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No reason for "baby food"! Cliff's Notes from "Baby-Led Weaning" by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett

Posted by on Sep. 14, 2011 at 11:13 PM
  • 9 Replies

Hi mamas:)  I'm reading BLW and highlighting key points for hubby who doesn't want to read the whole thing.  So, I thought I'd do a little "Cliff's Notes" for anyone interested who doesn't want to read the whole book like DH.  I'm going to just copy out stuff and save comments for the replies, so none of this will be my opinions (except obviously that it's my opinion what is important and what isn't).  I'll provide any context in [ ] so it makes sense.  In general, when they refer to "milk" or "milk feedings" they are meaning breastmilk AND formula (since it's milk-based).  It's long so I will have to continue in the first couple replies.  Feel free to pass it along!!

Background on solids:

  • [on why to wait until 6 months old] Babies who are born big (or who get big very quickly) don't need extra food.  They are big either because of their genetic makeup or, in some cases (especially if they are formula-fed), because they are already having more milk than they really need.  Their digestive and immune systems are no more mature than any other babies', so the health risks of giving solids early are just the same...Milk is all a baby needs for the first six months - however big or small she is.  Size doesn't matter.
  • True signs of readiness.  The most reliable way to tell whether your baby is ready for solid foods is to look for signs that coincide with the important changes within her body that will enable her to cope with them (that is, the development of her immune and digestive systems, and the growth and development of her immune and digestive systems, and the growth and development of her mouth).  If 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, then the chances are she is ready to start exploring solid foods.  But the very best sign that a baby is ready is when she starts to put food into her mouth herself - which she can only do if she is given the opportunity.
  • Milk feedings are the most important single source of nourishment for a baby under a year old.  solids are much less nutrient-rich than either breast milk or infant formula.  If a baby is given too much solid good (which can easily happen with spoon-feeding) her appetite for breastmilk or formula will be reduced.  As a result she may get less of some nutrients than she needs.
  • "The beauty is that the readiness is so obvious.  When a baby can sit up, reach out, pick food up and put it in his mouth, move it around and swallow it, his guts are ready.  Nature would not have got it wrong." -Mother of 3
  • All babies develop skills that are related to feeding themselves, although babies who have the chance to practice - by handling food - are likely to become good at them earlier than babies who are spoon-fed.  Babies naturally develop feeding-related skills...
  • ...But when babies were observed handling food...it became clear that they instinctively know when they are ready for solid foods and that they will naturally develop the skills needed to feed themselves.
  • Interrupting Self-Feeding  Babies are able to feed themselves (from their mother's breast) at birth and most parents wouldn't expect to have to feed a child of two or three years old - they would expect him to feed himself.  It doesn't seem logical that the natural progression of self-feeding should be interrupted at six months, by introducing spoon-feeding, only for parents then to have to decide when to allow the baby to go back to feeding himself.  From six months babies can feed themselves solid food; there is no need to step in and do things for them for a few months - and no need to decide when to step out again.  The baby can just carry on feeding himself all the way through.
  • ["Babies need the nutrients"]  There is a myth that breastmilk changes at around six months and is no longer "enough" for a baby...Breastmilk continues to be the single most nutritiously balanced food for babies and children almost indefinitely.
  • It's important to recognize that, at six months, most babies are only just beginning to outgrow their milk-only diet.  Most full-term babies have adequate stores of, for example, iron, to see them through for quite a bit longer without a problem - they don't run out of anything overnight.  But they need to be introduced to solids at around six months so that they can develop the skills they need to eat different foods and get used to new tastes, ready for when they really do begin to rely on other foods as their main source of nourishment.
  • ...babies don't learn to chew, they just develop the ability to do it, so there is no need for them to be "taught" to chew by starting them off on smooth purees and progressing gradually through mashed to lumpy food.
  • [on over-eating toddlers and obesity] Persuading young babies to eat food they don't want is especially easy to do if they are spoon-fed.  Babies who are allowed to feed themselves will naturally manage their own intake - they simply stop eating when they are full.  This means they eat as much as they need - and no more.
  • [on why it's safe to give babies larger pieces of real foods instead of watered-down purees]  In an adult, the gag response is triggered near the back of the tongue...However this reflex is triggered much farther forward on the tongue of a six-month-old baby, so not only is it activated more easily in a baby than it is in an adult, it also operates when the piece of food that has caused it is much farther away from the airway.  So when babies of six or seven months gag on food it doesn't mean the food is too close to their airway and it very rarely means they are in danger of choking.  The gag reflex may well be a key part of babies' learning how to manage food safely.  When a baby has triggered this reflex a few times, by putting too much food into his mouth or pushing it too far back, he learns not to do it.  As he gets older, weather or not he has been allowed to experiment with self-feeding, the place where this reflex is triggered moves back along his tongue, so that gagging doesn't happen until food is nearer the back of his mouth.  so he simply "outgrows" the tendency to gag.
  • However, as the gag reflex moves back toward its adult position it becomes less and less effective as an early-warning sign.  So babies who haven't been allowed to explore food from the beginning may miss the opportunity to use it to help them learn how to keep food away from their airway.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that babies who have been spoon-fed have more problems with gagging and "choking" when they start to handle food (often at around eight months) than those who have been allowed to experiment much earlier.
  • Two factors make choking more likely: 1) someone else putting the food (or drink) into the baby's mouth and 2) a leaning-back position.
  • When a baby puts a piece of food into his mouth himself, he is in control of it.  If he is able to chew it, he will.  If he is able to get it to the back of his throat, he'll swallow it.  If he isn't able to do these things then, as long as he is upright, the food will simply fall out.
  • So, provided the baby is...in an upright position, is in control of what goes into his mouth, and is not given foods that are an obvious choking hazard...there is no reason to be more concerned about choking with BLW than with any other method of introducing solids.

