No need to dust off that blender (unless you plan on making a strong margarita) and you can toss out those ice cube trays – that’s right, here’s my take on Baby Led Weaning and Delaying Solids.
|Elizabeth at 1 yr old eating her favorate-spinach!|
With my first child, we made all of her baby foods from scratch starting around 4.5 months. This starting point was advocated by her pediatrican at the time. I didn’t think to question when to start feeding her since everyone else seemed to agree that around 4 months was the appropriate time to introduce solids (via purees). It couldn’t have been further from the truth. But to understand why it’s essential to wait (until at least 6 months-some say to even a year!) to introduce solids, we should review the digestive system of our little tots.
Babies from the age of birth until approximately 6 months of age have what is referred to as an “open gut”. This terms simply means that the cells that line the small intestines have spaces inbetween them that allow macromolecules (which includes proteins and pathogens) to pass directly in the bloodstream. This open gut is benefical in many ways which allows the antibodies from the breastmilk to pass directly into the infant’s blood while also being coated with IgA antibodies from the milk to provide passive immunity. However, this also means that whole proteins from foods (which may carry pathogens) can pass right through as well.
Digestion is a complex process that breaksdown food beginning in the mouth and continues throughout the digestive tract with the stomach, pancreas, liver and intestines. Digestive enzymes are found in the intestines and pancreas that aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Get this – there are many different, specific types of enzymes for particular types of food. Some enzymes are present in extremely low levels or are entirely absent from a baby’s digestive system.
For example, amylase, which is a key player in the digestion of carbohydrate is virtually nonexistent in the pancreas until at least six months of age. Or ptyalin, an enzyme in the saliva that breaksdown carbs, is not present until around 12 months of age.
Many other carbohydrate enzymes (maltase, isomaltase and sucrase) do not reach optimal levels until around 7 months.
When food is introduced to a baby’s system before it is able to correctly digestive and absorb them then you will see certain reactions, such as constipation, gas, fussiness, diarrhea, and digective upset.
But My Doctor Says It’s Ok
You might want to ask a second opinion from a nutritionalist considering pediatric course work may only include one semester of understanding the nutritional needs of infants and babies (even this coursework may be out of date in the recommendations listed-see side bar for the organizations recommending delaying solids until at least 6 months).
What About Iron Levels
Very true – breast milk has low levels of iron compared to formula. But consider this – the level of iron in breast milk is exactly the right amount for your baby and the level in formula and rice cereal is extremely elevated compared to normal levels. This is because iron is more readily absorbed from breast milk (at a rate of 49% compared to only 4% of iron in formula or rice cereal). This absorption of iron is aided because of the elevated levels of lactose and vitamin C in human milk. It is also important to note that high levels of iron in formula and enriched cereals are lost in the bowels (no wonder that poo stinks).
|Charlotte checking out her avocado|
What Is BLW?
Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is skipping purées and not feeding your baby with a spoon. Consider if you wait until at least 6 months, your baby is old enough to feed theirselves – hence, no need for purees.
The big difference between BLW and traditional weaning is the order that babies learn to eat. With purees, babies learn to swallow first and then chew. With BLW, babies learn to chew first and then swallowing eventually comes some time later.
Why Weaning Styles Are Important
According to a very recent article in the BMJ, weaning style impacts food preferences and health in early childhood. Infants that are weaned through a baby-led approach learn to regulate their food intake in a manner which leads to lower
BMI and a preference for healthy foods.
My Take and What We Decided
Charlotte is just over 6 months now and we have given her some food to experiment with during dinner time (such as slices of avocado and a whole banana).
|Big sister helping out|
It is quite messy but the thing I love most about BLW is its emphasis on families eating together. It has been amazing to watch her discover food and show so much concentration in meeting new textures and exploring new tastes.
For me, it still seems so soon and she doesn’t seem completely ready (she is just barely sitting up by herself). I do feel tons of pressure to feed and introduce her to foods (other then breast milk) but right now we’ll go days between providing her food to play with and I am all right with that.
I am very glad we did wait until past the 6 month mark – and I plan on taking it very slow with the introduction of foods.
Oh yeah – and yippie for no purees!!!
 Bauer, Mary.Infant Digestive System Development. Jun 14 2011
 R Wall, R. P Ross, C.A Ryan, S Hussey, B Murphy, GF Fitzgerald and C Stanton. Role of Gut Microbiota in Early Infant Development. Clinical Medicine Insights: Pediatrics. Mar 2009
 Wootan, George. Book: Take Charge of Your Child’s Health. Page 122
 Why Delay Solids? KellyMom Breastfeeding and Parenting. Apr 3 2010
 Flora-Waterman, Becky. Solids Food: Best Delayed. Breastfeeding Essentials Website.
Sept 24 2005
Ellen Townsend and N Pitchford. Baby knows best? The impact of weaning style on food preferences and body mass index in early childhood in a case–controlled sample. BMJ. Feb 6 2012