How is your relationship with food? Do you get enough veggies? Do you stress eat? Are you a sugar addict?
This isn't to judge you - most of us struggle with food in some way or another. I'm not immune, either, I just have more tools than the average person.
After working with health coaching clients who still struggle after twenty or thirty years, when it came time to feed my son solids, I wanted to do it "right." Time for some research.
When most of us picture introducing solids, I'd imagine this is the image that comes to mind:
Most parents start their babies on solids waaaaaaaaaaay too early
Most pediatricians recommend introducing solids around 4 to 6 months. The American Association of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusively formula or breastmilk until 6 months.
A 2013 study from the AAP showed that in a sample of over 1300 people, "40.4% of mothers introduced solid foods before age 4 months. The most commonly cited reasons for early introduction of solid food were as follows: “My baby was old enough,” “My baby seemed hungry,” “I wanted to feed my baby something in addition to breast milk or formula,” “My baby wanted the food I ate,” “A doctor or other health care professional said my baby should begin eating solid food,” and “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.”"
I started my son a little after 6 months (he had a cold so we waited until he wasn't congested). In retrospect I would have waited even longer. He was sitting up decently but didn't have a developed pincer grasp (ability to hold something between two fingertips). I was planning to offer a mix of purees and finger foods, but he threw up applesauce and I got tired of cleaning it up.
So we went with straight Baby Led Weaning (BLW). And I'm so glad we did.
Why Baby Led Weaning Was Best For Us
The "weaning" here is the British term. Americans tend to think of weaning for babies as "stopping breastmilk consumption" as opposed to "gradually reducing breastmilk consumption by introducing solids." So if you prefer the term "baby led solids," go for it.
Our decision came down to a few things:
- I'm lazy. I was skeptical of commercial baby food but didn't really want to make my own. BLW meant we could offer the same (or very similar) foods to what we ate.
- I have strong feelings about bodily autonomy for kids (and everyone), so giving my son control over how and what he ate held a lot of appeal.
- In my coaching practice I've spent a lot of time helping clients re-learn how to listen to their own bodies, so it made sense to me to let my son tune into his own hunger signals instead of me trying to guess.
- A major reason to start with purees is because babies push food out due to their tongue thrust reflex - their natural protection against choking. If you wait until their tongue thrust reflex is gone (a sign that they're developmentally ready to eat solid food), they can simply eat table food.
- When you start with purees, babies learn to swallow first, then chew. With BLW they chew first, then learn to swallow. They'll eventually get chunky or finger foods, so why not just start there?
Now at 3 years old, my son eats a wide variety of foods. He loves fish, mushrooms, and seaweed just as much as macaroni and cheese. He eats chlorella tablets like they're candy. He also eats candy, but asks for a few pieces and then moves on.
Is it because of his personality, or because of how we introduced and offered food from the start? I don't know for sure, but there isn't much I'll change this fall when it comes time to start our second baby on solid food.
Want to know more?
If your baby is 3-9 months, I have Baby Led Weaning resource page and am offering a virtual class on Wednesday, October 19.
I would love to see you there.