Nutrition

How to Prevent Choking During Baby-Led Weaning

In my years of teaching classes on introducing solids with baby-led weaning I always go around the room and ask everyone to introduce themselves and to share what their biggest concern they’re hoping to learn about. Number one worry, far and away, is a fear of choking.

It just seems scary to give a tiny baby actual pieces of food, doesn’t it? Possibly even dangerous! So why choose baby-led weaning to start if they could choke?

How to Avoid Choking During Baby Led Weaning


As I cover in my class, there are a few parts to this concern.

First is the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is a natural reflex that actually prevents choking because babies are designed to survive even first-time parents. Choking is the obstruction of the airway by (in this case) a piece of food. Gagging is scary, but not dangerous; choking is to be avoided if possible.

If you haven’t taken an infant CPR class, you may feel better taking one now. You can also do a little YouTube self-study which is better than nothing. I cover this more in my introducing solids course, but choking is silent while gagging is not. My mantra is, “If they’re coughing, they’re breathing.”

Is There an Increased Risk of Choking with Baby-Led Weaning?

A 2016 study in New Zealand followed over 200 babies as they started solids and found that 35% of the babies in the whole study had a choking incident during the period they observed. The percentage was across groups who started with purees or finger foods, because the issue was that a high percentage of the babies were offered foods that were choking hazards.

The best ways to prevent choking during baby-led weaning are:

  • wait until baby is physically ready to start solids, and
  • offer foods that are developmentally appropriate for your child

Babies can’t read calendars, so it’s important to watch their motor development to ensure they’re able to eat food and maintain their posture to prevent choking during baby-led weaning.

Signs of readiness include: baby can sit well without support, baby has lost their tongue thrust reflex, baby is bringing items to their mouth, baby is starting to develop a pincer grasp, and baby is eager to participate in meals.

As I mentioned, not feeding your baby choking hazards significantly reduces the risks! In the study I mentioned above, over a third of the choking incidents reported were due to raw apples. Learn from those parents’ mistakes!

Choking hazards during baby-led weaning include: raw apples, raw vegetables, unripe/hard fruit, citrus segments, whole nuts, popcorn, whole grapes, cherry tomatoes, hot dogs/sausages, food cut into coins, hard crackers/chips, hard/chewy candy

For more in-depth information, my Introducing Solids class covers the when, why, and how of starting foods with your baby, including breastfeeding and allergens.

Hundreds of parents have felt more confident and informed while approaching solid foods with their babies. You can, too!

Why We Chose Baby Led Weaning

Why We Chose Baby Led Weaning

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:

Eat What For Thanksgiving?

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

Stealing Mimi's apple at 8.5 months old
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 you're near San Diego with a baby around 3-9 months, I would love to see you at one of my monthly in-person classes in Hillcrest.

Doesn't work with your schedule or live too far away? Now you can now take the class anytime from anywhere!

The online version of Introducing Solids with Baby Led Weaning is ready to go. Just CLICK HERE for more information.

I would love to support you.

One Month of Meal Planning (Gluten-Free and Vegetarian)

One Month of Meal Planning

When I ran my January meal planning challenge, it was as much for me as for everyone else. I loved seeing what everyone else was making, what their goals were, and what changes they saw during the month.

At our house, our goal was to save time, energy, and money - plus try to use up some languishing pantry items stuffed in the mysterious depths of the cupboards or freezer. And we did! Sure there were a few days that we had to switch around due to life happening, but it was a relief to avoid the last minute decision making of what to make for dinner.

Overwhelmed at the prospect? I have an online meal planning workshop coming up. Or for more tips, check out my meal planning Pinterest board!

I only plan 4 dinners each week since we usually have enough for leftovers at least once, plus we have dinner at a friend's house most Thursdays. My husband works weekends and we often have activities, so I keep those nights open.

We also get a CSA (community supported agriculture) box of local veggies each Thursday at the farmers market, so we incorporate those as much as possible. We eat a little seafood at home, otherwise I'm vegetarian, and I'm currently not eating gluten, either.

Week 1

Polenta with Peppers and Mushrooms
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Spinach and Artichoke Quinoa Casserole
Homemade Gluten-Free Pizza

Week 2

Chickpea and Mushroom Polenta (we didn't love this one)
Lentil and Hominy Chili
Gluten-Free Crispy Orange Cauliflower
BBQ Tempeh Tacos with Shredded Cabbage

Week 3

Black Bean Enchiladas
Wild Rice Soup
Cold Vietnamese Noodle Bowls
Grilled Veggies

Week 4

Homemade Gluten-Free Pizza
Black Bean Tacos
Vegetarian Chili with Gluten-Free Cornbread
Stir Fry

What are some of your go-to meals?

If your best meal planning intentions end up in a mess of recipes and guilty takeout, you're not alone. Join me from home (wear your PJs, I won't judge) and we'll cover strategies to finally get you started with my online meal planning workshop.

January Meal Planning Mama Challenge!

I took a little informal survey last month about what moms were struggling with, and so many of them listed meal prep and chores as a painful obstacle to happiness and fulfillment.

Healthy dinner prep. A familiar sight, or a relic of the past?

Add to that the resentment of time spent shopping, cooking, and cleaning up afterward, plus the guilt after relying on not-so-healthy meals because you're out of time and brain cells, and eating isn't exactly enjoyable.

That leads straight to the snack ledge at Trader Joe's where food intentions go to get fat and die. Cue guilt spiral.

Sound familiar?

I've totally been there, and I'm a freaking health coach here. My husband worked a zillion hours a week (Ok, fine, 75 plus commute) and I was a giant sleep-deprived ball of stress and carb cravings.

Then his schedule changed to be less intense and more regular (clouds part, angels sing), and we did something drastic: we started meal planning. This is particularly ironic since I create customized meal plans for clients that take hours of research. But I was winging it for us.

FAIL.

Now as soon as the kiddo goes to bed on Sunday night, we take a whopping 10 minutes to sit down and make a meal plan for the week. Then we do a quick kitchen inventory to add to the grocery list as needed. I slot each meal on our shared Google calendar, and we're set. So easy it's almost embarrassing that it took this long.

Want to give it a try? You should!

Starting Monday, January 4th, I'll post on Instagram using the hashtag #mealplanningmama with our plan for the week. Comment with your own, or post using the hashtag so we can find it. We all get accountability, plus more ideas for our own plans. Win-win!

No one is going to put you in meal planning jail if you make mistakes, mess up, or fall off the wagon.

I'll post my tips and resources along with my plans, too, so share what works for you and your family. We're in this together.

CLICK HERE to download a meal planning outline with grocery list that I've used for many clients to get you started.

Here's to a happy healthy 2016!

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