BABY LED WEANING: Safety and Allergens | Part 2
Thanks for tuning in to MomTalks with Christa this is part two of my interview with Jenny Best from Solid Starts. If you missed part one i highly recommend you go back and watch that one first, it's all about baby led weaning. So today we're talking more about safety as it comes to baby led weaning. How to prepare foods based on their ages, how to deal with allergens i know that's a huge question that moms have when it comes to baby led weaning, and finally we're going to go into solid starts as a company. What they can do for you plus learn about their free database that they have that you can use today. So without further ado, here's part two of my interview.
Christa: You kind of mentioned earlier a good sign that they're ready to get started was that they can sit up on their own because it can be dangerous you know if they're falling a lot so what are some other things to look for, keeping a safe environment while they're starting to eat on their own.
Jenny Best: Well, I want to preface this by saying that studies are showing that baby-led weaning so starting with finger foods or real food has no increased risk of choking versus purees. Actually we have two expert feeding therapists on our team who study the neurobiology of swallowing, they're really good. Pediatricians don't study this stuff but occupational therapists can depending on what their focus is and our feeding therapists what they will tell you is that they are not worried whatsoever. The baby who started with the baby led weaning because their oral development tends to be further along than a spoon-fed baby. They're worried about the nine-month-old baby who was spoon-fed and sort of missed the window of that early oral development and is now being fed finger foods because it's time but they don't know how to necessarily move that food around in their mouth. So I just wanted to say that because I think probably the number one you know fear I would imagine was for me when I started it was just a fear of choking and the gagging and all of that. It's really distressing to watch and to worry about so I like to get that out there and make sure that folks know that. Actually if you're looking at this from an oral development perspective, from a swallowing specialist perspective, your baby is likely and your toddler is less likely to choke when they're running around at that second birthday party of a cousin's and grabbing a cherry tomato off the buffet plate while you're not looking. That toddler is less likely to choke if they've had some of the challenging foods early on even towards six months old. So that said, in terms of a safe environment the number one most important thing is you. I think we often, we're tired, we've got lots of things to do, we often kind of think of the high chair as like they're contained, they're buckled in, they're safe, I can go do things now. Really we want you at arm's reach from your baby and I know a lot of moms won't even use the harnesses on their high chairs in the first month as their confidence builds and grows just so that they could take their baby out and do the backflows immediately if they needed to because it comes down to minutes when you are dealing with choking. You have like four minutes is like the maximum before things get really bad. So you being there and making sure that your caregiver can be there and is not you know taking the other toddler to the potty or whatever it is else going on in your life that that meal time needs to be at a place where you can sit down with your child and there are so many benefits to doing that as well from a relationship with the food and the kind of relationship your child's going to develop with eating if mommy or daddy or the caregiver or grandma whoever is eating with you. So not only from a safety perspective, it's hugely beneficial from a preventing picky eating perspective as well. The other thing is just making sure you have an upright high chair there are so many bad high chairs out there that I don't even know how they are legally on the market. You should have a completely upright chair, there should be absolutely no reclining at all. The babies don't have a ton of oral experience to be moving food around if they are already leaning back, you're really setting yourself up for a lot of gagging and and possibly choking so a really upright chair. We don't do product sponsorships or affiliates but affiliations but i will say that the Trip Trap chair by Stoka and the Nomi High Chair are like near perfect in terms of design from a placement perspective and of course you can use them for years and years to come. So a proper high chair, making sure the caregiver is always within an arm's reach of the child and then the last thing is really just creating a calm environment. Babies can aspirate food, inhale it, if they are startled. So you know if you've got sudden noises on the television or whatever chaos is going on in your home, especially in the six to nine months age range when they're just starting out, this is so new trying to create even make meal time, at a time that wouldn't normally be meal time. If it requires you know if it's what you need to do to make it quiet and peaceful and calm and then a little sort of tip off, I'll throw in that has nothing to do with safety but get the dog out of the house because babies love feeding animals. Dogs can turn into this very codependent relationship that is near impossible to break.
