Introducing First Foods


Welcome to the November 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Feeding Your Family
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared recipes, stories, and advice about food and eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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I remember walking past the baby food aisle at the supermarket when I was newly married. I thought, "Someday, I'll turn down this aisle and choose cute little jars of turkey and gravy, sweet potatoes and pears for our little baby. We'll take pictures of our baby's face splattered with puree and enjoy all the giggles those first tastes create as a family." It was a fleeting thought, but one I can still recall.

Little did I know all the knowledge I'd gain between those shopping thoughts and the true moments of introducing food to my baby. Knowledge like how gut flora is forever changed as soon as anything but breast milk passes baby's lips and how infant cereal is full of lifeless ingredients. The notions that mainstream media and even personal history lodge into our minds are powerful so it often takes real effort to change our course of thought and even more, our course of action. 

As a mama committed to nutrition, first through breastfeeding and then through quality food, I wanted to be intentional about the food my baby received when we began the process of weaning. The term weaning is used whenever a baby isn't 100% being breast or bottle fed - it is usually a very gradual process over a few months or years. I researched what method fit my convictions and landed on baby led weaning which really ought to be called something more like baby self feeding.

For the most part, I have followed baby led weaning as a means to introduce table food to my two children. This means, that regardless of teeth, once my littles have been able to sit unassisted, exhibit a pincher grasp with two fingers and have interest in food, I start feeding them whatever I'm preparing for the rest of the family. With proper supervision they've dove into meals of pasta and meatballs, steamed veggies, fish, french toast and  more. The only variation to "strict" baby led weaning is that I do encourage some purees with mom or dads help as another way to experience a food texture and learn to swallow smooth things as well.
A few questions I normally get when my little one is grabbing at table food ...

Q: But don't they choke?
A: No, they don't choke. Choking is a blue in the face, can't breath experience. They do occasionally gag when learning to feed themselves. But, gagging is an important part of learning to chew and maneuver food around in your mouth. I always supervise my kids meals and if they've had something in their mouth for too long I'll encourage them to spit it out and take a smaller bite. Toast and other breads are one in particular I want for because it can get mashed into a dough ball on the top of their mouth and cause frustration/gagging.

Q: How can they chew without teeth?
A: I usually tell a little story about my grandma who had dentures and hated wearing her teeth. She ate just about everything with her gums! Yes, it took a little longer, but she was perfectly capable of gumming her food until it was soft and small enough to swallow. Same thing with babies. Their gums and tongue work together to break down food and this can happen just fine without teeth.

Q: So, what do you actually feed them?
A: Just about everything ... in moderation of course. You want bites big enough that they can pick up themselves and soft enough that it can be gummed. Some of our favorite first foods include:
  • Avocado slices rolled in wheat germ or nutritional yeast (it makes them easier to grip!)
  • Roasted veggie sticks - carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas
  • Meatballs
  • Toast sticks
  • Cheese slices
  • Fruit slices, especially ones with a rine for easier gripping
  • This PDF cookbook is chalk full of recipes specific for baby led weaners
Q: Isn't it messy?
A: Yes, baby led weaning is super messy! But, I figure the trade off of learning to feed themselves is worth it. Dominic may disagree - cleaning the high chair/floor is probably our least favorite chore! We often plan bath time after meals and attempt to keep things manageable by offering courses and doing a little clean up after each one.

Q: Do you dumb down meals for babies?
A: Kind of ... for example if we're having tacos, Max will just have a little pile of meat, cheese and veggies instead of an actual taco. But, if we are having curry, I don't modify the spices or flavors to make them more "baby". We've actually found that the stronger the flavor, the more likely Max is to gobble it up! 

Q: Are purees totally off limits?
A: Technically, with baby led weaning the goal is that baby totaling feeds them self, but this is where I modify things a bit and either put purees in a pouch or I feed baby with a spoon. Just like it is good to learn to bite and chew larger pieces I feel like it benefits my kids to learn when something smooth enters their mouth and doesn't require chewing. So, for yogurt, applesauce, soups and sauces I do help with a spoon. When they get older, about a year, I do start introducing a spoon or chunk of bread to help dip/soak up liquid. Greeek yogurt is also great because it is thicker and doesn't fall of a spoon as easily :)

Q: So, when do you start baby led weaning?
A: Baby's readiness is key to beginning. You want them to be sitting 100% independently,  showing a pincher grasp with two fingers and showing an interest in food. This often starts with just an interest in playing with it and occasionally tasting what is on their fingers and grows into more and more eating. Jemma didn't show a lot of interest in truly eating until 10 months, Max was a bit earlier, somewhere between 8-9 months. Remember, food is fun until they're one! They're not eating calories for true nourishment until after 12 months, it's more of a learning experience in the latter half of the first year.

