I keep learning more about the first foods for baby and I had a chance to read Baby-Led Weaning (another name for baby-led solids) by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett (thanks for the book!). I loved it and learned even more. I really wish I'd have read it before the birth of both of my kids, my first who I did the traditional rice cereal with breast milk, on to 'staged' jar foods with, and my second, who I initially did homemade baby food for, until I learned about baby-led solids.
The more I learned, the more I realized that not only was baby-led solids the natural continuation of on-demand feeding (breast or bottle), but also, I learned the history of baby food purees and realized baby food made even less sense than I'd thought it did before!
I think the biggest shocker to me was the history. In the '50s, there was a really large push towards everything "man-made" being superior. People truly believed that formula was infinitely better than breast milk, amongst many other fallacies. The problem was that formula at that point wasn't nearly as good as it is now (though it's still not breast milk by a long shot), women were automatically given pills to dry up breast milk and often never even tried breastfeeding, and babies who were put on formula often had some nutritional deficiencies around growth spurt times ... especially two weeks and two months. So the suggestion at that point was to add in foods with those vitamins.
As we all know, you can't hand a 2-week-old some broccoli and say, "Chow down." So food was pureed and spoon-fed to the infant, since putting it far enough back in the mouth evaded the gag reflex and the baby had no choice but to swallow. The recommendation back then was formula along with very, very early solids, which needed to be pureed to feed a tiny baby who couldn't sit, much less participate in feeding. Yikes!
We know now that while the most important thing about development is waiting until the baby's gut lining closes up naturally to prepare for food sources other than breast milk (which happens after 6 months). There are other external markers that can help us get an understanding of when this is, since we can't exactly peek at the cell's of every baby's intestinal lining to check. Everyone knows some of the basics, such as being able to sit up completely unassisted and not having the tongue thrust reflex, but there's another sign which is so obvious. Babies are biologically ready to eat when they can pick up, chew, and swallow food all by themselves.
After all, on-demand breastfeeding is all about trusting the baby's body to know when to eat, and how much, right? And we know bottle-feeding mamas should follow baby's cues, not feed on schedules, and let baby turn away without trying to "just finish this ounce." So really, the idea of sitting and spooning a bite into baby's mouth over and over after they've spit it out or trying to trick them with games to open their mouth really doesn't make any sense with these practices. The book I read really breaks it down and puts a lot of emphasis on how continuing the teachings of letting baby guide their own feedings not only makes mealtime easier all the time (it's LESS messy than mush, there's nothing extra to buy or prepare, you just plop down some of the broccoli you just cooked for the family), but it allows children to really control their own diet and even prevents food battles!
My daughter HATED the few things of baby food I'd made her. She refused to eat them, but the first time I put steamed broccoli down in front of her, she was in heaven. Now she's an incredibly adventurous eater, willing to try everything, and eats until she's full without us having to play airplane games to trick her. A lot of my friends are now trying baby-led solids too, and not a single one regrets it. Almost every single one says, "Why didn't I do this before?"
Easier, cheaper, cleaner, healthier ... what is there to lose?
Have you tried or will you try baby-led weaning?
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