Guest post by: Ariel Makenzie King
Her blog link: https://www.mamaofkings.com/about
I reached out to a blogging group about someone doing a guest post for me. I thought Ariel would be a good fit, as I love her blog and she always seems knowledgeable. Her story is an inspiration. Ariel and her husband, Derek, have been married for almost five years and have five children together. Their children are Lana (4), Ace (2), Norah (1), and their two angel babies, Mason and Alex. In the past Ariel has worked in retail, childcare, and a call center until health issues (and a calling from God) forced her to become a stay-at-home mom. She has always had a love for writing and contemplated starting a blog for YEARS before finally taking the jump. It started out as an outlet to help cope with depression and has developed into a true passion.
Disclaimer: I am not a health professional or nutritionist. All decisions that may effect the health and well-being of your child should be discussed with a pediatrician or family doctor.
Baby led weaning is the new hot topic of all the mom groups. But what do we really know about it?
When the time came to start the transition of broadening my oldest child’s food horizons, my immediate thought was purees. The baby aisles in the grocery stores were FULL of the different brands and flavors. The pediatrician asked at her appointment’s if we had tried any yet. Friends and family kept pushing, asking if they could give her “just a taste”. As a first-time mom, I just went with the flow. So here we were, feeding homemade baby food to our 4-month-old daughter.
My second child was partially breast fed due to my work schedule. After his birth, I did a bit more research on when to start baby food, and found that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) (https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx/)recommended waiting until at least six months of age to start solids! Upon finding this information, my husband and I decided to hold off on the purees. Ultimately, however, we were under the false impression that purees were still the only way to transition.
Due to health problems with my third pregnancy, I was forced to become a stay-at-home mom. Thankfully, this enabled me to exclusively breastfeed (EBF) my youngest daughter! When we rolled into the sixth month of her life, she didn’t show much interest in food yet, so I made the decision to continue with EBF. Finally, around eight or nine months old she began to show interest in the foods that everyone around her was eating, so I started to give her little pieces to nibble on. It wasn’t until about a month later that the term “baby led weaning” was introduced to me.
What is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?
Baby led weaning, much like exclusive, on demand breastfeeding leaves the when, what, and how much up to the baby. Instead of the runny purees sold in stores, BLW allows the child to try table foods as desired. In the beginning, it is not necessary to get your infant on a set feeding schedule or force them to eat a certain amount. One important thing to remember is that this is a learning stage for them, and as with any new thing, we as parents should allow them time to adjust.
What age should we start?
Due to the risk of leaky gut, it is recommended to wait until AT LEAST 6-8 months old. Of course, if your child is not getting full from their breast milk or formula intake, speak to a medical professional to get their opinion on whether food may be necessary sooner.
Every child is different, however, so here is a list of the signs that your child may be ready to start BLW (https://www.aptaclub.co.uk/article/signs-of-weaning)
· Can your child sit up unassisted?
· Do they have good head control?
· Have they shown good fine motor skills (grasping toys, teethers, etc. and able to transfer to their mouth)?
· Do they show interest in what you or others are eating?
· Has their tongue thrust reflex (when they push food out of their mouth using their tongue) subsided?
· Are they showing signs of hunger after breast milk or formula? (Could sometimes be a sign of a growth spurt.)
It is possible for some of these signs to be apparent before the age of 4 months, BUT it is important to wait until your child is showing most (if not all) of these signs.
How does Baby Led Weaning Work?
For our family, we would leave food unseasoned when cooking so that our daughter could experience the real taste of foods. We avoided any small, hard, round foods as they posed to be a choking hazard. One food at a time, we would get about one tablespoon full and place them on her high chair tray. No foods are off limits, aside from those that are recommended to avoid until after one year old due to risk of allergic reactions (i.e. peanuts, egg whites, honey, etc.). Obviously, stay away from highly processed, less than nutritional food. The foods should be cut into either small, bite-size pieces—smaller than the child’s throat—or similar to matchsticks.
Allow your baby to choose which foods to try, but don’t hold back on the options. In my experience, it is SO much easier to get your child to embrace a healthy diet if you start out by introducing a healthy diet.
Does this mean no more breast milk or formula?
If your child is like mine, NOTHING is going to stand in the way of her breast milk. The World Health Organization (WHO) http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/en/) actually recommends that breastfeeding should NOT decrease once solids are introduced.
In my personal experience, BLW is so much easier than purees. Less mess, less accommodations, and more variety!
I wish I had known that this was a thing with my older two, and I’m so thankful that we accidentally discovered it with our youngest.
In closing, just keep in mind that new things can be exciting for us to see our babies experience, but they can also be scary for our babies. If they have a Rock-star week, and then the next week they don’t want anything to do with food, that’s perfectly fine. Let them lead the process and I promise it will be an enjoyable one.