Resources
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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated by afternoon November 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • Nut Free Desserts for the Holidays — Becky at Crafty Garden Mama will be talking about navigating the holidays with peanut allergies in the family.
  • Making Peace with My Picky Eater — Once upon a time, there was a boy who would try anything. And then he turned 3. Thus began the dinner chronicles at Dionna at Code Name: Mama's house.
  • Foodie Morphed by Motherhood — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis reflects on the changes of her family's food culture since becoming a mother, and shares a snapshot of their current food rhythm.
  • Introducing First Foods — Wondering what your little one should take a bite of first? That Mama Gretchen explains baby-led weaning/baby self-feeding and answers a number of questions that may come to mind!
  • Feeding Your Family — Coconut Oil!!! — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama is a coconut oil devotee. In this post, she shares her favorite ways to include coconut oil in her family's diet as well as why she feels it is important to do so.
  • We Thank the Earth for its Food! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle spends hours in the kitchen each day trying to make medicine in the form of food.
  • Focusing on Healthy, Gluten-Free Foods for My Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares what her family is doing to eat healthily along with her recipe for gluten-free peanut butter oat bran muffins.
  • Intolerancesustainablemum laments the misunderstanding surrounding food intolerances.
  • Don't Let Food Sensitivities Ruin Your Holidays! — Rachel, the Titus 2 Homemaker, talks about ways to enjoy the holidays even if you wrestle with food sensitivities.
  • Losing grains, keeping empathy: Paleo and fat acceptance — Lauren at Hobo Mama vlogs about her family's decision to cut grains to improve health — and hopes she can retain her position as a proponent of size acceptance even as she loses weight.
  • Easy Homemade Crockpot Mac & Cheese — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work, shakes off the blue-box blues with an easy crockpot mac-and-cheese recipe with no artificial dyes or excessive preservatives … just creamy, delicious, comfort-food goodness.
  • Extended Family Dinners — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about sharing family dinners with housemates and why it works for her.
  • Five Suggestions for Eating Healthy During the Holidays — No need to feel powerless when it comes to our highly sugared/processed food culture during the holidays &emdash; Andrea at It Takes Time offers tips to stay on track.
  • How to feed your family — no food required! — Jessica at JessicaCary.com is kind of obsessed with food. But, lately she's realized there's more to nourishment than what she cooks up in the kitchen.
  • Food as family medicine: living gluten-free and beyond — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama sticks to her gluten-free guns but sees room for improvement in her pursuit of a real-food family table.
  • Feeding My Family — Challenges and Growth — Susan at Together Walking shares what has been most challenging about feeding her two kids and how she has grown in the kitchen since becoming a mother.
  • How I Lost 75 Lbs — What I Eat & My Top 5 Tips — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how she and her family became healthy, happy and active.
  • The Weight of Motherhood — Revolution Momma at Raising a Revolution rethinks her relationship with food after struggling with post-pregnancy weight gain.
  • Geek Food: Pumpkin Pasties — While Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy and family might have food sensitivities, their geekery knows no limits. So, when faced with a desire to recreate Pumpkin Pasties from Harry Potter, they do not shy away!
  • Pumpkin Harvest Muffins — This summer Mama is Inspired and family grew pumpkins, and this autumn they are baking scrumptious, healthy muffins out of those pumpkins.
  • Reintroducing Meat to the Vegetarian Tummy — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares some of the considerations she explored before transitioning from a vegetarian diet to reintroducing meat as a protein source and a few tips on making it an easy one.
  • Thanksgiving Meal, Thankful? — Jorje of Momma Jorje has never felt terribly thankful for Thanksgiving itself. Perhaps that could change if she's a little more invested?
  • 5 Ways to Use Healing Bone Broth — It's that time of year again, when unpleasant little bugs make their way into our homes. For Megan of Boho Mama, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, homemade stock or bone broth is a natural remedy.
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5 comments:

Gretchen said...

We loved baby led weaning with our girl too! I couldn't believe how simple and inexpensive it was. I can't imagine doing it any other way.

I love your idea about avocado rolled in nutritional yeast. I can't get my daughter to eat avocado but she loves nutritional yeast on kale chips and popcorn. I wonder if this way would tempt her...

Gretchen said...

This is such a great primer on baby-led solids!! Love it. We did this same approach, and I agree that sometimes purees happen, I mean just naturally (mashed potatoes and yogurt, for a couple big-people examples). We usually let our kids try out the spoon by themselves, and they got the hang of it. While making a huge, fun mess. ;)


I love with BLW (just as with breastfeeding!) that you can feed your little one anywhere and anytime others are eating without worrying that you've brought along special food and have a place to prepare it.

Gretchen said...

We did baby led weaning with both of ours, too :) It was so much nicer than what I anticipated - which was blending whole foods up - which I think is still a great option! - but we really enjoyed letting our two eat what we were eating. And it encouraged us to eat healthier!

Gretchen said...

Thanks for a great primer on BLW!

Gretchen said...

I wish I knew more of this when mine were babies! This is a great post. If we ever give it another go and have a third this is how I'd like to do things ;-)