Christa: We do kind of mention you know like obviously choking can happen, different situations so i know you've made you make a few posts about this too as well. So for new parents watching, what are some of the best CPR resources that you would recommend them checking out.
Jenny Best: You know I've got a list in my head Christa but truthfully I really can't tell you anything other than Red Cross because it is the gold standard. It is you know those courses and there are a number of them, there's online, there's in person, but you can absolutely start virtual right now for obvious reasons. That is the gold standard and the most widely respected in the medical community so absolutely go there first. That said, there are a number of private companies who are actually constantly emailing me but there are a number of them who I'm sure are doing fantastic work with seasoned professionals but I don't quite feel comfortable endorsing anyone who's not like you know 100% legit approved, so I would just go to the red cross website and find the nearest class near you or the online version in the meantime. It's really worth knowing what to do. To do the baby Heimlich, if you will it's not it's not a Heimlich move but we call it that in terms of the emergency procedure. It's actually not hard at all and so once you kind of go through that it's basically a series of back blows and chest thumps. And you know, of course, if there's a little child that's like your hands are big is this kind of a scary thing but once you do that training and you really know it, I find the fear around all of this whether it's purees or finger food really like reduces. It's like okay I know what to do, it's the moms who have not taken any class or watched any video online and there's a lot of free YouTube videos too that you know folks can find I'm sure red cross probably has a few out there but once you do that, your level of confidence will grow because worst case scenario, you at least know what to do and those moves are very effective at you know rescuing babies so it's almost and I want to almost say it's almost more important than the high chair than the whatever is to know what to do if that happens.
Christa: Just being prepared! For you got to be prepared. So kind of keeping on the safety track here, what is the safest way to prepare these foods for babies?
Jenny Best: this is why I created my organization, Solid Starts because when I was totally sold on baby led weaning, like this is the way I'm going to do it, my firstborn was an incredibly picky eater. I feel like I made all the common mistakes. Now that I can trace it back and I was really like convinced that baby led weaning was the way I wanted to feed my twins but when it came down to the food that was like two six month old's sitting in front of me and a piece of steak I was like ah seriously like I don't know how to cut this, are you kidding, and I was really afraid and so I would be like spending all night on the internet how to cut this, how to cut that, and was it different for a seven month old versus an 18 month old and like really kind of going around the bend on this. And it turns out, there's not a lot of information out there about that. Which is why we created our first foods database that has instructions for each food and it'll have a thousand foods when we're done completely culturally comprehensive and inclusive from how to cut a sea cucumber to a sea urchin to you know steak or whatever. So you know I can't say like there's each food is different, what I will say is that generally from the six to nine month old range, you want the size about the size of two fingers and it has very little to do with choking and more about that grabbing motion. I thought it's how a baby's gonna grab that if you offer it in the air like say you know this is the food they're gonna come kind of swipe at it. And you know so it's really just to facilitate the eating but it turns out and this is sort of this really is not intuitive, it turns out that bigger is safer at six months old. We all think their airways are so tiny and so everything has to be so tiny but the reality is, in my experience and the experience on our team which includes you know pediatricians and feeding therapists is that, young babies particularly the six month old's, they are more likely to struggle or gag or choke on a green pea or a corn kernel or rice than they are a gigantic rib mango pit, corn on the cob, it's like big long sticks of food. So not only are those like big long sticks of food that size easier for the babies to grab and to sell feed and to kind of munch on. It's actually safer, they're not going you know they don't have the ability to make tiny bites and tears at that age. They may take off a huge hunk which is scary especially if you're not used to it but that big hunk of food actually is even too big to get back near the problem area. So it's actually the really small, round, hard pieces of food like pomegranate arils I worry about, tiny hard blueberries I worry about, those like perfectly round kind of firm, maybe even a little slippery, like a melon ball is about the worst thing you could do. So you know you want when it comes to food safety, you want to kind of start big and then move smaller as your child gets older, and they'll develop this pencil grasp. They can then pick up smaller pieces of food. A baby's airway is about the size of a tiny bit smaller than a drinking straw. So for something to get stuck in there either has to form a plug over the top of that straw, this is why peanut butter or like a glob of peanut butter would be a risk. It has to get stuck in that straw so sort of swallowed halfway or inhaled halfway, you know stuck in the middle of a drinking straw, so those are the two things. When you think about the kinds of foods that actually have that capability, it's not these bigger pieces of food, it's like a small chunk of meat or a green pea as I said or a corn kernel, these are the things, popcorn stuff like that. So you know start big, move smaller as your baby gets older, and then around 18 months this beautiful thing happens where they are able to bite small pieces efficiently to tear and then chew and process and so i actually then go back up in size. So I go big to super small to big again. So for example if we took the a pancake for a six month old you're going to cut a rectangular strip about the size of two adult fingers together at nine months you're going to offer tiny little you know squares or whatever shape pieces you want but you know about that size and then as your child gets older and it's like a little tear you can go back up to either this piece or honestly even the whole pancake. An amazing on-the-go snack, super clean, leftover pancakes are like my favorite snack ever.
