"Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well;...
and not today's pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man."
~James H. West

A guide to baby led weaning: some practical considerations explored:

Some practical considerations:

Be patient, it takes some time for babies to get used to solid foods.  My baby just played with her food mostly and seemed to spit everything out for the first two months.  I despaired at times, particularly as I was following the baby led weaning approach and wondered if I should just give up and puree and spoon feed.  I was really glad I persevered! She was practicing her gag reflex and learning how to manage food in her mouth.

What about choking?

Make sure your child is developmentally ready. Wait until your baby is six months old and can sit up properly, holds it’s head up, doesn’t have a strong tongue protruding reflex still and seems obviously interested in food (grabbing stuff out of your hands!)

Keep an eye on your baby and never leave them unattended when eating.  Your baby will often seem to gag and regurgitate food in the beginning, mostly this is just them practicing their gag reflex… which is a good thing as it helps prevent choking.  

The first two months bub will play and explore more than eat…

Problem with introducing purees and “drinkable food” is that they don’t get enough opportunity to practice their gag reflex and are therefore arguably at greater risk of choking later when you do introduce solid foods.

What about food poisoning?

Be weary of high risk foods like: eggs, chicken and fish, dairy and honey.

Be vigilant about freshness of food and washing your hands and bubs before feeding.

Always wash fruit- not just for pathogens but for pesticides- if not organic rinse them in apple cider vinegar

Be extra cautious about leftovers and pre-prepared foods- if you are going to use them you need to heat them thoroughly to kill the germs and then leave them to cool enough for baby to tolerate without letting them spoil.

What about toxins and environmental stresses?

Choose the best quality food you can reasonably afford and if possible organic meat, chicken and dairy.

 Use filtered or distilled water or spring or filtered boiled water for your baby.

Avoid preservatives and artificial additives as much as you can in their first year.

Try to avoid using aspirin, paracetamol, and antibiotics in their first year?

What about meeting nutritional needs?

Baby lead weaning is a great approach and experiments show that babies intuitively often eat to fulfill their nutritional needs if given the opportunity.

This approach works best if you are diligent about giving your baby a wide variety of real foods to experiment with… for example vegetables, fruits, proteins and low allergy grains (start with wheat free).

Be careful not to get caught in the trap of: my baby likes… or my baby won’t eat…

Repeated exposure works, a baby may need to see or taste a new food a few times before it decides it likes it or chooses to eat it.  While you don’t want to force your baby to eat any foods, you can offer a food another day that your baby has previously refused

What about allergies?

Most common food allergies and chemical intolerances in children are:

  • Wheat and other gluten containing grains
  • Milk and other dairy produces containing casein
  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Salicylates (as in aspirin)
  • Foods in the nightshade family (white potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers)
  • Paracetamol
  • Tartrazine (E102), Benzoic acid (E210) and monosodium glutamate (MSG/E621)

(Source: Holford & Braly, Hidden Food Allergies)

If you or someone in the immediate family has a sensitivity or suspected allergy then best to avoid those foods as first foods. I would hold off introducing them until nearer 12 months and then only one at a time:

  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Soya
  • Nuts (peanuts and cashews)

Watch for Symptoms and changes for up to 3 days after introduction:

Rash or eczema, redness or nappy rash, runny nose, rubbing nose, tugging ear, irritable or unsettled, change in poohs…

A personal example:

My bub doesn’t get nappy rash… but I can guarantee that if I give her tomato today by tomorrow she will be red and inflamed….

So, despite her loving tomatoes, I now don’t offer them to her anymore. I will try again in the future with cooked tomato in a pasta sauce or something ...

First foods ideas and guidelines:

Because your baby digestive tract is fairly underdeveloped, here are some recommendations for the order of introducing foods:

6-8 Months

Grain: Rice or oat cereal

Protein: chicken, turkey

Veggies: squash, zucchini, peas, carrots, parsnips, pumpkin, or sweet potatoes, Broccoli, cauliflower

Fruit: avocado, banana, mango, pear, peach, pumpkin, plums, nectarines, or apricots

 

8-10 Months

Foods can be a bit chunkier at this point (but still pureed) you may also notice a stronger food preference from your baby or what appears to be smaller food intake since foods are in bigger pieces. Remember to remain patient and allow your baby to guide her meals and food choices. Try to be offering balanced meals with small portions of a protein, grain and/or fruit and veggie.

