BABY LED WEANING: When and how to start | Part 1
Thanks for tuning in the MomTalks with Christa this week. So during our weekly Q&As I get tons of questions about weaning, when they should start weaning, how to start weaning, what kind of foods babies should eat first, all of that. So if these are questions that you've thought about recently or asked me, this episode is for you.
Today I have Jenny Best from Solid Starts and she's gonna be answering all the questions when it comes to baby led weaning. We split this interview up into two parts because there's tons of awesome information. So for part one today, we're going to dive into baby led weaning, what is it, and how can you tell your baby is ready to start weaning. So let's just dive right in and I hope you learned something awesome in this episode.
Christa: Welcome Jenny! To get started let's just hear a little bit about you and just kind of like how your journey started.
Jenny Best: I was a Ballerina with the New York City Ballet way back when and five years into that I broke my back and it completely obliterated my career, it was you know, it was over. At the ripe age of 21 I went back to school and put myself through college and 9-11 happened during that time and so I was really focused on how can I help my city and I really was interested in government. So my first job actually out of college was with Mike Bloomberg in City Hall in our Mayor's Office here and I stayed with that administration for about 10 years. Learned everything on that job. Every crisis you name it, was such a great experience, truly the best job but it was really burned out after 10 years of constantly being on call and having that be number one in my life. And so I took a couple months off and was just like I'm not going to travel. I'm just going to like to refine myself. What do i really want to do with my life and I fell in love with food. I was just I couldn't my sort of like vacation activity was I would go buy a book at Barnes & Noble's back in the day and we'd actually go you know perusing the aisles for a book and I would take myself out to lunch and that was like my my stay vacation, find myself activity, I did that for like two months and I was just reading and consuming all this food material from food history to food science to sustainability. So when I became a mom that naturally sort of merged and blended into baby food in a major way and now this is definitely my calling, I feel like I found my happy place. It's who knew, it was going to be in baby food.
Christa: I'm really excited about this interview because we have a Facebook Group with Mommy Knows Best and we get so many questions you know, as a breastfeeding company so many questions about like when can babies start weaning, when can I start you know feeding baby solid foods, and so this was like a perfect connection. I can't wait to just ask you a bunch of these questions. To get everything started, so what are some big signs that a baby is ready to start solid foods.
Jenny Best: There's a lot of misinformation out there about this stuff too so I'm happy to get it out there. So there's really three or four things that you want to be looking for the three like primary things are:
- one, just being able to sit upright and if you've had a three month old, four month old, five month old baby, they're kind of floppy. Their heads bop around like this, you want them to be able to sit upright. Doesn't have to be for a long time, you can do the Leaning Tower of Pisa move like it's up for like is it five seconds okay i think we're ready before they topple over. You want them to have enough you know head and neck strength to really hold themselves upright. Feeding a baby who is not doing those things actually are a little bit dangerous and it's going to require a reclined chair which is also you know sort of like in the increased choking hazard realm, so you don't want to go that direction so being able to sit upright, hold the head properly.
- the other thing we like to look for is what's called reach and grab. So the ability to like reach. It could be a toy, it could be a pen, reach it, grab it. Are they bringing it to their mouth? That sort of motion and are they doing it accurately? Because you don't want to put a baby in the high chair and then have them like, kind of like poking their eye out.
- the last thing which is a little bit less important but it's something that we like to see is just interest. Are they watching you eat even if it's just for a little bit? Are they expressing any kind of interest that they might want to taste of what mommy is having?
Christa: To go along with weaning, there's so many different ways to do it so we're going to specifically talk about baby led weaning which is what you focus on. So tell us what is baby led weaning.
Jenny Best: You know it's funny too because I feel like everything these days has a name and a method and this and that, which is you know kind of a reflection of our society and where we've come from this real swing into science and whatnot. But it's really just real food for babies, so skipping the purees, skipping the pouches, and skipping spoon feeding most importantly, and literally handing over real food to let the babies feed independently. To self feed anyone who is a six month old can tell you all a six month old wants to do is put things in their mouth like mostly dangerous things. You don't want them to put in their mouth but it's they're really developmentally primed for self-feeding and you know I think that it was probably how babies were fed. There's not a ton of available information on this history but I've worked with a food historian and you know we kind of think this is how babies were fed before the vitamixes and the crazy expensive blenders. And you know we're mom's mashing food probably sure but I can't imagine a mom as a farmer in the 1800s with five kids was making a separate fancy meal of purees that were perfectly thin for the baby. It's just not something that was even really possible so yeah baby led weaning is kind of skipping over the spoon feeding and skipping over what we think is an unnecessary step in feeding babies, and following the natural development curve of the baby.
