Your Guide to Baby-Led Weaning

Introducing solid foods to your baby can be a little stressful when you are not sure where to start, what to feed or how much. Simple is best when it comes to feeding your baby solids. They can eat a simple healthy diet just like you. By 6 months of age, they are less likely to react to solid foods because their gut is more mature. There is no need to puree everything for your baby either, they can handle soft foods easily. The rise of baby-led weaning and baby self-feeding is popular for good reason. Your baby knows how to feed themselves as they watch you. You don’t have to worry about how much they are consuming they actually know how much food they need. It is important to continue breastfeeding while introducing solids to ensure your baby is receiving adequate nutrition from your breast milk. Solid foods are just a supplement to your breast milk.



WHAT IS BABY-LED WEANING?


Baby-Led Weaning is a centuries-old, a paleolithic method, a natural approach for babies to learn how to feed themselves and start eating solid foods that the whole family can share. This is also a substitute method to spoon-feeding commercially made baby food from jars that is often highly processed.

THE PROS


1. Babies always end up liking and loving food.


2. It prevents picky eating.


3. It stimulates inborn eating abilities such as chewing and swallowing.


4. It allows babies to learn self-paced eating.


5. It promotes high skill development: motor skills, social skills, and coordination skills.


6. It prevents having nutrient gaps by having a wholesome, age-appropriate and balanced menu.

*Breast milk/formula milk will still be an essential source of nutrition aside from the complementary solid foods that we start offering to babies.


7. It reduces the risk of being obese.

*Babies learn to respond to hunger and satiety cues.


8. It exposes babies to potential allergens and prevents them from having food allergies or intolerances.


THE CONS


*Generally, parents, especially those first-time parents are usually required to take some CPR courses because of ‘the fear of choking.


1. Fear of Choking. What you should do to avoid it?

  • Make sure that the baby is sitting in an upright position.

  • Do not force-feed your baby, don’t ever put food in baby’s mouth.

  • Avoid distractions for baby as well as parents/guardians.

  • Let the baby GAG.

*What is Gagging? This is how babies adjust the food in their mouth where they can chew and swallow. It is normal for babies to do this, especially at this stage when they’re learning to eat on their own, how to chew and to masticate their food intake.

2. The Mess & Waste

*At the age of 6 months to 8 months, babies either consume or waste 3-4 tablespoon of food at a time. Parents and guardians need to serve appropriate food portions because not all the food you give ends up in their tummy.


3. It takes time and patience to do baby-led weaning.


4. Lack of Support

*Sometimes people around us are just against baby-led weaning, perhaps our mother, mother-in-law, and other relatives and friends that surround us. (Remember: You are not obligated to spoon-feed.)

HOW TO DO BABY-LED WEANING:

1. The 6-month Mark

Parents/guardians need to know when the right time to start feeding their babies. Remember to continue feeding babies with breastmilk for it is the sole source of nutrition.

“All infants should start receiving foods in addition to breastmilk from six months old onwards.” -World Health Organization

  • What if I start too early?

Prior to 4 months, the introduction of solid foods to babies too early is known to be associated with increased weight gain and adiposity not only in infancy but as well as later in their childhood. Research has shown that introducing foods earlier than 6 months is not beneficial as their digestive systems are not developed enough to handle the digestion of solid foods. Therefore, your baby is not able to receive the nutrients from the foods she is consuming. Introducing solid foods too early limits their appetite for breast milk limiting their nourishment further. Additionally, introducing solids too early increases their risk of developing food allergies. Prior to 6 months of age breast milk is best.

  • What if it’s too late?

There’s a chance of having food acceptance issues up until childhood.

  • When is the right time?

  1. Baby should be at least 6 months old

  2. Baby should already be sitting in an upright position on his/her own.

  3. Baby already shows interest in food like mouthing objects.

2. Have A Peace-Loving Eating Environment

  • Provide a safe baby chair

  • Eliminate distractions for baby and parents/guardians.

  • Keep an eye, observe, and sit with your baby every meal.

  • Set an eating schedule.

3. Make A Meal & Snack Schedule

According to the World Health Organization, in addition to breastmilk, from 6 months onward:

  • 2-3 times a day (6-8 months old)

  • 3-4 times a day (9-11 months old)

  • 3-4 times a day and 1 or 2 snacks a day (12-24 months old)

4. Offer Nutrient-Dense & Wholesome Foods

Don’t give your baby a terrible first food experience, here are some examples of baby’s first complementary food:

  • Avocado

  • Banana

  • Blueberries

  • Broccoli (steamed)

  • Carrots (roasted or steamed)

  • Cauliflower (roasted or steamed)

  • Cucumber Strips

  • Ripe Fruits like Cantaloupe

  • Scrambled Eggs

  • Other roasted vegetables

  • Foods that are high in iron like meat, fish, and poultry.

  • You can still make purees to feed your baby, remember that there’s still room for a spoon. It will help your baby to explore different food textures.


Why I don’t suggest commercial baby food?


Most commercial baby foods are grain-based or only consist of pureed fruit and vegetables with water as a major ingredient. They are lacking important nutrients for your baby’s development such as protein and fat found in an egg yolk.


