gag reflex VERY close to the front of their tongue, not in the back where ours is now. Because it is close to the front- when you give the baby a finger-sized piece of food, the baby is then learning to bite a piece off that is just right for them. If they take too big of a bite, the gag reflex makes them “gag” and they often just spit the piece out and try again. It’s pretty impressive to watch! It’s also impressive how fast a baby figures all of this out! Because they are learning to bite pieces of food- they are also learning how to chew food right off the bat too! Yes- a baby with no teeth can ABSOLUTELY chew food. Stick your finger in one of those toothless grins and see how hard those gums can squeeze! Better yet- try it on a baby, like Annabelle Grace, who has been eating for almost a month now, with no teeth- she can bite and chew hard!
Does the baby not get aggravated when trying to eat at first?
Nope! If you are doing baby led weaning properly, you are feeding your baby milk 30 minutes to an hour before giving them solids. This will fill the little tummy up, keeping the baby at his/her normal temperament. This allows the baby to truly explore the food, while not starving. Annabelle Grace picked it up extremely fast, and now eats lots of food. She never gets mad because she is hungry- she gets more mad if we don’t give her food to pick up straight away! You also have to remember that you never force a baby to crawl, walk, or talk- it happens when the baby is ready. The same can go with how fast a baby learns to truly eat food- it will happen- you just need to practice a little patience.
How often do you give your baby solid foods in a day?
We give food as often as we can! Really this part comes down to what works best for your schedule- because again, the baby should never eat alone. Even if the baby can’t eat with everyone, they need at least one person to eat with. So once Will gets busy where we don’t have dinner with him (since she will be in bed before he gets home) but I still would like to have dinner with him, – then I may have a tiny sliver of fish, 3-4 green beans, and a spoonful of rice with Annabelle Grace while she has an early dinner, and then eat the rest of my full dinner when he comes home. Since I am at home with her all day, I make sure we eat as often as possible. We’ve really gotten a pretty great schedule too! We always have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and at least one snack at some point during the day. The time for snack varies a little, based on the timing of her naps.
What about eating out- how does that work?
Eating out is really much more simple than people want to make it. If we have to eat fast food for a meal (rarely) then we get burgers- we take the bun off of her and cut her patty in to strips, I may give her a sliver of one of her buns. You can usually order some type of fruit or a baked potato as a side, and grilled chicken if you’re at a chicken place. If we eat Mexican- she gets a cheese quesadilla, avocado slices, and usually a few pieces of chicken from my plates and a few pieces of broccoli and cauliflower from my plate. If we know we will have to eat out for a meal, I’m usually super cautious to make sure we’re not eating anything with too much sodium before or after those meals and everything works out fine!
It seems so messy…why bother with it?
So it can be messy depending on the child, I’m sure. However, I feel like spoon-fed babies can get pretty messy too… I mean- we’ve all seen the parent trying to convince a child to take food off of a spoon and the baby wearing a lot of the baby food or spiting it out, or pushing the spoon away- heck I had it happen enough when I babysat for others. This is not saying all spoon fed babies are messy either! Just like Annabelle Grace does a DECENT job at not getting too messy with solid foods, I’m sure there are spoon fed babies who also do a decent job at not being too messy. For us though, we would rather clean up some of the mess AFTER dinner than have one of us trying to feed a baby while our food gets cold. It’s also worth it’s weight in gold for us to be able to truly have a conversation at the table instead of making sounds and faces and repeating ourselves over and over to make our kid eat. Will is very busy as a farmer (when I say busy- I mean 12-14 hours work days, 7 days a week are pretty much here), so any time we get together is precious- those FEW chances at a conversation mean a lot.
This seems interesting enough, but what about snacks?
Snacks are also easier than people make them- slices veggies, sliced fruits, cheesesticks, rice cakes! I’ll do a post soon about some of our favorite foods to cycle in and out, and some of the quick ideas we have found too, so stay tuned!
So, there you go! Some of the biggest questions we get asked! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask us! Here are a few pictures of Annabelle Grace eating ALL of the foods! She has tried at least 97 foods- pretty sure I missed a few! (That does include 14 spices/oil/unsalted butter- so 83 solids!) Now, I must go wake my baby so we can have a snack! 😉