baby.blw,eating,good,eater,solid foods

My baby isn’t a good eater

My baby isn’t a good eater

 

It’s common for parents (and grandparents) to worry because their baby is ‘not eating well’, especially as the baby gets older. Parents are often told that he or she should be eating a full family diet by their first birthday. But is being a ‘good’ eater really necessary for the baby?

I would like to thank Gill Rapley, the one who coined the term Baby Led Weaning (BLW) who wrote the text below. Please check out her website for more information at rapleyweaning.com.


What’s normal?

 


BLW babies follow their own patterns when starting solid food. For example, your baby may:


• Set off enthusiastically, munching on everything in sight, gradually swallowing more and more of it and never looking back. (Probably the least common pattern)


• Progress slowly but steadily through looking, experimenting, licking and tasting, and then eating, gradually increasing the amount she consumes.


• Eat almost nothing for weeks or months (with or without being keen to touch and taste) and then suddenly show enthusiasm for food.


• Set off enthusiastically and then seem to lose interest in food altogether.


None of these patterns suggests a problem. Most BLW babies don’t eat significant amounts of solid food until they reach 8 or 9 months, and some not until after their first birthday. Those who start off enthusiastically and then lose interest simply enjoy the novelty of food more than those who start more slowly. When that wears off, they slow down for a while. [Note, though, that if a baby of 6-8 months shows no interest in picking up food or any other objects (such as toys or keys) and exploring them with her mouth it’s possible there’s an underlying reason, such as delayed development, so she should be checked by a doctor.]

 

baby,eating,good,eater,solid foods,blw
This baby is thoroughly enjoying her meal!

Putting things into perspective

A normally developing, healthy baby who appears to be ‘not eating well’ is probably just eating less than his parents or others think he should. In the second half of their first year, the only nutrients babies need in addition to breast milk are iron and zinc. A few licks or bites (not mouthfuls!) each day from foods rich in these minerals, such as meat and eggs, is almost certainly enough to provide this. Babies don’t starve themselves – if they are hungry, they will eat. The problem is that our expectations of how much babies should eat tends to be based on the amounts they eat when they’re spoon fed. But …

 

  • Spoon feeding (by someone else) is not a natural part of babies’ development. It just became the usual method of feeding when it was thought babies needed solid food before they were old enough to feed themselves.
  • Spoon feeding and purees make it difficult for babies to follow their appetite. They tend to swallow mouthfuls faster and end up eating more than they really need.
  • Pureed food contains a lot of liquid – so it may look like more food than it really is.
  • Pressuring a baby to eat certain foods, or more than they want, can lead to problems
    such as picky eating or food refusal.
  • Breast-milk (or formula) can continue to provide most of a baby’s nourishment well beyond one year.

 

breast milk, breat feeding, blw, nourishment, nutrients, food, eating, eater
Despite baby’s introduction to solid foods, breastfeeding (or formula) remains the primary source of nourishment.

What are the signs of a ‘ good eater ‘?

 

If you think your baby is a ‘poor eater’, the solution is not to try to change what the baby is doing but to redefine what you think makes a good eater. A good eater is a baby who:


• responds to his own appetite (eating when he’s hungry, stopping when he’s had enough)
• drinks as much breastmilk or formula as he needs
• has the opportunity to try lots of different foods, without any pressure
• can choose the nutrients he needs (from healthy food offered)
• is interested in exploring food and practising self-feeding skills
• enjoys mealtimes

If your baby does all of these things, he’s a good eater – even if he doesn’t actually swallow very much at all!


What should I do?

 

  • Continue to offer breastfeeds or formula whenever your baby wants. Restricting milk feeds (as parents are sometimes advised to do in the hope the baby will eat more solid food) is likely to mean less nourishment not more.
  • Continue to share mealtimes with your baby, giving her the opportunity to explore and taste a range of healthy foods.
  •  If your baby is over 10 months, don’t keep giving her back food that has been deliberately thrown on the floor. This is her way of saying “No thanks”.
  • Try offering foods in smaller pieces, or introducing cutlery. Some babies get bored with being treated as newbies and want to practise more advanced skills!
  • Don’t make a fuss if your baby doesn’t seem to like something. Just carry on offering some of whatever you are eating. (Some babies persistently avoid certain foods and are later found to be allergic to them, so it may be wise to trust your baby.)
  • Remember that it’s normal for a baby who is unsettled for some reason (starting daycare for example) or becoming unwell, to go off solid food for a while and want more milk.

