Starting solid foods the right way
My wife and I had our first child 10 months ago as of this writing (this article originally appeared at Rebooted Body) — our beautiful daughter Noelle. We both agreed that we would shun the majority of advice offered by conventional wisdom and mainstream sources as they just don’t align with raising a happy, healthy, rebooted baby.
Childhood obesity, adult diseases finding their way to children’s bodies, kids with no mobility or agility, broken spirits, tiny minds programmed by television and electronic games, piss poor education maligned with government babysitting, and a continuing laundry list: that’s the definition of what it means to be a child in today’s world.
Not us. Not her.
How the mainstream does weaning.
Even though eating at a restaurant isn’t optimal, my wife and I love to go out. And we enjoy taking our daughter with us. What we don’t enjoy is seeing all the babies eating baby cereal.
That’s the #1 go to food for parents starting their babies on solids and it’s mind blowing. Have you read the ingredients on this stuff? It’s gluten, GMOs, chemicals, sugar, and unhealthy oils pressed into little pellets.
So, from the start we’re saying: here, let me predispose you to sugar addiction, disease, and a busted metabolism.
Is that really what’s best?
The second thing we see a lot of is babies being fed with a spoon from a jar. While baby food is far healthier than baby cereal, it’s the process of eating that’s actually in question here. More on that later.
What do babies need from food?
Babies need what adults need: vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. There is a dietary requirement for these things. Baby cereal has precisely none of those things (no matter how many vitamins it says baby cereal is “fortified” with).
You know what babies (and all humans) have no dietary requirement for? You guessed it: wheat, chemicals, added sugars, and corn. You know what baby cereal is made of? All of those things.
What percentage of babies do you think eat these processed foods? I haven’t done any studies but based on observation I’d say the vast majority. And then — just like with our grown human population — we prescribe them medications to deal with the ailments that are likely caused by these eating habits.
Babies are crawling around with eczema, constipation, reflux, and more. In most cases, these ailments are completely preventable. So the obvious question is: are we doing what’s best for children or what’s best for the agricultural industry?
What should babies be eating?
Babies should be eating what we eat (and we should be eating the right things).
This is really important. A constant theme is going to run through everything I talk about: modeling. If you want your children to behave a certain way, you must first behave that way yourself. Got it?
We feed Noelle grass fed ground beef, sweet potato, mango, avocado, blueberries, apple, carrots, and similar. It’s just cut up pieces from whatever we’re eating. It’s not processed and it’s not from a jar.
Is it convenient? No. Is it what’s best for her? Yes.
How they’re eating is just as important as what they’re eating.
Part of raising and leading healthy, happy children is letting them explore the world around them. And since, by nature, they don’t have much control over their lives at this stage, we need to offer them as much control as possible.
Baby led weaning is an important part of all of this.
It starts by offering food in front of them (preferably when they’re not restrained by a device like a high chair) and just observing. The picture at the top of this post is my daughter on the floor exploring avocado.
If the baby hasn’t yet developed a pincher grasp and coordination that’s adequate enough to get the food to their own mouth, they’re not ready to eat yet so stick to the breast milk. If they’ve already developed those skills, sit back and let them experience the empowerment of feeding themselves.
That’s what we’re after here: babies learning about the world and succeeding on their own. Shoving a spoon in their mouth while making airplane noises is akin to a food dictatorship where baby is treated like both an idiot and a toy. That’s no way for a rebooted baby to grow up.
If you’ve done the spoon thing before and all the antics that go along with it, you don’t have to feel guilty. Nobody is sentencing you to bad parent land. Just commit to doing better in the future. That’s all we’re about because it’s all we can do.
Commit to what’s best for the baby.
If you’re choosing what to feed and a method of feeding based on what’s convenient and least messy, I want to challenge you to take a few steps back.
Our goal as parents is to do what’s best, not what’s easiest. You made the choice to make a baby, now meet their needs wholeheartedly rather than haphazardly.
Action plan: Choose real food, don’t over-prepare it for them (for example, a banana doesn’t need to be cut into pieces — just let them pick the thing up and figure it out), and then let them eat it on their own.
Have you tried baby led weaning before? Are you interested, but have questions? Let us know in the comments section below…
Kevin GearyAll stories by: Kevin Geary
Honestly – I wish the baby led weaning crowd went just a tad further. We always just fed our daughter exactly what we were eating, and it was incredibly convenient. I know this is possible in part because we have an excellent diet – very vegetable/fruit heavy with whole grains and good sources of fat and protein, mostly organic. We love to cook and eat a variety of flavors.
Most of what I see with BLW recommends single-foods like you mention, some avocado here, banana there. On BLW forums I often see parents agonizing over whether to introduce sweet potato or avoado first. My daughter definitely eats single-item foods if that’s what we’re having, but she also eats fully spiced curries, stews, and stir-fries. Her first food was a peach I was eating that she reached for and then happily held and sucked on for a bit when I offered to share.
We never followed recommendations to try one food ingredient at a time because after reviewing the literature I didn’t feel it was evidence based, and it’s also downright inconvenient. One ingredient at a time would have meant it took us weeks to introduce a single dish. And it would have missed part of the critical sensitive period babies have for developing their palate which is at it’s most malleable between 7 and 9 months.
The official recommendations on spacing between new foods has been reduced to one day and honestly I fully expect this recommendation to be a quaint relic by the time our kids reproduce. It just doesn’t make sense – this isn’t how humans engage with food, and based on our evolving knowledge of the immune system and food allergy I honestly think early exposure to as many ingredients as possible is the best protection we can give our kids (just see current research on peanut allergies).
Anyway – a tiny rant on a very good article, but seriously – I feel like if we all just worked on having awesome diets and then fed our babies off our plates from the time they started on solids everything would be a lot simpler and we’d have way fewer picky eaters.
I much prefer a gradual introduction of solids initially with purees & spoons then experimentation with food textures, followed by mesh feeders and finger foods. I develop my LO’s dexterity with activities and we def enjoy sensory play. He is a big fan of feeding me with a spoon/finger foods – he learns the skill and we don’t take unnecessary risks.
I do not buy this “he looks like he’s choking but it’s perfectly safe” story. There is definitely a risk of choking. My paediatrician sees so many kids with sore throats from this Pinterest version of BLW . Little kids swallowing chunks of meat after barely gumming it, leaving their tummies with the task of having to digest these lumps not nearly broken down enough by their saliva.
The studies everyone cites for BLW do not advocate giving a 6mo huge chunks of foods. They advocate allowing the child freedom to explore his food (messy play), not forcing the child to eat a certain amount and advise that oral motor skills are improved when baby is offered food soft enough to be mashed by simply pressing the tongue against the upper palate. Pieces smaller than your pinky fingernail not huge wedges.
BLISS instead of the mainstream BLW, suits me.
Here’s an excellent site on the combination approach. The author is a trained feeding therapist:
It doesn’t have to be BLW or nothing. The spoon and purees are not the devil and there isn’t anything wrong with your LO if he/she isn’t interested in self feeding. We all figured it out eventually. Lastly, learn about infant CPR, that gag reflex can only do so much.