Next is a section on babies knowing what they need to eat to be healthy.  It's all great info, but too much to copy.  Sorry:P  Just know that it has been observed that when babies are given a wide variety of foods, they may stick to a couple for a few days and move on to others after that, but in a week, they seem to manage a VERY balanced diet and get the nutrients they need.

  • [is table food harder to digest than purees?] But months were designed to mash food - or "puree" it - by chewing.  Food that is thoroughly chewed is easier for the stomach to deal with than food that has been pureed by a blender because mixing saliva with food helps to kick-start the digestive process - especially the digestion of starchy foods.
  • ...But pureed foods hardly meet with saliva at all.  Instead they are sucked off the spoon straight to the back of the throat and immediately swallowed - without any chewing.
  • Pureeing food - especially fruit and vegetables - can also destroy some of its nutrients.  When food is cut up, some of the vitamin C is lost from the exposed surfaces.  Pureeing increases this loss, so food that is pureed in advance will be lower in vitamin C than it would have been if it had been eaten in large pieces.  A whole apple, for example, will provide more vitamin C than the same apple pureed or mashed.  Vitamin C is an important vitamin, especially as it encourages the absorption of iron.  The body isn't able to store vitamin C, so it's important to have a good source every day.
  • It's easy to assume that pureed food is more easily digested because of what appears in the baby's diapers.  Unlike the stool of a baby fed on purees, the stool of a baby eating "real" food occasionally contains pieces of vegetable, for example, in small, recognizable lumps.  This doesn't mean none of the food has been digested - it just shows that the baby is learning to chew and that his body is adapting to solids.  Pureed food just looks as though it has been more fully digested because it doesn't stand out in the diaper.
  • We now know that the readiness of the gut to digest solid foods effectively and safely is dependent on a baby's maturity, not his size.  A baby who grows fast in the early months may double his birth weight in as little as four months, but that doesn't mean he is ready for solids.
  • Most babies really don't need anything other than milk feedings until they are at least six months old but, in recent decades, some of the things that babies do at around four months have been seen as signs of readiness for solids...For example, many babies at this age start to watch keenly when their parents are eating, but this is just part of their natural curiosity about everything their parents do - it isn't a sign of hunger.
  • [For babies who wake more, seem hungrier, or need to put on weight]  Giving him more milk, rather than solids, is the best way to ensure that the balance of his nutrition remains good.
  • ...we now know that rice isn't easy for babies under six months to digest.  It's also low in key nutrients (even when cereals are "fortified" with minerals and vitamins, babies may not be able to absorb these easily).  Giving rice can also mean that babies take less breastmilk or formula, so their overall nutrition is reduced not improved.
  • Learning to eat solid foods is a natural stage of development.  We don't control when a baby starts to walk, so it's not clear why we should control his move to solid foods.  No parent would actively prevent their baby from walking when he's showing signs of doing it - it would be seen as cruel and potentially harmful.  But many parents, without realizing it, exert negative control over their baby's instinct to eat, by preventing him from feeding himself or not allowing him to make any decisions at mealtimes.
  • [Letting the baby decide when and what new foods to try]  Evidence from work on children's eating disorders suggests that not allowing them to do this may make them fearful of new foods, while controlling or manipulating babies in other ways, such as tricking them (for instance, by alternating spoonfuls of sweet food and savory food), teaches them not to trust the feeding process.