 

Baby-led weaning is about nurturing a good relationship with food, not about persuading babies to eat what we think they should. All babies spontaneously move on to other foods in their own time. As a parent, all you need to do is make food available, within reach, and to act as a role model by including the baby in your own mealtimes. Your baby will take care of everything else.

Precautions

Before doing Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) with your baby, it is important to proceed safely by contacting a pediatric registered dietitian. Among other things, make sure that:

  • your baby is ready and does not start too early
  • your baby is sitting at 90 degrees
  • you do not place food in his/her mouth with your fingers
  • the environment is calm during meals
  • you offer the right foods to your baby
  • you watch your baby eat at all times
  • you contact a pediatric registered dietitian to make sure you are proceeding safely
  • you read the warning below

Warning*

BLW is contraindicated for babies at risk of dysphagia, such as babies who have an anatomic disorder (cleft palate, tongue tie), a neurological disorder (developmental delay, hypotonia, oral hypotonia) or a genetic disorder. Follow-up by a health professional (doctor, pediatric registered dietitian) is necessary for babies at risk of anemia such as babies born prematurely, babies with low birth weight (less than 3000 g), worries related to growth, babies born to an anemic mother, baby for whom cow’s milk was introduced early and/or a vegan baby.

*Cusson and Labonté, Baby-Led Weaning Conference, June 2018, Nutrium, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal

 

To get all the information you need about introducing complementary foods, sign up for my online course at blw.jessicacoll.com . You’ll get my unlimited support and all the answers to your questions.

 

I’d like to know: is your baby a good eater? Why or why not? Comment below!

 

baby, sitting, up, upright, blw, solid foods, introduction

Sitting upright – what does it mean?

Sitting upright – what does it mean?

 

‘ Able to sit upright ‘ is recognized as one of the key signs of readiness for solid foods, and especially for BLW. But what does it mean and why does it matter? Let’s start with why it matters …

First off, I would like to thank Gill Rapley, who wrote the following text about Baby Led Weaning (BLW). I’m sharing it because it’s so useful to parents who follow me. Thank you Gill!

 

Why does sitting upright matter?

 

  • Readiness: If your baby can’t yet sit upright, that’s a fairly good sign that his wider development hasn’t reached the point of readiness, either. Chewing skills and digestive abilities tend to develop at the same pace as a baby’s ability to sit upright. If your baby is offered food before he’s developmentally ready to manage it, his gut may be exposed to food too soon and he will be more at risk of choking.

 

  • Safety: Babies need to be upright to coordinate swallowing and breathing easily. They can’t do this if they’re slumped forwards or sideways. They also need to be able to control food inside their mouth. This is so that it doesn’t slip backwards, towards their airway, before it’s ready to be swallowed. A leaning-back position makes this very tricky – and therefore dangerous. Imagine lying back to eat, or trying to chew with your chin on your chest. See how uncomfortable and unsafe these positions would be?

 

  • Self-feeding: Babies need to be able to lean forward to reach food, pick it up with both hands, and look around – all without losing their balance. To do this they must be stable in an upright position.

 

balance, stable, baby, BLW,sitting, upright
This baby is able to lean forward without losing her balance.

What is ‘upright’?

 

Definitions of ‘upright’ depend on a baby’s developmental stage. This can be confusing when you’re looking for the one that means your baby is ready to start BLW:

From birth a baby can be held in an upright position if the whole trunk and spine is supported. She can’t do it alone.

Sometime after 5 months babies start to be able to hold their head and trunk erect if they are supported around the hips.

