What is baby led weaning?

I have written before about all the expectations I had for starting solids with Baby Zand, how I wanted to do things differently, than having puree thrown at me from a mad child. (Yes of course I know not every baby is like this, only the ones in my nightmares ;-)).

When it comes to starting solids, a lot of parents feel left alone. Pediatricians may give some them some idea when to start, but no one actually takes you by the hand and tells you what to do. It can be an extremely overwhelming time, especially since you want to make sure you do everything right. Well, there really isn't a right and wrong way. Every baby is different, and every baby will react differently. However, if you haven't read my previous post, make sure to go back and check out all the signs that your baby is ready to start solids.

Even before Baby Zand was born, I decided I wanted to do baby led weaning. It's a bit of a misleading term, since most moms think it means giving up breast feeding as soon as baby starts solids. Rather, the term baby led weaning was coined by British midwife Gill Ripley, and in British English "weaning" simply means "adding complementary food to milk feeds". I agree that "Baby self feeding" would have been a more appropriate term, but what is done is done.

Baby led weaning means you give baby bite sized pieces of real food, rather than purees. You let baby learn how to pick up the food, bring it to its mouth, chew it, and then swallow it. Now this all sounds easy to us, but for a baby these are some serious hand eye coordinations that can take a few weeks to months to learn. Most parents who use baby led weaning will give the baby foods that they themselves eat, for example a tomato, a piece of tangerine, etc. During this learning period, breast milk is still the primary source of nutrients. Think of these first months of baby led weaning more as playtime and exploration, rather than real eating.

I absolutely love the idea of nourishing Baby Zand with the same foods we eat. I will however make a big side statement here: I don't believe baby led weaning is the right thing for you, if your own meals consist of processed, packaged foods. The salt and sugar content plus all the additives are too much for baby's system to handle. In that case maybe starting baby led weaning will inspire you to cook more fresh foods for your whole family. And if you are already a kitchen queen, then more power to you! Go ahead and share your nutritious meals with your baby.

Some things you should pay special attention to:

  • Babies can't handle salt as much as we do. So cook your meals without salt. In the end, only add salt to your own plate if you want/need it.

  • Avoid nutrient devoid ingredients like white sugar, processed vegetable oils, and white grains. Instead, try wholesome ingredients like maple syrup, extra virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil, as well as whole grains.

  • Avoid honey until baby is one. While raw honey can be a great source of sweetness, it can also contain bacteria called clostridium botulinum. It can cause botulism, a kind of food poisoning, which is very serious for babies. Introduce honey slowly after the first birthday.

  • Limit fish like swordfish, mackerel, and canned tuna, since these are very high in mercury. Just like during your pregnancy, mercury can disrupt baby's brain development. Salmon, anchovies, trout, and herring have less mercury, and are safer to give.

  • Baby's taste buds are still very sensitive, so limit spiciness. You can always add the extra kick to your own plate once you're done serving the meal.

Now get ready for some serious meal time fun!

Next time I'll write more about the actual foods we started with.

For more reading on this topic, I highly suggest you check out this book:

#breastfeeding #baby #honey #aboutme