*****

How to start:

  • The old advice to start solids just once a day, then progress to two and then three meals over a period of a few weeks was aimed at babies starting solids at three or four months of age, whose digestive systems were really too immature for solids.  Babies of six months and over are less likely to react badly to new foods, because their gut is more mature.  All you need to do at six months is to start to include your baby whenever you eat - it could be at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or when you have a snack - as long as she isn't tired, or grumpy.
  • Baby-led weaning works best if you are giving your baby her milk feedings whenever she wants them ("on demand").  That way she can carry on taking in as much milk as she needs and enjoy exploring solid foods as a separate activity.  Remember, she has no idea yet that solid food can fill her tummy, so, if you think she is getting hungry when you have a meal planned, offer her a milk feeding.

Tips for getting started:

  • Offer your baby solids when she's not hungry - breastmilk or formula is still her main source of nourishment.
  • Keep the focus on playing and experimenting.
  • Let your baby join in your mealtimes (and snacktimes) whenever possible.
  • Make sure your baby is upright and safe in a high chair or on your lap.

Finger Food:

  • Babies of six months use their whole hand to pick things up; they can't usually pick up small things with their thumb and forefinger until they're a few months older.  This means they must be able to close their hand around a piece of food to hold it, so it mustn't be so wide or thick that they can't do this.
  • Babies this age also need the food to stick out beyond their palm because they can't open their fist on purpose to get to it.  Sticks or "fingers" of food, at least two inches long, mean that half the length is available for eating while the other half is the handle to hold it with.  Broccoli is an idea first food because it already has a "handle"...So, wash your baby's hands and make sure she is sitting up securely, then simply offer her some stick shapes to play with.
  • If you are offering begetables, bear in mind they shouldn't be too soft (or they will turn to mush when your baby tries to handle them) or too hard (or she won't be able to gnaw them easily).
  • She may bite off a small piece and will then probably drop the rest as she goes to pick up something else.  This isn't a sign that she doesn't like the food, just that she isn't not yet able to open her hand on purpose or to concentrate on two things at once.
  • Make sure your baby is the one who decides what goes into her mouth - put food within easy reach (on her high chair tray or the tabletop).
  • Offer your baby a small selection of foods to start with.  Overloading her could put her off.  Have more food ready in case she wants it..."a clean plate" isn't what you're aiming for - it's important for your baby to eat only as much as she needs.
  • ALWAYS STAY WITH YOUR BABY WHEN SHE IS EATING OR PLAYING WITH FOOD.
  • You may find that your baby gags occasionally in the early days while she is learning how to manage food.  Although this may look alarming, it is unlikely to worry her, and there's no need to try and sto it from happening.  In fact, it may play an important part in her learning, teaching her how to eat safely by not pushing food too far back or overfilling her mouth.
  • Expect some mess!  Think about how to dress your baby and how to protect the area around her so that dealing with mess isn't stressful and dropped food can be safely handed back.  Remember, she's learning, not trying to make work for you.
"Female AND male circumcision are brutal, anachronistic, blood rituals that no longer have a place in civilized society." ~Marilyn Fayre Milos
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by on Sep. 14, 2011 at 11:13 PM
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Replies (1-9):
Curllyq
by on Sep. 14, 2011 at 11:14 PM

