My little man is not yet 6 months old and I’ve been constantly thinking about what and how to feed him solid food. It’s been a little bit of a stressor for me, to be completely honest. This has led to voracious reading of anything I can find.
At his 4-month doctor visit, he said that I should start feeding him solid foods between 4-6 months as this helps reduce allergies, creates less picky eaters, and supplements (supposedly) iron-deficient breast milk.
I asked him about waiting to feed him grains since they’re so hard to digest. The doctor looked at me a little weird and said that grains are just as hard to digest as any other food… um, yeah… NOT true! But that’s a different post.
Ryker’s pediatrician is a nice guy and really funny, but his lack of nutritional knowledge makes me question his dietary advice. I mean, there’s a sign in the room that says you should switch to skim milk! I feel like every time I go to the pediatrician I come out with a bunch of questions that he can’t really answer.
I’ve been thinking seriously about finding a pediatrician who knows about the power behind eating real food.
I already knew that grains were hard to digest for anybody and that a baby’s pancreas doesn’t produce enough amylase to digest the grains in their tummy until they’re at least a year old. The undigested particles can literally go through their gut lining causing them to develop allergies, especially to grains.
You see, food allergies do not just pop up one day. Allergies have A LOT to do with your gut health. Your baby is born with a semipermeable gut that doesn’t “heal” itself until around 6 months old. A baby’s porous gut is essential for developing antibodies, but can also lead to food allergies if introduced to improper foods too early.
Clearly, it’s an important goal for me that my kids aren’t picky eaters. I just think about eating something like cow brains down in Mexico (like Cameron did) and it makes me gag. But it only makes me gag because I wasn’t raised on it right? If I ate it all my life it wouldn’t be a big deal. Same goes for babies eating a variety of food right from the get go.
Is Breast Milk Iron Deficient?
Now the iron deficiency was what really got me worried.
Iron is essential for your health in a lot of ways. Hemoglobin is comprised mainly of iron and is responsible for carrying oxygen to the rest of your body (which is essential to, like, everything). Makes sense that breathing is a semi-autonomic function.
Iron is also used in DNA synthesis and in forming many proteins which are the building blocks of life. Can you see why I started getting concerned about iron deficiency?
However, I have t0 remind myself that because I am eating a nutrient dense diet now and while I was pregnant, my breast milk is going to provide everything my little man needs. This article was particularly enlightening for me about iron deficiency in breastfed babies.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule and your body certainly does do stuff that we can’t explain. But since I do not have any sort of debilitating diseases, my little man was full-term, and hasn’t been sick once, I’m not too worried about being the exception.
The fact that women have been exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months of their baby’s life or so for thousands of years gives me confidence too! There weren’t any iron fortified infant cereals back then. Those moms gave their babies nutrient dense food like liver and egg yolks to compensate for any iron deficiencies which I’m going to do too.
Why I Think Baby-Led Weaning is the Perfect Way to Feed Your Child
In my head I’ve been thinking that once little man is a year old I’ll stop breastfeeding him . . . now I’m leaning more toward baby-led weaning.
Baby-led weaning is a method of introducing solid foods to your baby. In conjunction with breastfeeding, you introduce solid foods around 6 months by letting your baby “explore” and self feed with the food they’re given. Slowly as the baby gets enough nutrition from solid foods (usually enough to maintain and gain weight) breastfeeding is eventually stopped.
Why should I let his age determine when he stops breast feeding? Just because the rest of society thinks that breastfeeding after a year is weird? We don’t worry about our children being a little late or a little early with milestones like walking, so why should eating solid food be any different? (Cameron doesn’t see the logic in this so you’re not alone if you think I’m off my rocker!)
Here are some fast facts about baby-led weaned babies:
- When babies are left to choose for themselves and are not yet addicted to a processed food diet, they choose healthier foods and foods that will help them if they are deficient in something.
- BLW (baby-led weaned) babies have a lower BMI and are less likely to be obese.
- Choking, which is a common concern for parents considering BLW for the first time, is not more common in BLW babies compared to spoon fed babies – there’s a difference between choking and gagging because babies will gag on their food when they are first learning how to feed themselves and should be considered a fail safe for choking.
- Helps babies develop manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination (and hand-mouth coordination, ha!)
- Helps develop self-confidence because they are in charge of what and how much they eat.
