Thursday, June 3, 2010

Baby-Led Weaning vs Purees or What do I feed my baby??

When I first started thinking about all this baby stuff a couple years ago I read Super Baby Foods about how to make all your own baby food and what food could be eaten by babies when etc.
At the time I remember thinking the author was a little out there on some thing, I didn't agree with everything she wrote. I thought it was a great resource for craft ideas, party ideas, and a mishmash or other things. I did like the information about when it was age appropriate to introduce certain vegetables. I liked the instructions on how to prepare the baby food.

Then I started to hear about baby-led weaning. If you aren't familiar with it, basically here it is: you wait until your baby is at least six months old before starting solids, then you don't have to follow all those "rules" about what to introduce when and can offer your baby most healthy (so no added salt and sugar) things you are eating, there is no spoon feeding or purees, just finger food. Your baby probably won't be eating much to start out with, but when he or she is ready they will start eating a lot more instead of just mouthing the food.

So those were the two books I had at kind of opposite ends of the spectrum. The one thing they had in common was not using commercial baby food.

I was really set on having E be exclusively breast fed for the first 6 months. That is what all the current literature and studies suggest is best. We made it over 5 months, but unfortunately, with E's slow weight gain (that is probably several more posts to explain everything) I was going to have to supplement before we reached 6 months. One night I made chicken paprikas and E was sitting in my lap and reached for my plate (pretty typical for him) but his hand landed in the paprikas sauce. He tasted it and immediately went back for more. Twice. At that point Mark and I decided we would try some solid foods to see what he would do. I had an avocado and knew that was a great first food and good for him. I tried giving him some chunks of it but it was probably too ripe for that and certainly too slippery. So I mashed it up and tried giving it to him on a spoon. It was a big hit. The next week I tried banana. He seemed to like that, but I will say he prefers to have some of my banana (he "bites" it as I hold it, really I think he is sucking on it as much as anything) rather than eating it mashed on a spoon.

Then I wasn't sure exactly what to do. I liked the concept of baby-led weaning, but E really seemed to want more food than he was getting that way. Mark really enjoyed getting to feed E, and I had baby food from my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law and father-in-law.

So what am I doing? I'm using commercial baby food. For right now anyway. I have it, I figure I might as well use it and get an idea what he is going to like before I go buy things to make my own and freeze it. Although I'm not too sure how much of that I'm going to do either.

I guess I'm kind of trying to combine these concepts.

I'm not doing cereals. Both books convinced me that regular boxed rice cereal is pretty much pointless. I got a box of organic brown rice cereal at one of my baby showers. I finally decided to try that last night. That was the first time I ever heard E retch. He CLEARLY didn't like it. A couple weeks ago I made some oatmeal and offered it to him. No retching with that but he didn't like it and was not interested. I've figured out that for him the more flavor the better. I tried adding fruit to it. He still wasn't interested. I should note that I didn't add breast milk or formula to the rice cereal, I don't feel like wasting it. I used water. Then I tried adding bananas. It was still a no-go.

E likes his fruits and veggies. He was lukewarm about the apple sauce I gave him. He likes peaches, green beans, sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots. I've given him purees of all of those now. Oh, and I gave him a banana mango mixture which he liked. I'm careful about how I give them to him. I never shove the spoon in his mouth. I either hold it up to his mouth and he reaches out and eats from it or more often, I get the spoon close enough to him and he grabs it and gets it to his mouth. Of course we go through about 4 spoons a meal because sometimes I can't get it back before he drops it, but I figure this way he is still in control of what he is eating (a big benefit of doing baby-led weaning) and he is learning to use a spoon, which he is going to need to learn to do eventually anyway. The thing I do like about purees and Mark especially likes is that we don't have to worry so much about choking.

The choking risk is Mark's biggest hang up with baby-led weaning. The book explains why it isn't as big of a risk as you might think and of course you never leave a baby alone with food, but even though I've read that I still get a little nervous about it from time to time. While I will feed E purees, I don't shy away from giving him finger food either.

He has had broccoli and seemed to like it. He LOVES sweet pepper sticks dipped in hummus. I gave him a strip of grilled pork to taste one night. He liked it but Mark kind of flipped out on me about that. I boiled some pasta shapes and have given them to him to play with the last few days. He sucks on them some but mostly he plays with them and they end up on the floor. He likes bread too. I don't like excess bread on my hamburgers and if I take it off and leave it on the plate he is all about getting that to his mouth.

The food thing is a big adventure. I see no reason why I can't give my baby purees on a spoon as long as I'm not forcing them on him and I see no reason why I can't let him experiment with real food either. I've lightened up about the age guidelines somewhat. I liked the Baby-led Weaning book for that, I learned that most guidelines in place are based upon starting solids at 3 months. I probably won't buy any more purees. I might make some, but by the time I need to I think E might just be old enough that he starts to actually eat more of the real food I put in front of him.

I think my main goal in all of this is to help E develop a healthy attitude toward food and a love of whole foods as well. Sure, I'm expecting to go through some macaroni & cheese benders with him when he is a toddler, but I'd like to give him the best start possible

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