There are many reasons why BLS is a wonderful route to choose. The one most often mentioned is that babies get to join in on family meals. Everyone eats at the same time! It is also a natural and enjoyable route. Babies develop appetite control, and a taste for nutritious food which leads to long term health. Babies who feed themselves gain confidence and learn to trust food. They can be more likely to try new foods because they know they won’t be forced to eat. Research indicates that common childhood problems such as constipation and food pickiness can be averted by allowing your child to be more in control of their first food experiences (I'll have to let you know if this is true in a couple of years). Another plus to BLS: it’s cheaper. Baby eats what the family is eating. What's not to love about that?
How do I know if my baby is ready?
Somewhere around the 6 month mark, your baby will begin demonstrating the following signs:
- She can sit up reasonably well
- She can grab toys and bring them to her mouth
- She chews things (watch out Mommy fingers!)
- She is intently interested in YOUR food (ex: Buttercup started crying one day while watching me eat)
- Her thrusting reflex is gone
Won't my baby choke?
Much of the literature published about baby led solids suggests that the associated choking risk is actually less than with the traditional method of spoon feeding. This is based on the premise that a baby is able to intentionally move food to the back of his throat only after he has developed the ability to chew it. The theory is that a baby who is controlling what goes into his mouth is less likely to choke than a spoon fed baby, who may suck food to the back of his throat before he is properly able to deal with it. This is why it is very important NOT to assist your baby when eating, should you choose to follow the baby led solids approach. If you help your little one to get pieces of food into his mouth that he could not have placed there by himself then the risk of choking increases significantly.
Gagging sometimes accompanies solid foods (purees included). Gagging is a completely normal reflex designed to help babies move food they are unable to swallow to the front of their mouth. It isn't a sign of a problem, nor is it choking. Choking is accompanied by a terrified look on the child's face. I was unlucky enough to see this face once (when Buttercup had a really bad head cold and was choking on her own mucous). Your child looks at you with these eyes like, "MOMMY MOMMY! HELP ME!!!!" Gagging might produce some watery eyes, but the baby doesn't look alarmed, so you shouldn't be either. It goes without saying that you should never leave your baby unattended with food.
Bottom line: gagging = good, choking = bad
If you're still scared take an infant CPR class at your local Red Cross
What about allergies?
By waiting until the 6 month mark, you are drastically reducing your child's possibility of allergic responses to foods. This is because starting around 6 months, a baby's gut starts producing a protein that acts as a protective coating, preventing allergens from being absorbed into the body. The American Academy of Pedatrics' latest research shows that delaying the introduction of certain foods does not decrease the incident of food allergies at all. With baby led solids whatever you are eating your baby can eat! Download this informative interview discussing the AAP's new recommendations.
There are certain situations where it might be wise to withhold usual allergy culprits such: as a family history of food allergies, if your baby has other allergies, or your baby has had a reaction to foods taken in via breastmilk. In these instances you might also try introducing foods one at a time, allowing 4 days between new foods to help identify potential problems.
Don't you need to start baby on cereal for the iron?
Is my baby going to get enough to eat?
If you're breastfeeding then you're already giving your baby the perfect food. God created a woman's body to adapt to her baby's growing nutritional needs. It's really quite remarkable! Did you know your body will keep changing your breast milk to suit your baby until the age of 6?? But this isn't a blog about breastfeeding... Anyway, trust your body's design and rest easy knowing that your baby is getting all the nutrition she needs. Plus, babies are actually very good at deciding just how much food their bodies require! In fact, many experts believe that overriding that innate ability (by encouraging children to 'eat up' at the point where they begin to show signs of being full) may contribute to problems with weight gain in later life. Solids are a fun way to introduce your baby to different tastes and textures, and begin them on a path of food discovery that will lead her to a long and healthful life.
Isn't it messy?
Yes, but I've fed plenty of friends' babies purees, and that was a pretty messy experience, too. I'm a neatnik and my baby's mealtime messes doesn't bother me because I know they're part of the learning curve. Here are some things you can try to minimize mess during feedings:
- Strip baby down to diaper before beginning a meal
- Put a large bib on baby (I've been using the t-shirt kind, some people use the plastic fallout-catchy kind.
- Put a drop-cloth under the highchair (we use leftover laminate kitchen flooring)
- Expect a mess and don't freak out about it. This is supposed to be fun, ok
No, they're not, especially if you're getting the ones without all the added preservatives, sugar, salt, etc. The problem many have when they go the puree route is that when a baby eats pureed food they swallow, not chew. Then when they are given food with more texture they can’t handle it because they want to just swallow it. Another reason is that the baby is not in control. They can’t decide how much to eat or how fast to eat it. This inhibits their ability to sense when to stop because they are full. Also, too many solids can interfere with milk intake- which means fewer nutrients. Also, think about this: what did they do before baby food was invented in the 1930's?
I am not a medical professional or dietician. Consult a qualified physician/professional before embarking on any nutrition regime with your child (even if you intend to disregard their advice as I did).
Adventures in Solid Food by Adventures in Solid Food is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at www.baby-led-solids.blogspot.com