Christa: So what are the main benefits of choosing to do baby led weaning
Jenny Best: So I mean from my perspective as a mom of twins and a four-year-old you don't have to sit there spoon-feeding. When I had my twins Adie and Max, my mind kind of shifted was like, wait, How am I going to do this? Like I have to sit between their high chairs and like you know how is this actually going to work logistically? Then you know of course I was much deeper in a path of research on alternatives to spoon feeding and I'll tell you that story about why. All about the independence, I find a lot of moms who follow a montessori style rearing you know prioritizing independence in how they want to raise their child, it really fits with them well but benefits are independence, the baby is going to feed themselves, you don't have to actually sit there doing it. From a development perspective, it's like I mean ask any occupational therapist and almost all of them are going to say they love baby-led weaning. And in fact they love it for special needs kids as well because it forces the child to reach and grab and all those movements. The pincer grasp, the how they're picking things up, bringing it to their mouth, it's a lot of work and so there's a lot going on to get that done. But the amazing thing is that that's what they want to do naturally anyway. It's kind of playing off of that natural development, so you know huge boost in fine motor skills, huge boost in oral development as well, something we don't actually talk about a lot or that we don't hear about a lot and it's kind of the secret that the baby food companies don't want you to know is this. By nine months old, every baby, every normally developing baby should be self-feeding finger food no matter how you started solids. So we talk about like oh are you gonna do baby led weaning, or are you gonna do spoon feeding, we're really talking about a window of three months that according to the american academy of pediatrics they like to see babies self-feeding by nine months and they like finger foods to even be introduced as early as six months. So you know it is in a lot of ways asking a baby to kind of hold back their hands, you try to spoon feed a six month old, many will actually reach for the spoon and try to bring it to their mouths which we love to see, like yes let them right? That is an indication that they have the motions, they have the sort of cognitive development to self-feed. I remember when i was spoon-feeding my first born Charlie ‘cause I exclusively spoon-fed him and spoon-fed him way too long. I was actually kind of like I hate to say it but I was pushing his hand away because I didn't want him to make a mess and splatter the perfect organic kale puree that I had made him. And I was kind of holding him back truthfully, he was ready to reach and grab and bring that to his mouth but I was like, no honey, let me put this in your mouth, the tiniest little tip of the spoon you know and then clean him up right away because I was so worried about mess but those days have changed. So you know the primary benefits for me and from my perspective are around development, the baby's development, and just you know fostering that independence at an early age.
Christa: What are the best foods that a baby can start with?
Jenny Best: If we're starting with real food and we're going with the finger food approach, honestly there is no perfect food though, we do have guides and blogs that suggest that mostly from a nutrition perspective. But from a development perspective, honestly things like a mango pit with a little bit of fruit still on it, it's a great tea there, it's really hard they can't bite through, it really increases the jaw strength. A corn on the cob with some corn shaved off is also terrific but so is a banana or honestly even a whole banana is fine. I love ribs for babies because it's just kind of like this you know natural size for them to grasp on. Six months old hold things like this, they don't pick things up with their fingers, they just kind of grab with their whole fist and often two fists and bring it to their face like that. And so ribs they can kind of suck on the meat and just munch on it. It's going to be the most beautiful 15 minutes you ever had to yourself. I always tell my husband like if we need a quiet dinner, it's like ribs and corn and a mango pit for dessert. It's an amazing 20, just 20 minutes, just like complete silence which is really rare in our house. From a nutrition perspective, you cannot beat sockeye salmon. It is truly one of the best fish in the sea in terms of nutrition, the omega fatty acids sardines, canned sardines are crazy good for babies, as is chicken liver, and I know a lot of Americans are like oh I don't know if I can do that, it's so smelly but it is like you know you want a really good 12 month checkup and have that iron up where it needs to be that's exactly the kind of stuff you want to be feeding them. So really nutrient dense foods, fish, chicken, liver, eggs are great, and avocado. Everyone loves avocado for babies, it's soft, it's delicious, it's fatty, super good for them and you can have the other half for yourself on toast.
Christa: I love it! That's awesome! That's super helpful too for you know the moms watching are always kind of wondering how they can get started and what foods are best.
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