After I posted about BLW yesterday I realized there was a lot I really didn't address. The truth is that infant feeding is such a vast subject that I don't think I can truly cover every single aspect. But, I thought I'd at least broach some of the common questions and share some tips based on my experience.
1- What do you feed the baby if you don't puree or mash up the food?
Simple. Ditch the spoon and feed the baby let the baby feed himself whole foods. Start with finger foods from the start. Yes, simple, yet confusing to so many people.
I admit I was a little lost at first too. Let me explain with an example. If you're making something like potatoes, cut them in wedges large enough for small hands to hold. Generally speaking, larger sized foods, shaped like french fries, work better than smaller pieces at first. A typical 6 month old uses a palmer grasp and doesn't have the ability to grab smaller pieces of food yet (thumb-finger pincer grasp develops between 7 - 11 months or so).
Tip: Bread or toast may work better if slightly crunchy (less gagging than soft bread)
Tip: May peel fruits like apples - again, reduces gagging
2- But what about foods that are typically mashed or not "whole"?
Just because you are not spoon feeding doesn't mean you avoid all food that would normally be eaten with a spoon. I gave my son homemade oatmeal from the start. I made them to my taste (rolled oats cooked with apples and cinnamon) and then put some in a bowl and let him go at it. He dipped his hands in the bowl and shoveled the food into his mouth. Then, when he couldn't get any more on his hands he leaned his entire face into the bowl and ate what he could.
Tip: Offer bread cut up into slices and let the baby dip it into more runny foods (like yoghourt or mashed potatoes for example).
3- What about choking?
There is a huge difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is a normal protective mechanism that you WANT your baby to demonstrate. Unlike choking, which is silent, gagging is very noisy. The gag reflex protects your child from choking. While learning to eat solid foods, your baby needs to lean how much to move it around her mouth (so that it can mix with saliva) and/or how much to chew her food before attempting to swallow it. If she tries to swallow it too soon she may gag... BUT she also learns! Eating without gagging is a skill she will only learn with practice.
This is also why BLW stresses to resist the urge to spoon feed or to help babies eat. That is what actually increases the chance of choking. If the baby is allowed to explore and handle food on their own, then they will only grab what they are developmentally capable of getting and their natural gag reflex will handle the sudden intake of food that they are not ready to swallow. Until their gag reflex moves to the back of the mouth (around 9 months) and by then they would have learned how to manage food.
Tip: Get a full body bib (like a shirt with no back). It's going to be very messy!
4- Other tips:
- Get a floor mat (food will be thrown or fall by mistake).
- Use common sense with choking hazards (example, cut grapes or nuts).
- Forget baby cereals. They are nutritionally empty and the iron in them is not easily absorbed.
- Consider peeling certain fruits (example: plums, apples). No need to cook.
- Non sliced fruits worked well too (take a few bites out of an apple & give it whole).
- Offer a variety of foods, not just one at a time, so baby can choose what he wants.
- Research, research, research... Be informed. Don't just take your doctor's advice!!! YOU have to be comfortable with your decision.
Most of all, just relax and enjoy watching them discover. It's a blast ;)
More from health