Six things you should do:

  1. Ensure that your baby is supported in an upright postion while she is experimenting with food.
  2. Start by offering foods that are easy to pick up.
  3. Offer a variety of foods.
  4. Continue to offer your baby breastmilk or formula as you did before.
  5. Discuss the introduction of solids with your pediatrician if you have a family history of food intolerance, allergies, or digestive problems or any other concerns about your baby's health or development.
  6. Explain how BLW works to anyone caring for your baby.

Six things you shouldn't do:

  1. Don't offer your baby foods that aren't good for her, such as "fast" foods, prepackaged meals, or foods that have added salt or sugar.  Keep foods that present an obvious danger of choking out of her reach.
  2. Don't offer your baby solid food when she is hungry for milk.
  3. Don't hurry your baby or distract her while she is hadling food - allow her to concentrate and direct the pace of what she is doing.
  4. Don't put food into your baby's mouth for her...Letting the baby stay in control is an important safety feature of BLW.
  5. Don't try to persuade your baby to eat more than she wants.
  6. NEVER leave your baby alone with food.

First Foods:

  • Babies up to a year old should have no more than 1 gram of salt (0.4 grams of sodium) per day.  Prepackaged meals and processed foods often contain levels of salt that are far too high for babies.
  • Some manufacturers list salt as "sodium"; multiplying the amount of sodium listed by 2.5 will tell you the equivalent in salt.  As a general guide, a food is hight in salt if it has more than 1.5 grams of salt (0.6 grams of sodium) per 100 grams, while a low-salt food has 0.3 grams or less of salt per 100 grams.
  • [Sugar] It also damages teeth - even before they come through.
  • [Unsuitable foods] Raw bran and bran products (often sold as "high-fiber" cereals) can irritate the digestive tract and interfere with the absorbtion of esstial nutrients such as iron and calcium; they shouldn't be given to babies.
  • ...trust your baby if he refuses a food - some parents recall that, as babies, their children avoided foods that they later turned out to be allergic to.

Tips:

  • Taking a bite out of a whole fruit before you give it to your baby will make it easier for him to get to the flesh.
  • It can be handy to keep some extra portions of vegetables ready prepared in the freezer, just in case you decide to eat something that you don't want your baby to share.
  • Mashed vegetables make a good not-too-runny sauce to serve with pasta.

Easy First Finger Foods For Babies

  • steamed (or lightly boiled) whole vegetables, such as green beans, baby corn, and sugar-snap peas
  • steamed (or lightly boiled) florets of cauliflower and broccoli
  • steamed, roasted, or stir-fried vegetable sticks, such as carrot, potato, egg plant, sweet potato, parsnip, pumpkin, and zucchini
  • raw sticks of cucumber (tip: keep some of these ready prepared in the fridge for babies who are teething - the coolness is soothing for their gums)
  • thick slices of avocado (not too ripe or it will be very squishy)
  • chicken (as a strip of meat or on a leg bone) - warm (i.e., freshly cooked) or cold
  • thin strips of beef, lamb, or pork - warm (i.e., freshly cooked) or cold
  • fruit, such as pear, apple banana, peach, nectarine, mango - either whole or as sticks
  • sticks of firm cheese, such as cheddar or Gloucester
  • breadsticks
  • rice cakes or toast "fingers" - on their own or with a homemade spread, such as hummus and tomato, or cottage cheese

And, if you want to be a bit more adventurous, try making your own versions of:

  • meatballs or mini-burgers
  • lamb or chicken nuggets
  • fishcakes or fish fingers
  • falafels
  • lentil patties
  • rice balls (made with sushi rice, or basmati rice with dahl)

Remember, you don't need to use recipes specifically designed for babies, provided you're careful to keep salt and sugar to a minimum.

