Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book review: Baby-led Weaning

I know I said I should lay off parenting books for a while but I was about done with this one so I thought I should post anyway. Please forgive me :)

This book was so much fun and it made me really excited about starting solids with Hyrum. Here's the overall idea: Offer your baby safe, healthy foods and let them feed themselves. This thought 1) makes sense and 2) seems strange. We've all grown up with the idea of feeding little kiddos from a baby spoon and making airplane sounds to get them to open wide but this book squashes that notion as a necessity. Instead the authors suggest that babies develop self-feeding skills at the same rate their digestive tracts are able to handle the food and at the same rate that their bodies actually need solids. Here are a few of the general elements of baby-led weaning:
  • Many people in our society have an unhealthy attitude toward food whether it be picky eating, eating disorders, or obesity. The authors suggest that these unhealthy attitudes may begin in infancy when children are spoon-fed food. Spoon feeding removes a child's control over what to eat and how much to eat. The authors suggest that instead, families should be eating healthy foods together, as a family, and the baby (as well as all members of the family) should be able to choose what and how much to eat.
  • To allow your baby to feed himself, offer foods in manageable sizes. At 6 months, offer stick shapes because they pick food up with a palmar grasp and as they get older offer smaller pieces they can pick up with pinchers, offer child-sized silverware as they grow so they learn to use it as they're ready, etc.
  • To do baby-led weaning safely, never put food in your child's mouth. Babies can, when given appropriate foods in appropriate shapes to their development, handle it safely on their own. But, when food is put in their mouths for them, they no longer have the control over the food and the baby is more likely to choke.
  • Babies who feed themselves and are allowed to touch, hold, examine, drop, smoosh, etc. learn about food and also learn many other different things like cause and effect, gravity, how to handle different textures, etc.
  • Solid foods should not begin until 6 months old because this is 1) when their digestive tracts are ready and 2) when they can self-feed. This point was actually a big seller for me. One doctor will say four months, another six months, and another whenever they seem interested. It made sense to me that a baby's body was ready for solids as they became ready to handle them in other aspects.
  • Milk feedings should remain the sole source of nutrients up to six months old and should be the main source of nutrients until at least12 months old. The authors point out that introducing solids before 6 months can cause an early decrease in the mother's milk supply. Since breast milk or formula are far more nutrient-packed than cereals and other baby foods, babies below 6 months should have more breast milk or formula if they are acting hungrier or waking at night, rather than starting solids before the 6-month mark. They also point out that babies who seem interested in solids are actually just interested in just about everything. Curiosity is not a sign of readiness (kind of reminds me of the church's position on receiving temple covenants).
  • Babies should be allowed to exercise control over their food--both by feeding breastmilk on demand and by not forcing a baby to eat solids that they don't want to eat. This helps to create a healthier relationship with food, cuts down on mealtime tantrums, and allows baby to learn appetite control.
  • Babies only start to need solids at 6 months. Even though they're mostly playing and not eating much at first, as long as they're still having plenty of milk feedings and being offered nutritious foods at every meal, they're getting enough to eat.
Overall, I really liked this concept. I've watched too many kiddos who won't even touch something they've never tried before and I don't doubt it's because they weren't allowed to explore many different foods as a baby and young child. I also really like how it goes against the whole idea of an outside institution (especially baby food companies. I'm just not a huge fan of most of them) deciding what and how much your child should eat.

We've been doing baby-led weaning with Hyrum for a couple of weeks now and it is so much fun and so easy. We just give him what we're eating and he tries just about everything. Even if he makes the "gag" face like he doesn't like it, he still goes back for another try. Thus far, I'm pretty convinced and we're all having a good time. Best part, because we're giving baby what we eat, we're all eating healthier too


  1. I agree that your kids should eat what you do, and when they are ready for it. I also like the encouragement to explore your food tangibly. But, I disagree that you must always wait until 6 months, or that you can't spoon feed. Some kids are interested and ready before 6 months and others not until later. And you can spoon feed a baby without shoving food down their throats or creating unhealthy attitudes toward food. But that's just my personal experience: 3 babies, spoon-fed and allowed to self feed, started when they showed interest (one at 4 months, one at 5.5, one at 7.5), same foods we ate, homemade baby food and store bought, turned into 3 healthy non-picky eaters that love a variety of foods and still try new things (yes, even my stubborn 4 year old). I fully intend to do the same with my youngest.
    I like most of the ideas you listed though and I'm glad it's working well for you. That is one of my favorite stages of babyhood.

  2. We did but you can do it if you want to. Hyrum's first food was a sweet potato.

  3. Sorry, we DIDN'T! Not did.

  4. Hi!! So Eddie loves the sauces we've begun putting in his mouth, so I'm thinking of pureeing our food and letting him try it. So would we then not feed him with a spoon, but just...smear it on his high-chair and let him go for it? I really like this idea and the idea of baby-led weaning, but I just haven't read the book so I don't know how to do it, ha ha. Then once he's a little older (and has teeth!) then give it to him in it's original (albeit stick) form?