 

sitting, upright, blw, solid foods, support, baby
Here is a 5 month old baby who is able to hold it’s head and trunk upright since there is support at the hips.

By 7 to 8 months most babies are able to stay in a sitting position for a minute or so on the floor, with no support.

By 8 to 9 months babies are starting to be able to get into a sitting position from a lying down or crawling position.

 

The importance of upright positioning

 

What matters for safe eating, and for BLW, is that your baby can support her head and trunk in an upright position for long enough to explore some food – and to eat it, if she’s ready. If she needs a bit of support around her hips to do this, that’s fine. There’s no need to wait until she can stay upright with no support at all. No need to wait until she can get herself into a sitting position. There’s also no ‘60-second rule’, as some believe. It’s the position and balance above her pelvis that she needs to be able to maintain. A normally developing baby will be able to sit upright well enough to allow her to handle food and eat safely by six months or soon after. If you notice that this is not the case with your baby, I suggest making an appointment with an occupational therapist or pediatric physical therpist.

 

baby,blw,sitting,up, upright,stability

 

How to help your baby to sit comfortably and safely

 

There are several options for helping to make exploring food easy and safe for your baby:

  • Sit him on your lap, facing the table, and support his hips with a hand on either side of his bottom (not around his waist, which will restrict his movement). Many babies like the reassurance of this closeness at their first few meals
  • For picnics, or eating on the floor, sit your baby between your legs, facing forwards. This allows you to have both hands free while also providing the support he needs.
  • If your baby is happy in a high chair, then a rolled-up towel around his hips can fill the space between his bottom and the sides of the chair. If the seat is slippery a small towel between his legs will help to stop him sliding forward.
  • Older babies, and toddlers, are likely to find a foot rest helpful. (Worth remembering when buying a high chair!)
  • So, your baby is ready to get started with baby-led weaning as soon as he is able to sit upright securely and stably enough to handle food safely and effectively – with a little bit of support from you if he needs it.

 

Precautions

Before doing Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) with your baby, it is important to proceed safely by contacting a pediatric registered dietitian. Among other things, make sure that:

  • your baby is ready and does not start too early
  • your baby is sitting at 90 degrees
  • you do not place food in his/her mouth with your fingers
  • the environment is calm during meals
  • you offer the right foods to your baby
  • you watch your baby eat at all times
  • you contact a pediatric registered dietitian to make sure you are proceeding safely
  • you read the warning below

Warning*

BLW is contraindicated for babies at risk of dysphagia, such as babies who have an anatomic disorder (cleft palate, tongue tie), a neurological disorder (developmental delay, hypotonia, oral hypotonia) or a genetic disorder. Follow-up by a health professional (doctor, pediatric registered dietitian) is necessary for babies at risk of anemia such as babies born prematurely, babies with low birth weight (less than 3000 g), worries related to growth, babies born to an anemic mother, baby for whom cow’s milk was introduced early and/or a vegan baby.

*Cusson and Labonté, Baby-Led Weaning Conference, June 2018, Nutrium, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal

 

To get all the information you need about introducing complementary foods, sign up for my online course at blw.jessicacoll.com . You’ll get my unlimited support and all the answers to your questions.

 

Have you noticed your baby sitting upright and would like to try BLW? Comment below!

 

How early is too early to start introducing solid foods?

How early is too early to start introducing solid foods?

I am often contacted by parents whose baby of 22-24 weeks is showing interest in solid food. They are wary of starting too early,  yet feel their baby is giving them a clear lead that s/he is ready. While I am unable to offer specific guidance for individual babies, my general response to this dilemma is as follows.

 

I would like to thank Gill Rapley, the one who coined the term Baby Led Weaning (BLW) who wrote the text below. Please check out her website for more information at rapleyweaning.com.