Bread

  • Bread can be a good finger food, but babies under a year old shouldn't have more than two slices a day because it tends to be high in salt.  Most breads are easier for young babies to cope with if they are toasted than if they are soft.  White bread, in particular, goes quite doughy once it's wet and can be difficult to manage in the mouth - especially when it's very fresh.  Flat breads, such as chapattis, pita, and naan, are less crumbly, so may be easier for your baby to handle at first.
  • Breadsticks are handy for dipping into soft foods such as hummus; they can be given to your baby ready loaded until he is able to "dip" for himself.  Salt-free rice cakes are a good alternative bread, particularly for spreading with soft food or a thick sauce.

Pasta

  • Pasta twists (fusilli), shells, and bows are less slippery and easier to grip than smoother shapes; your baby will probably find most foods - including pasta - easier to manage "dry" (i.e., without sauce) at first.  Try offering some with sauce and some without so he can try both.

Ideas for Dippers

  • breadsticks
  • pieces of chapatti, pita bread, or toast
  • oat cakes or rice cakes (salt-free) - these may be easier to dip if they are broken in half first
  • sticks of firm fruit, such as apple
  • raw vegetable sticks: carrot, celery (strings removed), red or green peppers, zucchini, cucumber, green beans, sugar-snap peas
  • lightly steamed whole baby corn
  • roasted vegetable fingers: carrot, pumpkin and other squashes, parsnip, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.

Easy-to-make savory dips

  • hummus
  • guacamole
  • mixed bean dip
  • kidney bean and tomato
  • red pepper and butter bean
  • cheese sauce dip
  • cream cheese and yogurt with chives
  • yogurt and tofu
  • yogurt and cucumber
  • dahl (lentils with spices)
  • eggplant dip (baba ganoush)

Breakfast

  • Babies can often manage mushy things such a cereal and milk fairly well with their finger if they're allowed to practice, so he may be able to share what everyone else is eating.
  • Remember to allow plenty of time - breakfast can be very rushed in many households, and babies need time both to experiment with food and to eat.
  • Offer your baby plenty of variety throughout the week
  • Read labels carefully: many commercial brands of cereals (especially those aimed at children) have very high levels of sugar and salt.
  • Cereals coated in chocolate, honey, or sugar should be avoided altogether, along with high-fiber bran-based cereals...

Breakfast ideas

  • Fresh fruit.
  • Hot cereal.  While cooking you can add: stewed or grated apples or pears, blackberries, dried apricots, dates, cranberries, or figs.  Fruit puree, strawberries, or a little molasses can be added at the table.
  • Live, full-fat natural yogurt with fresh fruit.
  • Scrambled egg (well cooked).
  • Cold cereal - with or without milk.
  • Toast, oat cakes, or rice cakes spread with cream cheese or 100 percent fruit spread.
  • Baked Beans on toast.
  • Cheese on toast.

Easy Snacks and Food on the Move

  • fruit (such as apples, pears, and bananas)
  • salad (tomatoes, sticks of cucumber, peppers, and celery, with strings removed)
  • cold cooked vegetables (carrots, broccoli, etc.)
  • cold cooked corn-on-the-cob
  • sandwiches
  • pieces of cheese
  • pasta salad (or cold cooked pasta)
  • yogurt - plain, full-fat, live yogurt with fresh fruit added is best (flavored yogurts often contain a lot of sugar)
  • avocado dip or hummus, with breadsticks, carrot sticks, etc.
  • low-salt oat cakes, rice cakes, or toast, spread with cream cheese or sugar-free fruit spreads
  • dried apricots or other dried fruits (in moderation - they can damage teeth if given too often).  Brand that have not been treated with sulfur dioxide are best. (Nonsulfured apricots are usually dark brown, rather than bright orange)
  • freshly made fruit smoothies
  • dry, low-sugar breakfast cereal

Remember to read labels very carefully.  Teething biscuits and many prepackaged snacks aimed at children tend to be full of sugar and additives and are best avoided.