Christa: I know a lot of concerns that parents have are about allergies and different allergens that can come up and how it's going to affect their child so what are the best ways to introduce those kinds of foods to babies as well?
Jenny Best: We have a pediatric allergist who's an award-winning author on our team sequina and she's fantastic and I am an allergy mom as well. My firstborn Charlie, the picky eater also has life-threatening allergies so I feel like I've lived all these fears that moms have right now and it is scary I've done the Epiphen three times, I've been to the emergency room seven times with my son with allergic reactions. So I have lived that so it's really important to me to bring on a pediatric allergist to solid starts because I wanted to come at it from a comprehensive way and not just the predictable way is mostly as a nutritionist or a dietitian out there right but that's not really all that matters we're talking about swallowing safety. We're talking about allergies in a time when allergies are increasing in the pediatric population so when it comes down to allergens, it's a really interesting kind of shift, it's a bit of a pendulum swing happening. So 15 years ago, if you and I were moms and we were talking to our pediatrician, the doctor would have said avoid allergens until around age three entirely. No nuts, no peanut, no soy, and no shellfish, none of that. And what happened during that time is allergies increased 81% in children. 81% and it was over the course of a decade. So the medical community realized they had it, well they think they've had it backwards. Now, thanks to a groundbreaking study funded by fare.org, it's foodallergy.org I think now, they did a study on peanut allergy prevention. It's one of the only studies out there that is on prevention of allergies using the early introduction of the food allergen. To prevent that allergy and what they found is that if you introduced peanut early and often to an infant at high risk of peanut allergies, so babies who are likely to have allergies that means they probably have eczema, they might have some sort of rhinitis, or hay fever these are kind of indicators for a child who might have an allergy later on. If you introduce peanuts early on and often, it is going to prevent the allergy from developing at all and this is a long-term study by 83%. Huge! so then the community's like okay, we're doing allergens early and often. Now what we don't know is whether that applies to all allergens or is it just peanuts. There's a lot we don't know out there, we do know that the shellfish allergy I think it's like 40% to 50% develop later in life, so our allergist is not convinced that an early introduction of shellfish is really worth it but if it's in your culture, go for it, there's no need to hold off. I think the bottom line when it comes to allergies is that there's no need to hold off anymore and that there may be some benefit to all the other allergens. I would say particularly the nuts, the tree nuts and legumes like peanut and soy, that the early exposure may actually prevent that allergy from developing. So how do you do it? You're afraid your child might have an allergic reaction they can't communicate to you yet, you know you could see the symptoms of swelling or itching or wheezing, those are the kinds of symptoms you might see. I just like to say you know what starts small, a scant amount, you know mixed in with some other food your child has already had even a lick of peanut butter off your finger would be okay. Start really small, even less than a quarter teaspoon and then work your way up the national recommendations for introducing peanut are actually really aggressive and it's all in one day. It's like you start with you know a small bit and it's like a teaspoon and two teaspoons is really aggressive for me in a coveted environment. If I were a new mom and be like, yeah, no that is not happening in my house because I'm not going to the emergency room today or like in the next six months so we have on our site if moms feel like they need a handheld approach, a guide to introducing allergens, it's a pdf download written by our allergist and myself because it has these like choose your own adventure kind of schedules like you know, go whole hog and tear the band-aid off approach. Here is a suggested amount of measurements of that allergen that you could introduce versus like slow and steady is the way to go so you can kind of match it to your personality. There's no perfect way to do it but I would just say try not to let your fear get in the way of starting to introduce it because my worry is that all these babies in covid time aren't going to get introduced to it and the allergies are going to swing up again after this year because the parents were too afraid to try it at home so obviously if there's a history of allergies in your family like talk to a doctor before doing this at home.
