Baby-Led Weaning & Feeding
Breastfeeding in the UK is increasing. Eight out of ten newborn babies are now breastfed according to figures from the Infant Feeding Survey. That is up from six out of ten back in 1990.
So, you’re a new mum or a mum-to-be and your chosen method of feeding will be noted by fellow new mums, at least that’s how it feels sometimes! If you’re a mum-to-be prepare yourself for battle lines drawn between mums who boob and those who bottle.
Few mums-to-be fail to hear and digest the pro-breastfeeding message so a decision to formula feed is rarely taken lightly, there are so many reasons: agonising mastitis (an infection of the milk ducts often resulting from exhaustion); cracked nipples; hour upon late-night-hour of pumping and then bottle feeding because their baby cannot latch; or simply because the mother is not being given the support she needs.
What exactly is baby-led weaning?
Instead of mashing food and spoon-feeding your baby, you place soft batons of vegetables in front of them to start with, extending to other foods as she becomes more confident.
What happens when you start weaning your baby onto food?
One of the biggest things to mention is choking, here are some baby-led weaning rules:
1) Your baby must be able to sit-up on her own before you offer food.
2) Your baby must be around six-months-old, only breast-milk until then.
3) Always sit with your baby when they are eating, never leave them alone with food nearby.
4) No small hard foods that she could choke on e.g., nuts, fruits with stones such as olives, raw veggies chopped into small pieces.
5) Once you introduce food, your baby still needs to breastfeed on demand. Milk remains the main source of nutrition, which takes the pressure of meal times. Food is there for baby to play with and discover, she can taste, feel, touch and smell. There is no pressure for her to eat it.
6) Do not put the food into her mouth, this could lead to choking and undermines the point of BLW which lets your baby decide when they want to eat.
7) Eat with your baby. They learn how to eat, use cutlery and what’s expected at the table by imitating you. Also try and eat the same thing as your baby, they’re much more likely to trust food if they see you eating it. It’s also a good idea to start as you mean to go on, as they say: a family who eats together stays together.
Do I have to start weaning at six months?
You need to wait until six months. I know it can sometimes feel hard at five months when you’re breastfeeding exclusively and you want to take some of the pressure off by having another source of nutrition to hand, but actually life is so much easier when you don’t have to worry about choosing and preparing the right food for your baby, and then clearing up after a messy meal three times a day. If you are understandably feeling fed-up, maybe you could look at expressing and bottle-feeding with our Yoomi bottle?
There is no pressure to start food at six months on the dot. In fact, some schools of thought will say the longer you breastfeed exclusively the longer your baby’s digestive system has to develop.
There is a concern about iron-deficiency when babies are breastfed exclusively after six months, although again different studies say different things. To put your mind at rest it may be a good idea to talk to your health visitor about monitoring your baby’s iron levels if they show no interest in food after the half-year mark.
When your baby is ready for food he will let you know by grabbing at whatever you’re eating, some babies might do this when they’re quite young, my daughter was really keen at five and a half months. In the end I gave in and let her gnaw on large pieces of broccoli moving onto different foods when she was past six-months.
Be mindful that if a baby is teething at say four months old, it may look like they want to eat your food but in fact they just want to gnaw on anything and everything in sight!
Which foods should I introduce first?
- Steamed broccoli and cauliflower were always a hit for us, soft enough for a toothless baby to chew on, with enough stalk for little fists to grab onto (babies only develop a pincer grip later on).
- Roasted pumpkin, squash and potatoes cut into batons were fantastic as well, solid enough to grip but soft for toothless mouths to chew.
- Bananas with the skin half peeled, so baby can investigate the skin and practice peeling.
- Low-salt or homemade hummus with veggie batons. Good for practising dipping skills!
- Rice-bread sticks with avocado dip (any soft veggies whizzed in a processor with some natural yoghurt make great dips).
- Rice with veggies, to start with Isobel simply used her hands to scoop food into her mouth. We always gave her a spoon, which she played around with, over time she began to copy us with our cutlery and by twelve months she was super-proficient with a spoon.
Can my baby eat dairy, wheat and nuts straight away?
In Gill Rapley’s book she talks about giving your baby the opportunity to try as many foods as possible. The last thing you want is your child to grow up paranoid about what they eat. But these foods are harder to digest which may cause allergies. Make sure you do your research first and take into account your own personal circumstances, do you or your family have any allergies?
If your little-one doesn’t have an allergy, dairy is important because it’s rich in calcium. If there is the allergy present, try and find foods rich in calcium such as sesames. The tahini (sesame paste) in houmous is a great dairy substitute!