Healthy Desserts

  • fresh fruit
  • fruit salad
  • plain full-fat live yogurt with fresh or stewed fruit
  • homemade rice pudding
  • homemade egg custard
  • apple crumble (made with sweet eating apples rather than cooking apples so you don't need to add much sugar)
  • baked pears or apples

 

Next is a good Q&A section I'm not going to include but it covers:

  • why you don't need to introduce one taste/food at a time
  • why you don't need mesh feeders
  • vitamin supplements
  • cow's milk
  • why you shouldn't give baby cereal
  • iron
  • deli meat and hot dogs

The next chapters cover solids after introduction:

  • 5. After the Early Days
  • 6. Baby-Led Weaning and Family Life
  • 7. A Healthy Diet for Everyone
  • 8. Troubleshooting
  • Conclusion
  • Appendices

 

Hope this is helpful :)

Curllyq
by on Sep. 14, 2011 at 11:23 PM

This was, by far, the most valuable resource I found in this pregnancy, and is third of all my parenting books only behind "Thinking Woman's Guide..." and "Ina May's Guide..."!!

sreichelt26
by on Sep. 15, 2011 at 3:06 AM
Love this book! I've recommended to so many people. The whole time I read it I couldn't help but think "this makes so much more sense!"
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mommyofblueyes
by Ape on Sep. 15, 2011 at 3:16 AM

Thanks for posting.  We are doing baby-led weaning, so this is good info!  :)

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Misery_Stitches
by on Sep. 15, 2011 at 3:47 AM
thank you for this!

we did blw mostly with my son (babysitters still gave him mashed coz they were too chicken to give real food lol). we unfortunately couldn't afford books on the subject though so got my knowledge of it from parenting forums etc. it is so great to be able to read further into this!!!

i wish i knew about blw with my daughter, she instead went through the puree, mash, lumpy, solid thing coz it was all i knew back then
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BettyBlythe
by on Sep. 15, 2011 at 3:53 AM
Thanks for sharing! :)
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tamidawn
by Baroness on Sep. 15, 2011 at 4:28 AM
Great info!!
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Curllyq
by on Sep. 15, 2011 at 8:48 AM

me too!!!  I waisted SO much time making purees for my sons :(  I'm so glad I found this this time, being the third, I DO NOT have time to sit down and spoon-feed her expensive store-bought food, let alone make the food! lol

Quoting Misery_Stitches:

thank you for this!

we did blw mostly with my son (babysitters still gave him mashed coz they were too chicken to give real food lol). we unfortunately couldn't afford books on the subject though so got my knowledge of it from parenting forums etc. it is so great to be able to read further into this!!!

i wish i knew about blw with my daughter, she instead went through the puree, mash, lumpy, solid thing coz it was all i knew back then


"Female AND male circumcision are brutal, anachronistic, blood rituals that no longer have a place in civilized society." ~Marilyn Fayre Milos
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SoniaL
by on Sep. 15, 2011 at 8:56 AM

Thanks for sharing! This is great info and important to share.  I did the same thing. I bought babyfood for my first DD. made it for #s 2 &3 and then learned about baby-led with #4. I wish i had done this all along!

Quoting Curllyq:

me too!!!  I waisted SO much time making purees for my sons :(  I'm so glad I found this this time, being the third, I DO NOT have time to sit down and spoon-feed her expensive store-bought food, let alone make the food! lol

Quoting Misery_Stitches:

thank you for this!

we did blw mostly with my son (babysitters still gave him mashed coz they were too chicken to give real food lol). we unfortunately couldn't afford books on the subject though so got my knowledge of it from parenting forums etc. it is so great to be able to read further into this!!!

i wish i knew about blw with my daughter, she instead went through the puree, mash, lumpy, solid thing coz it was all i knew back then



http://leangreenmommy.wordpress.com/

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