Friday, March 9, 2012

Child-led solids: Sharing soft foods with infants

This is a re-posting of an article I wrote for Hobo Mama and had published in August:

Sharing soft foods with older infants was not a new idea to me. I totally understood letting a baby taste something on your fingertip or having a bite of mashed potatoes. With my older daughter, I made a lot of baby food myself (with my mother's help). I was trying to be health conscious and give her a good start. Her first food was rice cereal made with breast milk. That would not be my first choice again, though she did love it! I gave it to her when she was exactly 6 months old, by the book. She did continue to nurse until she self-weaned at 3½ years old.

With my younger daughter, I stumbled upon the idea of "child led weaning." I really don't like that term as it applies to solids. Weaning, to me, is more specifically about breastmilk. I think a more appropriate term would be "child led introduction to solids," awkward as that is.

I feel like Natural Parenting is often the lazier easier way to do things. It made sense to me to share my own plate with my baby! After all, that is where I gauged her interest and therefore readiness for solids. I started her with steamed vegetables that were still solid enough that they could be handled and that I would eat (and did).

Sasha with Veggies8mo Sasha enjoying Broccoli! She still loves it!
I've since gotten rid of this labeling bib.

I read a lot before I felt comfortable as far as fear of choking1. In fact, in the early days I did sometimes use a mesh feeding bag thing. I didn't care for it. Sasha hardly got any actual food through the bag. She wasn't truly getting to try out any textures. It was also a pain to clean and I didn't really trust the dishwasher to do a thorough job. The first time I shared solids with Sasha at my mom's place, she gagged. I was mortified. I pride myself in the choices I make, this one included. Having this new idea look scary in front of my mother made me question my decision. Sasha did, occasionally, gag hard enough to spit up a little bit. I never felt she was in danger. I stuck to it.

Sasha with Mesh FeederSasha chewing on her mesh feeder.

Sasha enjoyed nearly every food I gave her. I'm generally an extreme person, all-or-nothing, so I feel like I threw my streak by blending food for her a few times. Still, we tried steamed carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, fresh avocados, the list goes on! Some online reading helped, but I had to keep a few things in mind:

  • Babies in other countries eat spicy foods or raw fish, it all depends on the cultural foods of the area. I should not be afraid to try these foods with my own baby.
  • Elmo and I have almost no food allergies, so the likelihood of Sasha having any food allergies was minimal.
This meant I could share almost anything and that I didn't have to test one single ingredient on Sasha at a time.

I've read articles about how to get a picky toddler to eat, especially when they're so busy exploring their worlds. The article suggested that they wouldn't sit still to eat. Honestly, I don't even recall the solution! I've seen Monkey Trays and Muffin Tin Meals, which look great! This has never been a problem for us, though. Sasha eats plenty because I don't feel the need to strap her into her chair for meals. Part of this is because she doesn't like the clean-up afterward and neither do I! It is such a pain. Food in her hair, ears, under her thighs, it just gets everywhere. So... I sit where she can reach my plate and she comes to get bites from me or to pick from my plate whenever she likes. The only tough part with this method is making sure I drag my meal out long enough. Sometimes I finish first, but if she expresses an interest in more food, I simply get seconds and hold my plate for longer.

Tyler & Sasha share yogurtMy 12yo & 15mo sharing a cup of yogurt

I don't like yogurt, but recognize that it is an amazingly beneficial food. I do feed Sasha yogurt. Sometimes I let her have it in her high chair, especially with bananas cut up in it. This is a huge mess, but she likes to use the utensils. Otherwise, we just hold the cup and feed her bites as she comes back to us for them. This brings us to utensils. Sometimes when she is in her high chair, she still wants the food off of our plates, even though it is the same as what she has. She has worked out a system that if I offer her my fork upside down, she can easily take it and feed herself the bite. I didn't plan this system, it just kind of happened. Most of the time she'll return the fork once she has the bite. Every once in a while, she wants to feed ME with a fork. I'm okay with that, too.

Another important lesson I've learned along the way, as Sasha has cut more and more teeth: Sasha has got to have an empty mouth when she nurses! Even at 1½ years old, some things are just not chewable. Heck, I sometimes have a hard time with pepper or tomato skins, too! So, she sticks out her tongue and just brushes these leftover bits out of her mouth. She has been known to carry them around in her mouth for a while, though. If she has any food in her mouth, she will chew on my nipple! She usually stops right away to clear her mouth.

I believe that with each child we have, we're given the opportunity to be more and more confident in our parenting decisions. I was a bit unsure of myself when I started child led introduction to solids. Next time, though, I think I'll be much more comfortable with it! I'll just remember:

  • No mesh feeder
  • 6 months is not a magic number ~ I believe Sasha might have been ready sooner, and some babies take longer to be ready. I'm hung up on this date, though, so I don't know if I'll be able to beat this one next time, either.
  • A little gagging is not cause to freak out.
  • Pretty much anything I can eat, baby can try, too.
  • Empty mouth before latch!
  • Follow my natural instincts!
Sasha's Birthday BreakfastSasha's First Birthday Breakfast
Scrambled eggs, sausage, and french toast ~ just like Mommy & Daddy

After all of our experiences, the main key is that we'll do whatever works for us with the next baby. It may not be the same at all the next time around.

How did you handle solids with your kids?

Further reading is available from these links on Natural Parents Network: Feed With Love and Respect: Solids.



1 Before introducing solids, you should definitely familiarize yourself with what to do about it. If your child is coughing or gagging, she can still breathe (and therefore not choking). Encourage her to cough, which is the most effective way to dislodge food blocking the airway. Some children gag (not choke) as they're becoming used to the texture and process of eating solid foods.

2 comments:

  1. Empty mouth before latch! That's a good one to remember! Joe will keep food on his palette for up to an hour after he starts chewing it, and a couple of times he hasn't had a good latch while he's nursing, and when I look to see why, he's got chewed up food in his mouth! :)

    We did some home made purees or steamed foods with Joe and some jars, too, but for the most part, it's BLW all the way. He has 6 teeth now, so he'll tackle almost anything with much gusto!

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  2. I had done this with my 2nd child. She is 15 month old and still loves all foods. I hope she becomes a foodie when she's older, because my 1st daughter still doesn't eat! it's so annoying. But, I don't know why parents don't know about the choice of BLW

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