Monday, October 29, 2012

Time to wean baby?

So the baby is five and a half months old and ready to start eating foods. It is funny how different I feel about starting him on food than I felt for the first two. With both of the first two I wanted to put off feeding them solids for as long as possible. My oldest had different ideas than I did though. I had been taught that if a baby had teeth, could sit up well and started trying to steal your food, then they were ready for foods. I was also taught that rice cereal is the food you start with. Followed by yellow and orange veggies and then bananas.

I was planning to not start the first until, oh maybe eight months old. But, she could sit at four months and she had teeth. I thought, four months is too young to start foods. And then she stole my banana one day while I was on the phone. I wish I had a photo for you. Basically, I had been holding her on my left hip with my left arm and was eating a banana with my right hand. The phone rang, I transferred the banana to my left hand and answered the phone with my right. After saying hellos and maybe a sentence or two, I looked at my banana and my daughter who had put that banana right in her mouth and proceeded to eat it. I was a little aghast at what had happened. But quickly reassured myself that it was only a banana and she was obviously ready to begin eating. I did not know that this could or would be called baby led weaning and quite popular in England in ten years. I guess Miss Froggie was ahead of the times.

Recently I heard about baby-led weaning. In England where this feeding method is popular, this does not mean the stopping of breastfeeding. It means the introduction of solids. I think I will use the other term, baby-led solids. From what I have read so far there are a few main differences between “traditional” introduction of baby foods and the baby led method. The first is the consistency of what is offered. In baby led solids, the baby is put in the high chair and very soft foods are placed on the tray. These foods are big enough for baby to grasp, but soft enough that they mash very easily in baby’s mouth. Then baby grabs foods and puts them in his mouth.

This leads to the second difference: in the traditional method it seems baby first learns to swallow foods that are put in his mouth with a spoon. With the baby led method the baby first learns to get the food in his mouth and chew it up. Apparently baby won’t be able to get the food to the back of his mouth and throat where he could choke on it before he has developed the ability to swallow it. This makes it important to not help baby get foods in his mouth.

The third part of baby-led solids is that the baby eats what the family is eating. To me this makes eating part of a social experience and the parents are not making extra foods and feeding baby separate from the family meal. From what I have read, there have only been a few research articles on baby-led solids.
According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal “weaning style impacts on food preferences and health in early childhood”. The study suggests that infants weaned through the baby-led approach learn to regulate how much food they eat which leads to a lower BMI and a preference for healthy foods. The researchers propose that together these factors could protect against obesity. It also reported that 93.5% of the baby-led group reported that their child had never experienced a choking incident.

Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics had an article in 2008 where it said there was “no current convincing evidence” that avoiding allergenic foods after 6 months of age has any effect on preventing allergies.

So I am interested in trying this method. I still have to do some more research to do and I need to get my hands on the book Baby-led weaning: the essential guide to introducing solids by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. I also want talk to our pediatrician at his six month visit which is coming up. But, I am wondering: Has anyone tried this type of feeding intentionally or not? How did it go?

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