Friday, August 15, 2014

More adventures in solids!

In the last two weeks, Charlotte has tried:

Chicken sausage with the skin removed, more green beans, clementine slices, avocado with skin attached, hot dog  (cut into finger shapes, with the skin removed), pizza crust, more broccoli, shredded chicken, small strips of soft grilled chicken, banana (cut into finger shapes, with the peel on one side), tiny pieces of shredded cheddar cheese, cantaloupe (didn't work well; it was so soft that she kept getting pieces that were too big and gagging them out- repeatedly), baby spinach, lettuce, shredded carrots, and pineapple (too tart!). 

Broccoli, shredded chicken, and banana seem to be the things she actually ate the most. Broccoli is sooooo messy but she can hold it really well and seems to get a lot in her mouth and swallowed, so that's great. She has been very proud and excited to be a part of meal time lately. One tricky thing is that dinner is right before she goes to bed so sometimes she is very tired and gets worn out from working so hard to get food. However, most nights she is pleasant and really seems to enjoy eating dinner with her family. She has excellent concentration and we are all impressed with her coordination and fine motor skills. (Though not so impressed with the evening shadows that make her face look black & blue in the second photo below!)

In regards to baby-led weaning (BLW), these are the questions I get most often when I explain how we have introduced solids: 
1. Aren't you afraid she will choke?
2. Aren't you supposed to wait a few days after each food, in case of allergies? 

These are both legitimate questions and I want to address them, but I think the short answer is that we don't live in fear. All of parenting, all of life, is about making choices and walking in truth. Charlotte could certainly choke on a piece of food (now, or when she is 2 years old, or when she is 21 years old!). Charlotte might get an allergic reaction to something we feed her, which could require serious medical attention. Both of those realities dwell in my mind. And while it is wise to be cautious, we don't live in fear. She could also get in a car crash or bump her head on our furniture or get terrible diaper rash or get kidnapped or any other horrible thing I might imagine. 

Allergies are real and some can be very serious. However, my understanding is that there are a few highly allergenic foods (peanuts, dairy, etc.) which require us to be cautious, but most foods aren't going to be a problem. Who is allergic to red pepper? Or avocado? Also- we have no food allergies on either side of our family, so it is unlikely Charlotte will have any. So far she doesn't, so yay! 

In regards to the choking issue, the key thing to remember is the difference between gagging and choking. Babies have very sensitive gag reflexes, which are triggered easily, and cause them to push forward any food they aren't ready to swallow. Gagging happens even with puréed foods when babies first start learning how to eat more than breast milk or formula. This week Charlotte was gnawing on a wedge of clementine. She got about half of it in her mouth and was sort of moving it around for a while... After a minute she made this terrible face, gagged, and slowly spit the piece out onto her lap. Then she picked up a new slice and began gnawing on that. While it startled me a little, I recognize that she was doing exactly what her body is designed to do. She was in control, she was working it out, and she was learning to eat. So I gave her a big smile and said, "Nice job!" :) 

There are a few safety precautions when implementing baby led weaning. I highly recommend reading this book/cookbook, or at least looking around online for more information, but basically we do two things carefully: We don't leave Charlotte unattended with food (I actually watch her like a hawk the entire time!) and we don't put any food in her mouth (because this completely works against her natural gag reflex and makes her far more likely to actually choke).

BLW is a safe, easy, and wonderful way for babies to learn to eat. We are having so much fun with it!

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