Your baby is able to eat as you do. There is no need for expensive baby foods or spending hours preparing purees for them. Including them in family meals expands their nutrient consumption, saves you time and makes life a whole lot simpler. Your baby follows your example and they want to have what everyone else is eating. Making sure you follow a healthy wholesome diet is the key to your baby’s health.

Allergies

Current research states that there is no reason to delay the introduction of foods that may cause allergies ie. Peanuts; unless there is a history of peanuts allergy in your family. Whole nuts should be avoided until after 3 years of age due to choking hazards but nuts can be given ground or as nut butter.

If there is a history of food allergies in your family, you may want to consult your pediatrician. When introducing suspect foods; you should begin by introducing one suspect food at a time and serving the same food for at least 4 days before introducing a new food. This allows you time to observe your baby for any reactions to new foods. Signs that your baby may be intolerant to food include, abdominal bloating, congestion (chest or nasal), constipation, diarrhea, frequent regurgitation of foods, fussiness, gas and distention, irritability, redness around the mouth, skin rash, vomiting or waking throughout the night. If your baby experiences a symptom, try feeding it again in a few months once their digestive system has developed more.

Against Feeding Grains


Your baby’s digestive system is still developing and they have a limited number of digestive enzymes that are needed to break down solid foods.


Amylase, an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates found in grains, isn’t present until 16 months of age. Therefore, foods made from grains such as cereals and bread are very difficult for your baby to digest. Babies digestive systems do produce enzymes and digestive juices to breakdown proteins and fats such as pepsin, proteolytic enzymes, hydrochloric acid and lipase. Since breast milk contains 50-60% fat this makes sense that these enzymes would be present.


Grains lack the essential fat and protein that are needed for this stage of development. Baby cereals are fortified with iron but it is not readily absorbed in this form.


Additionally, grains contain anti-nutrients that promote inflammation. Anti-nutrients are the plants' defence mechanisms to protect their reproductive seed from harm in our digestive system. All humans lack the ability to effectively breakdown these anti-nutrients to render them harmless. Traditional cooking methods used to prepare grains that aided in breaking down anti-nutrients are not seen in most modern kitchens or refined processed foods consumed by the general population. Even when traditional cooking methods are followed it only slightly helps our digestive system effectively breakdown grains. A couple of the anti-nutrients found in grains includes lectins and phytate (phytic acid). Lectins cause low-level inflammation that damages intestinal walls leading to gastrointestinal distress. Phytate is a mineral-binding compound that prohibits the full absorption of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc. Meaning when we consume foods with phytates we are unable to absorb these nutrients and it may lead to nutritional deficiencies. Your baby’s digestive system is not equipped with enzymes to digest grains and our digestive systems have not evolved to be able to effectively process them.

Iron


Around 6 months of age, your baby's iron stores begin to deplete. Iron is important for the formation of red blood cells and transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of their body. Your baby requires 11 milligrams of iron per day at 7 to 12 months of age. There are two types of iron. Heme and non-heme. Heme iron is readily available and is found in meats.


Your baby needs FAT


Fat is critical for the growth and development of your baby. The human brain is 60% fat. With the majority of it being saturated fat. As your baby’s brain is rapidly developing during this time fat is an essential part of their diet. Adding extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter and ghee to their foods ensures they are receiving adequate fat consumption for their requirements. Additionally, EPA and DHA found in fish are needed for neuron development. Feeding your baby boneless fish is an excellent way to get these nutrients naturally.

5. Don’t Give Up!

Your healthy baby is physiologically ready to handle solid foods. Remember that every baby is different, some may take some time before trying and accepting new foods.

“PARENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT, WHEN AND WHERE THE BABY EATS. BABIES ULTIMATELY DETERMINE HOW MUCH, AND WHETHER THEY EAT.” - Ellyn Satters (Division of Responsibility In Feeding)

Brown, A. & Lee, M.D. Early influences on child satiety-responsiveness: the role of weaning style. Pediatr. Obes. 2015: 10(1); 57-66.

Buccino, Jennifer. Baby-led weaning: a review of the popular book, the literature and current Canadian recommendations. - https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Public/DCPNN-newsletter-Nov2014-Baby-Led-Weaning.aspx

Cameron, S.L., Heath, A.L. & Taylor, R.W. How feasible is baby-led weaning as an approach to infant feeding? A review of the evidence. Nutrients. 2012: 4(11); 1575-1609.

Fallon Morell, Sally & Thomas S. Cowan. The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care. New Trends. Washington. 2013.

Meyer, R. Infant Feeding in the first year. 2: feeding practices from 6-12 months of life. J. Fam. Health care. 2009: 19(2); 47-50.

Raply, Gill & Murkett, Tracey. Baby-Led Weaning. The Experiment. New York. 2008.

Ripton, Nancy & Potock, Melanie. Baby Self-Feeding. Quarto Publishing. Massachusetts. 2016.

Should I use baby-led weaning to start my baby on solids? -https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Infant-feeding/Should-I-use-baby-led-weaning-to-start-my-baby-on.aspx

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