Saturday, July 16, 2011

Let a baby be a baby

We decided to go with baby-led weaning to introduce our baby to solids (post soon to come). It has been so much fun and my husband and I are both very much enjoying this transition into the world of food for our little guy.

I know that most people who do baby-led weaning are of a more "attachment" mindset but I was curious about other parents and their experiences with baby-led weaning. So, I hopped on to Chronicles of a Babywise Mom to see if she had posted anything about it. Sure enough, there were even some Babywise parents who had taken on baby-led weaning. That really excited me!

As I started reading some of the parents' experiences I was a little upset by one parent's comment,
"We chose to introduce meals slowly rather than straight into 3 meals a day, but we still had the meals structured into our routine and definitely still followed BW [babywise] expectations like no throwing food, smearing it around, lifting up the plate, etc."
Maybe this is silly, but I was almost shocked at the thought of expecting my 6-month old baby to not throw food or smear it around. In fact, that's one of the key points to baby-led weaning--to let your baby explore food, learn about it, how it feels, how it moves, etc. This is how they learn about the world. A baby throwing food (or anything) isn't being defiant, that's just how they learn about gravity, distance, their own strength, etc. I haven't read Babywise II about introducing solid foods and table manners because, well, I kind of think it would just boil my blood and be a waste of my time, though I've been a bit curious.

Call me a pushover, a softie, or whatever you will but I believe strongly that we just need to let kids be kids. They will spend so much of their lives being adults, why turn them into one at such a tender age? I'm not suggesting that people just let their children run wild and that there be no family rules--quite the contrary. I just feel that expectations should be age-appropriate and more importantly, individual child-appropriate. To me, expecting a baby to sit quietly, strapped to a high chair, with their hands on the side of the tray waiting patiently for their food to be put into their mouth is just asinine. I'm pretty sure that parent feeding their child would not be terribly patient if the roles were reversed.

As far as teaching our children, I believe the best teaching is done by example, not by force. Well-behaved parents will likely produce well-behaved children because that is what they see. Loving, warm parents will likely produce loving, warm children. Parents who yell and spank will likely produce children who will also yell and spank.

In working to raise my children in a Christ-centered home I think of what kind of a parent my Heavenly Father is to me. I know everyone's understanding and relationship with God is different but the God I know is one of love and understanding. He does not leave me to suffer without comfort. He holds me accountable for what I know and for what I am capable of doing. He is loving, gentle, and kind. That is the kind of parent I want to be and the kind of expectations I want to have for my children.


I've gotten onto a soapbox here. Basically all I'm trying to say is for goodness sake, let's learn to let the little things go, let the kid be a kid, and who cares if they smear their food!


  1. You have to admit that it's kind of sad when he throws the feta on the floor.

  2. I agree with Brennan, when Clara throws those expensive grapes on the floor, a part of me dies inside...

    ok, ok, maybe that's a TAD dramatic. But I totally agree. It's a tough road to walk, and I think it's one that a lot of American (Western?) parents struggle with. Do they give their children tons of freedom with the risk of producing wild kids, or do you give them strict rules with the risk of terrified children with no imagination. I think you're right when thinking in terms of how our Heavenly Father treats us: freedom, but with follow-through on consequences (natural or otherwise, and within reason). Clara spends a lot of time exploring our house. I have moved all the dangerous substances up, so that she can open as many cupboards as she can get her hands on (and she sure does). I think the act of discovering is so important to children, and I feel sad for those who give their kids no room for exploration is very sad.

    And... yes, baby led weaning totally includes smooshing and smearing and throwing food on my floor (carpet! GAH!) and even taking her tray and throwing that around. Love the baby-led weaning!

  3. Babies are messy. Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn't met one. They totally should get into their food. It makes for great photo ops if nothing else. My first child didn't like getting dirty, but she still explored her food and made a mess (which then made her cry until I gave her a bath).

  4. Ha ha ha I had to laugh at the thought of a child sitting in their high chair patiently waiting food to be put in their mouth! Who would do that? And what child on the planet would follow suit? Kids are messy and you will likely have to redecorate your home when they get older and less messy but making a mess is part of the learning. A kid making a mess while eating us learning: how food feels, tastes and smells, how gravity works, how cool smashed carrots looks on the floor wall and mommy, but also it is the beginning of learning to feed themselves, which is really the skill being learned.

    I think you may be putting to much pressure or giving to much credit to parents though. Yes for a few short years much of a childs behavior is dependent on the parents, but at a certain point the child personality comes into play and how each child responds to the home environment will be different. Some will continue to model their parents behavior ( for better or for worse) and others will strike out on their own path( also for better or for worse).

  5. You're right Ellen. At some point kids do strike out on their own. I think I was mostly thinking about in the early years when kids are at the copying stage, especially with things like table manners. (Most) kids don't continue throwing food because mom and dad don't throw food. I don't know any 8 year olds who are still mushing peas into their hands or throwing ketchup on the floor. I mean, unless there are some parents out there who think it's fun to do. Which, maybe WOULD be fun to do!

  6. Love this. When Harper first started solids she was really interested in holding her spoon. So I would have two spoons at every feeding. With one spoon I'd let her practice shoving the food in her mouth/all over her face/all over her tray and when she dropped that one I'd have the next one ready. And so it would go - switching off the whole time! For a few weeks she wasn't interested in solids and went back to just nursing. Now she's loving her solids again, but the funny thing is, she just sits with her hands on the tray and doesn't try to touch her spoon! It's been much cleaner, which I'll admit, I love. But I had no qualms with her making a mess and exploring her food experience initially, and I'm sure she'll have many messy meals ahead of her. It just reaffirms my belief that babies will progress at their own rate and we don't have to force clean eating/12-hour-night sleeping, etc. on them. Love your posts!