Why we chose not to do Baby Led Weaning

I don’t own a Stanley cup, I can’t make sourdough bread AND I’m not doing Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?! Say whaaaat? I’ve always been a contrarian of sorts, but stick with me on this one. There’s a method to my madness, I promise.

I rarely run into a mom that doesn’t give me rave reviews of how wonderful BLW is and how giving her baby what she eats makes life so much easier. If I had a dollar for each time I’ve been told “Oh, just get the Solid Starts app; it’s amazing”, I’d be rich. It’s a handy app for tracking foods and reactions, but to me it’s definitely lacking in some crucial aspects. Along these same lines, I bet we’ve all seen the Instagram worthy baby plate photos full of colorful items and the absolute mess of the baby’s face and hands almost as a badge of honor. If you’re just offering “boring” purees, are you depriving your child? No, I definitely don’t think so.

When it comes to feeding, who wouldn’t want to simplify meals? It truly does seem like a beneficial practice in theory. No need to prepare separate meals for your baby, letting them decide when they’re full and getting to try a lot of new textures and flavors in the process of learning how to feed themselves independently.

I am fully in support of encouraging intuitive eating in children and not forcing them to eat when they’re not interested, but I believe the trendy BLW needs to be approached cautiously for a variety of reasons, gut health being the the most important one.

As someone that has struggled with my own gut health for years, I’m very focused on trying to prevent those same issues from happening with my son. As my frustration was growing after seeing BLW spoken about as if it was the ONLY responsible and viable option in every Mom group I was in, I was relieved to find a different, research-backed approach, thanks to a fellow Mom (Erica) that runs a website called Healthy Little Bellies. Erica has her own separate recipe site that offers nutrient dense real food meal ideas and has learned the importance of whole food nutrition and gut health in dealing with her own MS diagnosis.

I’ve been working through her Starting Solids course and it has been SO helpful in guiding me through what foods to introduce first for ease of digestion, how to combine protein, carbs, and fat, how to navigate digestive issues, and so much more. She provides recipes of tried and true purees that babies love, printable recipe sheets, and videos going over each phase of starting solids. The videos are fairly short and easy to watch as I have time throughout the day. I love that it provides the real life mom guidance from a seasoned recipe creator, along with the expertise of two nutritional consultants as well. They offer recommendations on supplements as well, and you receive an infant CPR course discount and lifetime discount to Fullscript just for purchasing the course.

I definitely recommend her course to anyone that wants to learn how to optimize their child’s gut health. She has courses focusing on toddlers as well, so I may be looking into those down the road. For now, I’m working through her recommendations and enjoying seeing my son try new flavors as I am learning how to balance foods that keep his digestion moving (plums, prunes, and pears) with other foods like bananas that he loves but end up being more constipating.

We’re also awaiting the results of his Tiny Health gut test. They take a sample of his poop and give you a breakdown of any imbalances in his microbiome along with recommendations for specific probiotic strains that he may need, along with dietary changes that could help. They can detect biomarkers for food allergies and eczema, so I’m definitely looking forward to finding out his results so that we can be proactive about building up his gut and immunity. They have you complete several surveys about parental health, what pregnancy and delivery was like, and family history, so I like that it’s an in depth look from multiple angles, not just a stool sample. If you’d like to order your own test, you can use my code REF-EMILYA1258 for $20 off.

Here are some of my takeaways:

  • Simply giving your child what you’re eating is not always appropriate when starting solids. Many fruits and vegetables need to be cooked for them to be able to digest them properly, and introducing grains too early can also cause gut and digestive distress. Also, they need a nutrient dense diet, so having plenty of protein, vegetables, fruit and fats is key, which I’m guessing is not always the case in adult meals (I know it’s not that way with ours).
  • Babies require more attention to their nutrition early on to set them up for success later. If your diet is completely balanced, this may not be as much of an issue to give them what you’re having, but that seems uncommon in today’s busy environment. The Weston A. Price Foundation has a lot of helpful information regarding good first foods and nutrition in general. Spoiler alert – rice cereal isn’t one of them 😉
  • You’re NOT a bad parent if you feed your child purees! Guess what, countless others and I were fed them and I’m one of the most adventurous eaters you’ll ever met. Purees cause picky eating? That’s silly if you ask me. The most important thing is giving your baby a chance to try a wide variety of flavors early on, and to remember it can take multiple introductions of a flavor before they decide whether they like it or not.
  • If your child has oral ties like our son does, starting with larger pieces of food can be problematic as they may struggle with chewing and swallowing more than children without ties. Gradually moving to textures and larger finger foods only AFTER successful introduction of purees is a much safer way to transition them into eating solid foods.

I hope this post will serve to encourage those of you that also feel like BLW isn’t right for your family and give you some helpful resources to look into other options for feeding and weaning.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

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