Grain: kamut, quinoa, millet, gluten free pasta

Protein: beans, legumes, beef (opt for organic/hormone free when possible), kangaroo (minced)

Veggies: green beans, asparagus, white potatoes, leeks, parsnips

Fruit: kiwi, melons, cantaloupe, cherries, grapes (cut or mashed), blueberries, or figs

 

10-12 Months

Grain: same as above but wait until closer to 12 months to bring in gluten containing grains like wheat

Protein:  Add tofu, but avoid soy if there is a family history of soy allergies. Add white-fleshed fish, but not shellfish

Veggies: Baby corn, slowly introduce acidic veggies like tomatoes and watch for reaction

Fruit: Now you can make your own fruit combinations, though probably avoid the citrus until after 12 months (though lemon is ok)

Dairy: it isn’t necessary to introduce dairy, and probably wait until closer to 12 months before you do.  Then Goats cheese or products are preferable to cow’s milk products because they are more similar in constitution to human milk.  However if your family has no history of lactose or dairy (cow’s milk) intolerance you could try whole milk yogurt, cottage cheese, Colby, jack, or cheddar (but check the salt and preservative content and try to buy organic) .  Wait to introduce soft cheeses like brie until after 12 months

 

Now at eleven months old I have compiled a list of My little one’s favourite weaning foods…

Mum-Mum Rice teething biscuits

Avocado

Broccoli and cauliflower florets

Roast sweet potato and pumpkin sticks

Stewed organic beef strips or chicken

Cottage pie

Rice and lentils

Cooked Beans (black beans, kidney beans, barlotti beans, butter beans)

Peas

Steamed carrot batons

Strawberries

Lemon slices

Humus Quinoa

Rice

Nut spread, (almond, hazelnut, brazil nut and cashew)

Blueberries

Grapes

Fish

Cherry tomatoes

Quinoa crispbread (like cruskits)

Oat bread

Porridge (oats)

She surprised me once by grabbing a whole squid once and putting it in her mouth, and she loves olives!

Experiment!  Sometimes the best of both works!

I also noticed that I had much greater results when I combined a mixture of both… letting bub help herself and offering a pre loaded spoon

For example …

I put a selection of different foods in front of my little one, not too much to overwhelm her or she tends to push it around and throw it off her plate… but I also over her some on a spoon.

For example, she loves my pumpkin and butterbean soup (homemade) but she can’t efficiently feed herself yet, so I give her a tiny bowl full and her own spoon but I also offer her a couple of spoonfuls with a back up spoon…

This way she tends to actually eat more.  If at any point she seems disinterested, turns away, blocks the spoon with her hand or closes her mouth, I never push it or try to encourage in any way.

Sometimes also, your child might make signs of being “finished eating”.  My little one gestures at me to get out of her chair. 

This does not necessarily mean she is finished eating…  sometimes she comes and rests on my legs, I might put some food in my hand and offer it to her open palm… she sometimes will then take it out of my hand with her hand or put her mouth to my hand and try to eat it from there directly.

Another interesting thing that has happened is once I was holding her and I grabbed a handful of cashews to munch on.  She tried to grab some from my hand but of course… whole nuts is one of the few things I wouldn’t recommend feeding because they can choke on them.   So then she reached over and put her fingers in my mouth…

I decided to try an experiment, got a nut, chewed it in the front of my mouth just to break it up and then spat it into my hand and offered it to her, she devoured it and reached to my mouth as if to try and get more.

 

As disgusting as this might sound to some, it is a common ancient tradition amongst many civilisations, to prechew food before offering it to infants and is common amongst animals too… like birds and wild dogs.

 

Many will prechew meat before offering it to their babies, this has the benefit of breaking down some of the tougher fibres of the meat so it is easier to digest for bub.  Bub gets more protein this way, but will lose some of the iron to mum.