Thursday, April 7, 2011

Food Epiphany

As you may remember, we started trying solids with Evan last week. We tried organic brown rice "cereal", which he absolutely hated. Then we tried mashed up bananas for three days, which went over a bit better, but still not great. Then, on Monday, we started trying apple sauce. Again, not really that successful.

So far, this has not been a good experience for us or Evan. Yes, I know it's only been a week, but after giving him a chunk of banana, a piece of cucumber, and a raspberry to "play" with over the last week, I had a food epiphany. He doesn't get excited when we're eating because he's hungry, necessarily. He gets excited because he wants to experience what we're experiencing. So, he doesn't understand what we're trying to do with the whole spoon-feeding-him-mush thing when we're not eating too. It's not the same!

This prompted me to buy the book Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), which has been recommended to me by a few people (most recently Karen in the comments of my previous post about solids). BLW basically just means starting with finger foods right away and not bothering with baby cereals or purees. After reading the first couple of chapters, the whole BLW process just makes sense to me, and I just know it will also make sense for Evan.

First - "eating" in the early days/weeks is all about them exploring food, not necessarily ingesting it. They want to copy their parents and other adults (just like how they learn everything else). They also learn a lot from putting things in their mouths.

Second - Back in our parent's day, babies were starting "solids" at 3-4 months. But, because they do not have the motor skills to bring things to their mouth or to chew, parents had to spoon-feed their babies with mushed up food. Then, at about 6 months, they were told to start using "finger foods". Well, now the World Health Organization guidelines say to not start solids until about 6 months. So, logic would indicate that would mean we could go right to finger foods (which is what BLW is all about), but we have it so ingrained in our heads that we "have" to start with purees, many of us continue to do so without really knowing why (at least that was the case for me!).

Third - (and this point will definitely differ depending on the baby) Evan enjoys things so much more when he can explore them for himself. When he can bring a chunk of food to his mouth while we're eating he's so much happier than when we try to spoon-feed him when it's not our meal time. Yes, it's true that he's not able to bite anything off or swallow much right now, but he doesn't ingest any food when we spoon-feed him either. Right now it's all about the exploration and learning process, not the actual eating (yet). The chewing will come in a few weeks (and, yes, they can do that without teeth). Bonus: having Evan eat what we eat will really make us think about what we're putting into our bodies!

Some worries might come to your mind with this method - such as choking hazards, baby not getting enough food, etc.. I don't really want to get into those, since this post is long enough, but I suggest reading the book or visiting the BLW blog if you're interested. Adrienne, over at Irwin Beans, also wrote a post about BLW recently that has some really great information, including the many benefits.

There are a couple things that I'm still not sure of, though. The book does say you can ignore the rule of only offering one food at a time to see if there are any allergies. But, even though there is no history of food allergies in our families, I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with giving him more than one type of food at a time. It also says to try to offer food as many times per day as possible. But, since it is such a time-consuming process, I can't imagine trying to do it 5 times a day (that's how often I eat). I might start with lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner time.

For anyone that has done BLW, any advice or suggestions either about my concerns above or otherwise? What worked for you? What didn't?