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Friday, October 5, 2012

Baby-led Weaning book

Baby-led Weaning - Helping your baby to love good food by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett

I had never heard of Baby-led Weaning (BLW) until about two months ago when somebody in the Mommy Stories Facebook group posted about it. It's apparently been out there for a while (this book was written in 2008). The authors are from England, so it's written in an English tone and with spellings particular to there. But the info is universal it seems.

I wanted to read the book because my initial understanding of BLW was very vague. I could not comprehend it or why people would choose to go this route after a zillion years of babies being fed rice cereal as a first food. So, I wanted to gather more information before making up my mind about this BLW thing.

Here is what I learned:

On page 12, the authors wrote, "... there's nothing revolutionary about giving babies finger foods from six months. What's different about BLW is that the baby has only finger foods, making purees and spoon-feeding a thing of the past."

On page 18, the authors refer to BLW as a child learning to walk starting by crawling. They refer often in this book about babies being developmentally ready for things and that it's important for parents to allow babies to do their thing, learn as they go, and do it in their own phase, give the baby the control from the start. I liked this quote because it made sense to me, "When you put your newborn baby on the floor to have a kick you are giving her the opportunity to roll over. When she can, she will. You're also providing her with the opportunity to get up and walk. That may take a bit longer. But keep on providing the opportunity and she will do it eventually. Why should feeding be any different?"

The basics:
*Babies start eating solids - real solids, not rice cereal - at age 6 months. Not sooner, they can't digest it well before this point.
*Baby is in control of how much, what and when she eats. Parents do not spoon-feed baby.
*What parents eat, baby can eat.
*Baby is ready for solids when she "can sit up with little or no support, reach out to grab things and take them to her mouth quickly and accurately, and if she is gnawing on her toys and making chewing movements." (page 22)
*Babies learn to cope with lumps in food quicker with BLW.
*Babies start in life by being in control of eating with breastfeeding, so why step in and stop that process by spoon-feeding? Just let baby do it herself.
*Babies are naturally curious and hungry. Letting them copy parents and discover food themselves is best.
*Babies can eat more than once a day right from the start with BLW. Basically whenever parent is eating, baby can eat, too. The more opportunities to explore with food, the better baby will become at eating on her own.
*Solids are extras with BLW, just like with spoon-feeding purees. Milk feedings should come first.
*Many BLW parents do not put food on a plate or bowl, as the plate may be distracting to a baby. Just put in on the tray.
*Putting more than one type of food on the tray at a time is encouraged.
*It's very messy.
*Avoid salt and sugar in the meals. Use fresh ingredients.
*Leave some skin on fruits and vegetables at first to make it easier for baby to hold while eating.
*Much of what baby is getting in the beginning is just little bits of the food by sucking on it. The real eating does not come until even months later.

The authors do not entirely criticize the typical spoon-feeding cereal method of feeding babies their first solids, they just say it's not necessary to do it that way. It's more natural to let babies eat the regular food themselves and be in control of the process.

On page 86 the authors wrote, "We often talk about 'giving' babies food, but all you're really doin gwith BLW is offering - by placing suitable pieces within your baby's reach - either on your plate, or on the table-top or highchair tray - then letting her decide what to do with it." 

On page 110, the authors suggested it's never too late to START baby-led weaning. I was surprised to see this, as a Web site I'd read a few weeks ago said the opposite, that people should start early and continue. It's good to see that people can move toward BLW as they want to, even after a few months of purees and cereals. As I read and was thinking back on feeding my first child a few years ago, I realized that EVERYONE does baby-led weaning with solids as the baby is 8-12 months old. Not many are still doing purees at that point, at least not entirely. BLW is just doing that process much sooner and to start with, avoiding all the pureeing. That made sense to me.

What to think?!
So now that I've read the book here's what I think: COOL and HMMM.

I think it really is AWESOME. I looove all the talk about baby being in control. It's made me think for sure, about seeing how I can incorporate letting my daughter show us what she wants. In fact, recently I've been waiting for her to show me she wanted solids. The day after she literally shoved her hand into my plate and tried eating my corn salad at a party, I fed her!

I totally think it's great and respect those who choose this BLW path. It's just not for me. My husband looked through the pictures in the book with me and we both were nervous seeing the babies eat large pieces of food. Now this is just my opinion about 6 months old babies. Older than that I think they are starting to eat more solid finger foods anyway so it's more comfortable to see them trying it out. We're also old fashioned and think if something wasn't broken for a thousand years, why fix it? So when we recently fed our daughter for the first time it was good old rice cereal from a spoon that we held (though she did grab at it a hundred times and we let her take control at that point!). I would be worried about choking with BLW (despite that many say it's fine and not a huge thing). I also REALLY love making homemade baby food purees. I think making the purees exposes my baby to a greater variety than I'd typically have in the house for the rest of us, too. Just a different thing for us I guess.

All in all, this was an excellent resource for anyone who is interested in BLW.
It gives many how-tos and specifics (like if baby starts crying when gnawing on something it could be because she bit her fingers by accident because at first with BLW the fingers are always in the way! Good to know I'd think!). A VERY interesting process, that's for sure. I learned a lot. So glad I looked into this. Very cool to keep up with all the great things people are offering babies nowadays!

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