Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) - An introduction

**DISCLAIMER**
I am not judging anyones feeding practices. I know the norm is to spoon feed and I completely understand that! My husband and I have decided to take on a different approach and I know people are not going to agree. But as I respect your decision, please respect ours!!

I have always hated the thought of giving my children store-bought baby food. It absolutely disgusts me. I remember my cousin eating it when she was like 10 years old. I put my hand in it by mistake and literally threw up. How could I possibly give my children that?

When we had Aiden, I had a plan of just throwing whatever we had for dinner in the blender or food processor and spoon feeding him...That is until I met a girl at a mommy group who kept saying she was doing BLW with her daughter. I had no idea what this "BLW" thing she was talking about. So one day I asked her about it, and I have been thinking about it even since. I am now really good friends with her and she lent me a book so I could do my own research. I am so excited to take this approach in feeding Aiden that I wanted to share this concept with others. Since it is food related I am probably going to share our progress here with you!

I am going to try to explain what BLW is. All my information comes from a BLW book, a facebook group, multiple blogs, and of course my BLW-expert friend :)

**NOTE**
I have not starting doing this as Aiden is only 4 months old. This is just my take on the process. We will be starting in roughly 2 months and I plan on sharing our experience with you as we move forward. If you think this is something you would be interested in, I encourage you to do your research as well :)

What is BLW?
It is the process of weaning a baby onto solid foods by following their lead...Not the parent's. It is a no purees, no spoon feeding approach. Around 6 months of age, when the baby can sit unassisted and starts reaching for food, you give them actual pieces of food (the same food you are eating) for them to explore taste, texture and smell. The baby feeds themself!! The parent offers the food, but the baby chooses what to eat and how much to eat. The baby sits at the table alongside everyone else and joins in on mealtimes.

Key Points:
  • A baby doesn't need any food before 6 months of age. Their bodies are not capable of properly digesting foods before then. Some people believe you can start rice cereal at 4 months of age. However rice cereal has no nutritional value and is basically empty caleries. The only nutrition they are getting is from the breastmilk you mix with it.
  • It is a natural weaning process. When babies are breastfed, they know how much they need and decide when to stop eating. By allowing them to feed themselves they learn to know that food satisfies hunger and they learn to know when to stop eating so they don't overfeed themselves (which happens a lot with spoon feeding because we as parents do not know when our child has actually had enough to eat)
  • A baby has a natural gag reflex which is located near the front of their mouth (at 6 months of age). When a child gets to experiment with food, they learn that they can not shove food in their mouth or they will gag themselves. As the child grows, their reflux gradually moves to the back of their mouth and the risk of choking is decreased. With spoon feeding, the child never actually learns that they can not shove food in so choking is more of a problem.
  • The chances of having a fussy child are lower. Since the baby is not only introduced to purees, they learn to accept different tastes, shapes and textures at a young age.
  • It helps develop the "pincer grip". Since the baby has to rely on themselves to pick up the food, they are practicing and improving their pincer grip. This is why you start with larger stick-like pieces of food and gradually move to smaller pieces.
  • "Food before one is just for fun". Before a year of age, most children are just exploring. They are not actually using the food for nutrition. All their nutrition comes from breastmilk or formula and their nutrition stores in their body.
Choking vs. Gagging
This is what scared me the most about taking this feeding approach. However there is a lot of information in the book and like I said I have done my research! You really need to know the difference between gagging and choking. It is OK and normal for the baby to gag. Like I mentioned before they are learning that they can't shovel food in. When a baby coughs, it is a good thing! You should never touch their back when they are coughing; chances are they will be able to recover themselves. *IF* the baby chokes they will stop breathing. This is where you will need to assist them in dislodging any food. From most of the reading I have done, this is very rare. AND it is actually more common in spoon fed babies since they don’t actually learn where their gag reflux is and how to recover themselves.

Disadvantages
  • It is going to be messy!! But eventually a spoon fed baby is going to have to learn to eat themselves as well. And when they do, it will be messy!! When my friend's daughter (who is 10 months and has been doing BLW since 6 months) comes over to eat, she hardly ever makes a huge mess. Obviously she has food on her hands and the highchair. But the floor is always clean.
  • BLW is not widely known in Canada, so a lot of people will have strong opinions about it. This is part of the reason I am choosing to blog about it! Just to let people know that we are doing this. We have done our research and hopefully they will respect our choice.
So there you have it! I think I have covered most of the information. I may edit this post to make sure I have included everything I think is relevent! But if you have anything you would like to add you can post it in the comment section!

3 comments:

Kyrsten said...

We more or less did this with Keziah and it was a lot less stressful then I had expected. She took very well to feeding herself versus us trying to spoon feed her. People are often shocked that she can eat pasta and hot dogs, etc on her own, but I doubt she would be had we continued to try and more or less force feed her. And very quickly she learned to go into the kitchen if she needs food and she asks:) We certainly had our scary almost choke moments, but it is part of the learning process.

Just Another Mummy Blog said...

I'm so proud of you for posting this Ash!

Thanks for the link back too.

I know you've heard me talk your ear off about BLW, but it really has been the best solution for us. Aislynn eats so well, and sits so nicely for dinner time. It's been so much fun for us to explore food with her. I can't wait until you get to go through this journey too and that I have another BLW mommy friend!

pippasmum said...

Hi! I'm a friend stopping by via JAMB. I hoe this works as well for you as it did for me. I didn't set out intending to feed this way but we kind of fell into it and it worked like a charm with both my kids. I honestly believe that if you do it this way, your child is actually less likely to choke because they learn how to deal with food in their mouth before they actually have the skill to move it back where it might cause a problem. It fits in so well with what we have taught them breastfeeding and is so natural. I would say that the first month or so can be a bit scary until you both get the hang of it but before you know it, the diapers prove that lots is getting in and you don't have to go to a lot of extra trouble and your baby can be part of what the rest of the family is doing.
Good luck and have fun with it!