- Learn to chew their food and use their mouth better. Chewed food contains saliva (duh) making it easier to digest.
- Babies who are spoon fed have increased risks of aspiration of their food.
- Learn social skills like sharing and taking turns because they mimic what everyone else is doing at meal times.
- No more battles to get baby to eat at meal times, because they are feeding themselves.
Baby-led weaning makes complete sense to me! Since a baby’s gut isn’t fully “healed” and the signs that they are ready to eat solid foods don’t occur until around 6 months is more than a coincidence.
Here are the signs I’m talking about:
- Baby shows interest in food at meal times by watching you eat and grabbing for food.
- Sit without support so they can feed themselves.
- Lost tongue-thrust reflex and they are able to learn to chew their food instead of spitting it back out.
- Baby is learning the pincer grasp and are able to pick things up with thumb and forefinger.
My little man holds his head up well and is rolling over like a little roly poly. He also likes to grab stuff within his reach especially the binky. However he is nowhere near sitting up unsupported by himself. I’m going to take that as he’s not quite ready for solid foods.
The purpose of introducing solid foods during the first year of your baby’s life isn’t to provide your baby with the necessary nutrients they need – your breast milk is in charge of that. If you’re eating a nutrient dense diet, then you should be good to go! If you can’t breastfeed for whatever reason then hopefully you have been able to find a healthy alternative.
[box type=”download”] The role of introducing solid foods is to help your baby learn and explore food. They are able to feel and taste and smell their food in all its different varieties. When you puree and mash or feed your babies out of the jars, they can’t see, smell, or feel what you’re giving them.[/box]
That is just fine with me because I never wanted to puree all sorts of different baby foods to make his own little special meal. I want my babies to eat whatever is prepared for them and to eat together as a family around the dinner table. And call me selfish, but I don’t want to sit there for an hour or longer feeding little man with a spoon when he can eat by himself. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
So how do you do this baby led weaning stuff, you say? Obviously this baby-led weaning hasn’t really started yet so for us so we’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you updated as the months progress. 😉
I just purchased these awesome books about baby’s first REAL food and baby-led weaning – I highly recommend them!
Here’s what I’ve learned about baby led weaning, and what I’ll be incorporating shortly:
- Be prepared for a mess!! When baby is learning to eat solid food they won’t actually eat the food at first. They’ll pick it up, play with it, probably throw it, and hopefully eventually chew and suck on it. I’ve read lots of moms put down a plastic cover under the high chair so they can just wipe it off after meal time.
- Bring baby to the dinner table. This is important because it will help baby to understand what the table is for and they can mimic what everyone else is doing. I’m an avid believer that eating as a family for at least one meal a day is very important for building strong family relationships.
- Give baby what you’re eating for dinner. Now this also takes some common sense that you should make sure the food is a good temperature, in manageable chunks, and not super hard for their little gums, like nuts or fruit pits.
- Give baby some super foods along with your meal – See my recommended sources above!
- Wait to give grains until at least a year old since they are harder to digest.
- Never leave baby alone when eating (obviously).
- Offer food by putting it in front of them and only a couple of choices at first. This lets them choose when and what they are going to eat/play with and there’s no pressure.
- Choose times when baby isn’t tired or hungry so he/she can concentrate on the food.
- Offer something to drink as well – water, raw milk, broth – not sugary juices.
- Let baby take his/her time so there isn’t pressure to eat. Also, refrain from commenting, either positive or negative. Just let them eat! Do you want people bugging you when you eat?
- Continue to breastfeed since this will be their main source of nutrients.
- Stay away from processed foods! Real food is the way to go at every stage in life!
- Use BPA free plastic or, better yet, glass if you are using dishes. Many moms just put the food straight onto the high chair table.
Share your story of introducing your baby to solid food. What did you do? What did you give them?
Sources: http://nourishedkitchen.com/baby-led-weaning/, https://www.nct.org.uk/sites/default/files/related_documents/Dodds%20Baby-led%20weaning%20is%20associated%20with%20less%20parental%20control%20of%20children%C2%B9s%20eating%20and%20lower%20BMI%20p14-15%20Mar13.pdf, http://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/feeding-baby/baby-led-weaning-101.aspx, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/03/06/baby-led-weaning.aspx, http://www.linkagesproject.org/media/publications/Technical%20Reports/devreadiness.pdf