 

The 6-months ‘rule’

I always refer to the 6-months ‘rule’ because it keeps babies safe from premature interference with their eating. However, my actual position, based on my research and clinical experience, is that whatever an individual baby is ready to do is probably what’s right for that baby. There is good reason to believe that those developmental abilities that are visible to us (sitting upright etc.) are a reliable indicator of the maturity of that baby’s (internal) digestive system – nature very rarely makes mistakes. So, if a full-term, healthy baby can (genuinely) sit upright, grasp food and get it to his mouth UNAIDED, then he’s probably ready to do just that. If he’s also ready to chew it – and perhaps even swallow it – that’s fine, but it is more likely that these skills will follow in due course.

 

I make a point of emphasizing the six months ‘rule’, even though I don’t consider it to be cast in stone. This is because it’s all too easy for those who don’t understand the concept of BLW to misinterpret any suggestion that starting earlier than this is acceptable. This can be the beginning of a slippery slope into dangerous practices, which I absolutely do not condone.

 

baby, blw, introduction, solid foods
It’s really exciting to start foods but this baby isn’t quite ready yet!

 

What is the ultimate goal?

The problem is that it’s tempting to see more ability in one’s child than is actually there, and to offer that little bit of help to enable them to achieve a particular goal. This includes: providing extra support to sit up or reach out, guiding their arm towards their mouth, or – worse – putting the food into their mouth ‘for them’. Mostly, this doesn’t matter, but when it comes to eating, a baby’s ability – or inability – to manage the necessary sequence of actions is an important safety factor. ‘Helping’ them over a hurdle they cannot yet manage for themselves is potentially hazardous.

 

It’s useful to remember that the ‘achievement’ of eating is the adult’s goal, not the child’s. The baby doesn’t know that’s what the point of all this is. She is just finding out how her own body, and the things around her, work. If she doesn’t manage to get the food to her mouth, sowhat? She hasn’t ‘failed’ – and she has no sense of needing help. Her parents’ role is to give her the OPPORTUNITY to do whatever she is ready to do. Whether that be touching food, picking it up, licking it, biting it, chewing it and/or swallowing it – or none of the above – not to enable her to do something she can’t yet manage. Six months represents an average age of readiness, in the same way that most babies take their first step around their firstbirthday.

 

Is 6 months the ‘magic’ age?

Clearly some will be ready to walk earlier – and some later – than that. We don’t try to prevent those who are ready earlier from walking before the ‘correct’ age. If we are prepared to accept that a good proportion of babies will not be ready to feed themselves with solid foods until they are seven, eight or nine months, then it is perfectly reasonable to allow that there will also be a few who may begin before they reach the ‘magic’ age of six months. The crucial point, as I see it, is that the move should be spontaneous and autonomous.

 

In my opinion, arguments about the ‘right’ age for introducing solid foods are important only if it’s the parent, not the baby, who decides when putting food into her/his mouth should begin – as happens, of course, with spoon feeding. Such arguments are redundant if the decision is made by the baby because all babies develop eating skills in a set sequence, in line with their overall maturity. Theoretically, there is no reason why a baby of one or two months old should not be offered the opportunity to sit upright and pick food up from a plate.

 

What stops this being a sensible option is not that this is the ‘wrong’ age but that the baby simply isn’t capable of it. The same would apply at three, four and five months. It is extremely unlikely that any infant under about five and a half months would, without any ‘help’, be able to get more than a taste of solid food. Those that can are the exception, not the rule. Provided this is fully understood, starting solids ‘early’ does not, in my view, constitute a problem.

early, introduction, solid foods, baby, sitting,

         Here’s a 5-month-old baby who is not ready to start complementary foods

What are the words to describe what is happening?

A key challenge in all this is that we don’t have the right words to describe the introduction of solid foods when the baby is in control. ‘Starting solids’ with spoon feeding and purees means someone else putting food into the baby’s mouth on a day decided by them. But ‘starting solids’ using BLW simply means providing babies with the opportunity to eat if and when they want to and are able to. It’s up to the baby to take it from there.