Christa: So now that we've kind of like broken down everything solid starts does, tell us more about solid starts and what you guys do for families.
Jenny Best: Solid Starts was built out of necessity. I was up at like 2 a.m. with six month old twins trying to figure out how to feed them real food and all the resources I came across were either locked behind a paywall, you know take this course for $60 and I'm like I'm it's 2 a.m., I've got twins, like there's no course happening in my life right now. Or buy this whole book and read this thing or give me your email and then I'll send you some information and I found that really frustrating. From a number of reasons from both accessibility and a sort of social justice perspective, I wanted to make a resource that was free forever, so we obviously have everything you need to know on our website about starting solids including other methods and we kind of compare the methods side by side if you're not sure. Finger foods are the way to go but the sort of crown jewel of the site is this first foods database which will eventually house every ingredient under the sun. We have about 200 foods in the pipeline, I think 130 are on the website right now, many are on my desktop staring at me like edit me. I don't mean and eventually we will have a thousand foods. In each food page you land on it, you see videos of different age babies from a six month old to an 18 month old eating that food so you can like really see me, like okay this is possible, this baby is doing it and she's crushing it, probably literally. So we have videos and then a very self-guided Q&A format like all the questions you have, is it a choking hazard? How do I cut it for a six month old? How do I cut it for an 18 month old? Is it an allergen? All those questions are answered and then you have the videos and a recipe at the bottom. Each food has its own little page and universe and I'm hoping we can turn it into an app sometime next year. The whole thing is free, it'll be free forever and I mean it's my everything now. I never really dreamed of being an entrepreneur or building something an asset like this, that you know might be an app like that. Would never have even have crossed my mind, I just happen to kind of identify a huge need at the right time, turns out a lot of moms need this information because our growth has been crazy through complete word of mouth, just in the first couple of months of soft launching. I was like I'm just gonna put this up on Instagram and see how it goes, like I'm looking at it now, we're like nearing fifty thousand. It's like wow this is nuts! But it shows you just how much people were craving that information.
Christa: I feel like a lot of these brands are geared towards babies and growth and development. it's a mom that was in that moment, was like wait there could be something that you know would be easier or more helpful so I know when you like connected with me and I was like, this is awesome because we get questions about you know weaning all the time so it's like perfect for this audience where a lot of them are breastfeeding and so they can kind of go into that as their next stage. I know you were saying you have another you know database and like a special that you wanted to offer mommy knows best followers
Jenny Best: Yes so we made a discount code for you all and so the database is free, you can look up any food there and find what you need to know, so if you're on a budget, definitely go over there and we actually have a ton of information on introducing allergens for free as well. You really almost don't even need this code but I shouldn't even be saying that but we do have guides for the mom who has no time who's like I can't put all the pieces together, I just need this now, I need it right away, and I need you to tell me what to do. So we have guides we are giving you guys 15% off with the code MOMMYKNOWS so MOMMYKNOWS and you'll get 15% off any of our guides there on our website solidstarts.com
Christa: Thanks for that! That'll be awesome! I can't wait to share it with our group and our followers because like I said this is such a popular question we get. Now I can tag you guys in and when we get questions for it so that will be awesome. This is like really informational, learned a lot here. So thank you for sharing that with us.
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