Tuesday 12 October 2010: Baby Led Carnage
I believe it was Katie's mummy who coined this phrase.
I am a big advocate of baby led weaning (so much so that 6 months ago I started a blog to keep a record and allow family and friends back in the UK to see what fun she was having). Not only is it the lazy mum's choice for feeding your child solids, but the benefits are brilliant - they learn fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and cause and effect a lot faster than with spoon feeding/purées. They also overcome the gag reflex quicker, although not before some rather entertaining expressions!
This obsessive need to purée, mash and chop food to within an inch of its life (and so that it in no way resembles what it started out as, much like a chicken McNugget!) has always seemed odd to me. I mean, what happened in the days before blenders, baby puréeing machines (costing a small fortune no doubt) and, dare I say it, the lowly potato masher or fork?
Somehow I can't imagine tribal cultures or prehistoric man sitting there chopping everything into the appropriate size lump, nor can I imagine a stage-by-stage progress system where baby is upgraded to larger and larger lumps of raw mastodon before it is finally granted 'fingerfood' status. No, in fact babies were happily gnawing on bones until modern science intervened and told us how it should be done.
Baby led weaning essentially takes it back to basics - you wait the WHO-recommended 6 months before starting solids (which in itself has a huge range of health benefits) and then just give them "finger-sized" chunks of whatever you're eating. Signs of readiness are: baby can sit unaided, grab at things and puts them in his/her mouth. These signs are coordinated rather cleverly by mother nature to coincide directly with the development of the gut. So when the baby's gut is mature enough to digest solids, the outward indicators will be present. Obviously premature babies are the exception here.
False "signs" that are a load of baloney are: waking during the night for feeds (what 4 month old doesn't go through this phase?!) and 'looking interested in food' (if they were looking interested in a cigarette would that make them ready to try it?). I briefly tried purée weaning at 4 months when she started waking during the night, mainly because I was told to and because 'it's the way it's done'. I stopped after a day when I realised that she was nowhere NEAR ready physiologically - her tongue-poke reflex was forcing the food back out and, although some went down, she couldn't even grab at it. So we just carried on on breastmilk and the odd formula top up and lo and behold she started sleeping through again within a fortnight.
So we waited and started BLW and never looked back. She loved it. Granted not a lot actually got eaten in the first few months (not through lack of teeth though as she happily gummed away until that first gnasher came in) but that's kind of the point. A baby will not starve himself and the majority of nutrition is obtained from milk anyway. Milk has a far higher concentration of nutrients than food, and things like baby rice tend to just be bulking out feeds and filling little tummies... So "hungry babies" are full but not on as many nutrients.
Anyway, 6 months on and she's still loving it. I don't have to worry about taking a cool bag with pre-mashed food in it, look for somewhere to warm it and juggle endless tupperware boxes, she just sits with us whether we're at home or at a restaurant, and has food from our plates. It's easy, it's fun and it's delightfully messy. This little trio is Claudia's first experience with yoghurt. The only yoghurts we can find over here are all 'fat free' which children aren't allowed... I found one yoghurt but it was so full of sugar it gave me a headache so there was no way she was getting near it. Finally today (in Supasave, Tina!) I found a nice Auzzie brand and thought we'd give it a go.
I think it was a hit :)