 

Precautions

Before doing Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) with your baby, it is important to proceed safely by contacting a pediatric registered dietitian. Among other things, make sure that:

  • your baby is ready and does not start too early
  • your baby is sitting at 90 degrees
  • you do not place food in his/her mouth with your fingers
  • the environment is calm during meals
  • you offer the right foods to your baby
  • you watch your baby eat at all times
  • you contact a pediatric registered dietitian to make sure you are proceeding safely
  • you read the warning below

Warning*

BLW is contraindicated for babies at risk of dysphagia, such as babies who have an anatomic disorder (cleft palate, tongue tie), a neurological disorder (developmental delay, hypotonia, oral hypotonia) or a genetic disorder. Follow-up by a health professional (doctor, pediatric registered dietitian) is necessary for babies at risk of anemia such as babies born prematurely, babies with low birth weight (less than 3000 g), worries related to growth, babies born to an anemic mother, baby for whom cow’s milk was introduced early and/or a vegan baby.

*Cusson and Labonté, Baby-Led Weaning Conference, June 2018, Nutrium, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal

 

To get all the information you need about introducing complementary foods, sign up for my online course at blw.jessicacoll.com . You’ll get my unlimited support and all the answers to your questions.

I want to know: how early did you start solid foods with your baby? Comment below!

dme, alimentation autonome, purées

Can you switch to BLW? Can you do a bit of both?

Can you switch to BLW? Can you do a bit of both?

 

I get lots of questions about whether it’s possible to switch from conventional weaning to baby-led weaning (BLW), or to do a bit of both. I also hear stories about parents being asked to leave online groups because they aren’t ‘true’ BLWers. So I thought it was about time I explained my thinking on all of this.

 

First off, I’d like to thank Gill Rapley who wrote this text. I agree with what she wrote so decided to not re-write it all. I’m sharing her text here to reach out to more parents interested in getting more information about Baby Led Weaning (BLW) to make sure they are doing it safely. To find out more about Gill (the one who coined the term BLW), check out rapleyweaning.com.

 

What is BLW?

 

Parents are often asked “Are you doing BLW or are you spoon feeding?”. But the real question should be “Are you taking a baby-led approach to weaning or a conventional one?” This is because baby-led weaning (BLW) isn’t a feeding method, it’s a fundamental approach to babies and food. It’s about how you view your baby’s capabilities in relation to eating, not just whether or not you feed her with a spoon.

 

BLW encompasses offering healthy foods, sharing family mealtimes, making sure only your baby puts food into her mouth, and trusting her to know whether to eat, what to eat, how much and how quickly – as well as offering her graspable foods from the outset and letting her pick them up with her hands. It’s quite possible to decide not to use spoons and purees without fully embracing the trust and respect for your baby that is what BLW is really all about.

 

Precautions

Before doing Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) with your baby, it is important to proceed safely by contacting a pediatric registered dietitian. Among other things, make sure that:

  • your baby is ready and does not start too early
  • your baby is sitting at 90 degrees
  • you do not place food in his/her mouth with your fingers
  • the environment is calm during meals
  • you offer the right foods to your baby
  • you watch your baby eat at all times
  • you contact a pediatric registered dietitian to make sure you are proceeding safely
  • you read the warning below

Warning*

BLW is contraindicated for babies at risk of dysphagia, such as babies who have an anatomic disorder (cleft palate, tongue tie), a neurological disorder (developmental delay, hypotonia, oral hypotonia) or a genetic disorder. Follow-up by a health professional (doctor, pediatric registered dietitian) is necessary for babies at risk of anemia such as babies born prematurely, babies with low birth weight (less than 3000 g), worries related to growth, babies born to an anemic mother, baby for whom cow’s milk was introduced early and/or a vegan baby.

*Cusson and Labonté, Baby-Led Weaning Conference, June 2018, Nutrium, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal

 

Can we ‘switch’ to BLW?

 

Yes! I firmly believe that it’s never too late to switch to BLW. While a baby who has been started on purees and spoon feeding can’t truly be defined as having been fully BLW’d (see Why definitions matter, below), that doesn’t mean that he and his parents can’t be said to be currently following a BLW approach. It’s no different from a mother who starts off formula feeding and then switches to breastfeeding – her baby won’t have been ‘exclusively breastfed’ but they are nevertheless a breastfeeding couple now. Everyone is entitled to change their approach when they learn something new, or when they discover that what they’ve chosen isn’t working for them.

