Saturday, November 8

Baby-led weaning, or expert-led weaning?

If you're a parent anything like me, you want to do the best for your kids, without going totally loopy from obsessing. So you read what you can, research, and give serious thought to baby 'issues'.

The little Wildflower took her first solid food a few days back (Nov 4th). After reading and reading and reading, I decided not to do the whole puree mash-uped food thing.

You see, baby-led weaning is the idea that what is most natural for babies is not to have their food mashed to a pulp and then have it shoved in by someone other than themselves, with an unnatural instrument like the spoon. Instead, what is supposedly more natural is for the baby to grab and chew when the baby is ready to eat solid foods. Baby-led weaning is as it sounds - the baby decides when to eat. And according to some, what to eat as well, within safe limitations.

The idea is that the baby's eating habit works alongside her developing motor skills and naturally growing appetite. It also seems logical, that having teeth seems the most natural time to want foods that require chewing.

Now, y'all know how I feel about using my intuition before following the advice of anyone - doctorate degree or not. Not only do I believe that mama's/papa's intuition is the first communication between parent and child, but let's face it the advice of experts changes. Next year they'll be telling us that feeding babies upside down is the most natural method.

So part of me was, 'yes, this sounds good'. I like this baby-led weaning business, as it sits well with my other parenting ideas. Namely, that children have brains and aren't here to be controlled.

But I don't know. The Wildflower seems hungry to me. She seems to be ready for something more substantial. She actually swallowed some banana on her 2nd attempt. Which I believe is quite good considering most food in these early attempts ends up in their hair or on the floor. She ate quite eagerly.

However, it doesn't seem that she is ready for finger foods. She isn't interested in holding the banana, although was happy to poke at it, and definitely isn't interested in anything that requires chewing. She's very happy for me to offer it to her pre-chewed.

I concede that it's very early days. But here's the thing. It could take days, weeks, or even months before she is happy to chew (teethless) food. In the mean time, she is becoming less and less satisfied with just milk.

I helped wean 4 babies whilst I was a nanny. All of them were given pureed food. They gobbled it up. I also witnessed this with my youngest niece. As soon as they were ready to grab food, they were given finger foods.

I just don't recall any adverse affects. Despite the logic and common-sense theory behind BLW, I'm not 100% convinced this is the best method for all babies.

As a fan of the Continuum Concept, I like the idea of following more primitive (thereby most natural, supposedly) baby-raising methods. I imagine tribal mothers giving their babies pre-chewed foods using their fingers to guide it into baby's mouth. Sure, no spoons are used, but other than that fact, there isn't anywhere near enough information about such mothers waiting until the baby could feed themselves.

I'm still mulling this one over...


  1. Intuition? Oh yes indeed!

    Weaning was an area that I found very fraught when my girl was a baby. I had some very tearful moments when I felt assailed (even bullied) by experts and other mothers telling me what I should do (to justify their own choices and assuage their own insecurities I s'pose), trying to dictate what I should give my child to eat, and when.

    It's standard practice here in Australia to start feeding your baby solids at 4 months. After that to introduce to them as many foods as possible to give them a wide experience of different flavours and textures.

    Whilst this may be a really good thing for some babies, I felt that it didn't feel right for mine. Or rather, that the process needed to be a bit slower and in keeping with my child's own rhythms. She just wasn't ready at 4 months. Also there are a lot of allergies in both mine and the Bloke's family so I didn't want to expose her undeveloped gut to things that I know cause problems for me.

    So I read a lot and went to see a naturopath, (whose advice runs counter to the conventional wisdom) and combined this with a strong dash of intuition. I came in for a lot of criticism and even attack over my choice. In fact, I don't think I have ever been so talked down to before or since. I wasn't prescribing this method for anyone else and made it clear that it was just a personal choice.

    It seems to have worked out well in this instance. My child of six has no allergies or reactions to any substance, is a great eater and is enthusiastic about a huge range of foods. She is robust and hardly ever, ever gets sick (touch wood, may that continue).

    Anyway, sorry this is a long rant. To get to the point. Not only do you seem very well-informed about both sides of the story, you also seem to have the strength and confidence to follow your intuition.

    For those of us who value intuition as a legitimate guide and source of wisdom, it's very affirming to see someone following theirs, and I think it should be supported and cheered-on, and protected.

  2. Thanx Doc, it's wonderful to hear of other mothers folowing their gut. Over here it seems 3 months is normal to start them! i don't know what the expert advice is over in the UK.

    I'm sorry to hear you were talked down to so severely, bastards!

    Of course, then you have the other side, the lactivists who insist they don't need solids until they're 21 (or something like that *chuckle*)

    Following one's intuition is the only sane choice.

  3. ooohhh, those eyes! What a beauty your Wildflower is!

  4. We introduced homemade purees at six months with my first son and also offered bigger, whole foods for him to explore. (I never seemed to have a worry of him choking as other moms I knew did.)

    By the time of my second, I had read about baby-led weaning and it really struck a cord with me. We minimized purees but gave soft foods (half a pear, half a sweet potato) and whole foods to my second child. He loved it! I think we started a little earlier than six months. I can't remember. He seemed ready.

    As with everything, I agree with you: ditch the "rules" and do what works for you. As you say, your intuition and Wildflower's wisdom are the only answers.

    Happy smashing/grasping/swallowing/licking as you discover your way!

  5. Thank you for sharing your experiences Stacy. I'm definitely going with the flow.


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