So when their pediatrician recommended starting solids very early (I'm talking 2-3 months old here), I saw it as a way to help end their reflux early (by thinking the solids would help what's in their stomachs, stay in their stomachs!) From the moment I began mixing "rice cereal" (y'all, what even is that junk?!) for them while they couldn't even hold their little heads up in their infant seats, I felt uncomfortable. For several reasons:
-What IS this stuff I'm about to feed my babies?!
-What is the effect of this food on their tiny tummies?
-Will this help their reflux? Make it worse?
In a nutshell, it just didn't feel right to me as a mom! But I attempted anyway. And guess what?
IT. WAS. HORRIBLE.
Food was just running down their faces. The little bit that did go down seemed to make them uncomfortable. The longer the meal went on, the more they'd arch their backs. I've heard time and time again about pediatricians recommending rice cereal for reflux. For my 3 month old babies, it was making the problem worse.
It didn't take long for us to swear off "baby food" until they were proper age, more like 6 months. (By the way, our pedi seemed to recommend solids for ALL babies around 3 months, not just ours. However, the APA recommends 6 months and personally I found out I wasn't comfortable with it until then anyway. While it's fun to let your baby try new foods, chances are they just aren't ready and don't need it before 6 months).
While we waited until their 6 month birthday to arrive, I was feeling more and more anxious. I didn't want to feed my babies a mixture of rice flakes. I didn't want to go through trying to spoon feed two squirmy babies at once. As a twin mom, I was already so home bound. I selfishly worried how I'd get to leave the house with jars of food, spoons that needed cleaning, and needing chairs to help them sit while I spoon fed them.
One fateful day, nearing the 6 month mark, I heard the term "BLW": baby led weaning. Aka, skipping pureed "baby food." Letting your baby explore "human food," as I like to call it, and feed themselves. I didn't know much about BLW, but I immediately saw a way out of the drudgery of spoon feeding flakes and mush to my babies! I knew right away, this was for us!
(One of Eli's first BLW experiences: bananas! 6.5 months old)
I purchased the book called Baby Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, and inside is chapters and chapters of the who, what, when, where, and whys of BLW. While I recommend getting the book yourself as a handbook if BLW is something you're interested in, I want to share a few of my favorite things I personally took away from this book and the concept of BLW:
(Eli and Asher have the chance to explore "human food" with the help of BLW, 8 months)1) It's been around forever
-I feel like BLW is something our ancestors did before the term BLW was coined. For example, my grandmother was one of 10 girls. I'm quite sure my great grandmother was not pureeing bananas with a Baby Bullet and buying mush turkey in a Gerber jar! I imagine she stuck some food in front of her babies and let them learn to feed themselves, and that's what I wanted to do as well.
(Self feeding, baby-food-less 9.5 month olds)
2) It's healthy
-While I'm not saying all baby food is UN-healthy, or that all BLW is healthy, I personally was more comfortable with handing my babies a fresh banana from the store (or farmer's market if that's your style) than banana mush in a jar that spent time on a factory conveyor belt with added acid as a preservative. I've been "guilty" of giving the occassional unhealthy food too, but BLW presents more opportunity for fresh, real food!
(Family dinners and trips to restaurants are easy: no packing extra baby food! Here, 10.5 month old Eli and Asher are enjoying the same Easter family meal as everyone else, including: BBQ chicken, salmon, crawfish fettuccine, green bean casserole, cucumbers, deviled eggs, baked beans, and more!)
3) It's easy
-This is one of the best things about BLW. There's no struggle! I'm not forcing a spoon into both of my babies' faces until they complete one jar of baby food, because the size of the jar determines their serving size. No. I set food on their plate. If they eat it, hurray! If they don't, maybe they weren't hungry or ready. But they got familiar with the food on THEIR terms. No fight. So awesome.
(Happily enjoying the meal at Aunt Cathy and Uncle Gavin's wedding shower, 10 months old)
4) It's family oriented
-Getting to let my babies eat what was already in our house from a young age was a great experience. As their pediatric GI put it, this lets them get familiar with the "family's palette." There's not a transition to baby food, then a separate transition to solids, then a separate transition to family meals. They become aquainted with family meals from the beginning. I make spaghetti for dinner, the twins are eating my spaghetti at the family dinner table right along with us. Dan and I can enjoy our meal with them rather than spoon feeding and eating something different later on in the evening.
(BLW creates great eaters! Making a healthy breakfast for the boys is a joy.)
(BLW creates social eaters! Feeding baby isn't another task a mom has to do, but babies are incorporated into the social experience of eating. Here, Eli eats at Jason's deli with his BLW friend, James! James's mom, Mary, and I ate our meal alongside them.)
Those are just a few reasons I love BLW, but I really could go on and on. Please ask me more if you'd like to know! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Some concerns people may have with BLW might be:
-If allergies run in your family, then yes, it makes sense to use caution! No serious food allergies run in our family that we know of, so we were very comfortable feeding scrambled eggs at 7-8 months, and they loved it. We still tried to keep nuts away until 1 year, etc, but overall we had no problems. Your baby could end up being allergic to banana baby food, you never know. Use caution with any food the first time it's fed to them.
-I can see where people are concerned with this, but I really don't think they need to be. BLW suggests cutting food into sticks for babies, for example give them a stick-shaped slice of cucumber so a 6 month old can easily hold the stick and "gum" it with their gums/teeth. A big stick they can grasp isn't going to choke them. In fact, they'll learn to take bite size pieces on their own this way that they can handle. Another thing: GAGGING is not CHOKING. I'm pretty sure all babies gag on their food a bit as they learn about needing to chew and swallow their food. Gagging isn't something to be concerned about.
(Asher (10 mo) explores a whole strawberry, learning how to take bites from a larger piece of food, and this momma isn't fearful of him choking.)
-Ok, you win on this one. BLW IS messy. But all babies are! My babies get bath after dinner each night anyway, so letting them get messy for dinner is fun and doesn't add to my work. And if you spoon feed them for a while to avoid mess, they're still going to have to learn to eat "real food" one day and that'll be messy then. Just embrace it :)
(7 month olds E & A getting messy with whole avocado!)
...I've told you a bit here about what I've learned through BLW, but please get the book if you want more info and even more pros and explanations than I've listed here! There's so many more reasons to love BLW! You won't regret it!
P.S. I'm not a doctor, nutritionist, or health care professional of any kind. This is simply my story of a successful BLW experience with my own kids.