 

Can we ‘do a bit of both’?

 

This is a tricky one. I am totally in favour of parents doing whatever works best for them and their child. If this involves a combination of spoon feeding and self-feeding, so be it. What this isn’t, though, is a combination of BLW and conventional weaning – it’s really just conventional weaning, but starting at six months (from when the introduction of finger foods alongside spoon-fed pureed or mashed food has always been recommended). BLW is about more than just offering your baby food to pick up – it’s about trusting him to know what he needs. If you’re topping him up with a spoon after he’s had a go with his hands, then you’re not really doing that. The bottom line is that trusting your baby and not quite trusting him are simply not compatible. So, while doing some self-feeding and some spoon feeding may work for you, it’s not BLW.

 

A lot of parents who say they are ‘doing a bit of both’ are in fact just following conventional weaning, without realising it. The reason is to do with timing: BLW was beginning to be talked about at around the same time (2002) as the minimum recommended age for solid feeding was changing from four months to six months. The result is that many parents don’t realise that finger foods were already recommended from six months – alongside purees – prior to this. They therefore believe that offering their baby any finger foods means they are ‘doing (some) BLW’.

 

Why definitions matter

 

Does the definition of BLW really matter? I believe it does, for two reasons. First, it matters for parents who are hearing about BLW for the first time. If they are to make an informed decision about how they want to approach weaning with their baby they need to understand the underpinning ethos of BLW. If they don’t, they may implement only part of it and then be dismayed when it doesn’t ‘work’. Worse, they may do something dangerous, such as putting lumps of food into their baby’s mouth ‘for her’, which could lead to her choking.

 

The second reason I believe the definition matters is to enable an increase in knowledge about children and food – globally. If what we think may be the lifelong benefits for babies of being BLW’d (better eating habits, less risk of obesity etc.) are to be proven – or even disproven – by research, then studies need to define clearly and unambiguously what ‘true’ BLW is. If researchers set out to compare babies who have been BLW’d with babies weaned the conventional way without accurately defining what those terms mean, then there is a real risk that some babies will be said to have been BLW’d when, for example, they had purees for the first two weeks, or were routinely spoon-fed at certain meals, or were always fed separately from the rest of the family. This muddying of the waters would make the results of the research meaningless, and could well mean that some of the real benefits of BLW don’t show up. (It’s the same as researchers’ insistence, nowadays, on a clear definition of ‘exclusive breastfeeding’; it’s only since the importance of this has been appreciated that the real differences between breastfeeding and formula feeding have begun to emerge.)

 

Belonging to the ‘club’

 

So what does this mean for BLW groups and forums? Should parents who are ‘doing a bit of both’, or who started off following a conventional approach and then ‘switched’ to BLW be allowed to be members of the BLW ‘club’? My answer is yes, I think they should. While I do believe it’s important for everyone to be clear whether what they are doing is or isn’t ‘true’ BLW, I don’t believe anyone should feel ostracised for not choosing (or being able) to follow it to the letter. Everyone is different: for some, their support network of family and friends is pro-BLW, while others face resistance every day. Some babies have specific medical or developmental challenges that impact on their eating. For many parents, being able to share others’ experiences is what gives them the courage to keep going at the level they are, or to make the leap to ‘full’ BLW.

 

People meet at different points along the parenting route but we can still be friends and travel together, sharing what we have in common while at the same time respecting our differences. While it’s not helpful to admit people whose intention is to make trouble, I like to think anyone who is genuinely interested in finding out more about BLW would be made to feel welcome in a BLW group.

 

Check out my BLW Online Course for parents at blw.jessicacoll.com to get all the answers to your questions. In this course accessible 24/7 and worldwide, you get to ask me an unlimited number of questions and I answer them very quickly. Once again, I would like to thank Gill Rapley for writing this text.

I want to know: Did you take a baby-led approach to weaning or a conventional one? Comment below!