Baby Led Bananas
Baby Led Weaning
My son and I just shared a banana. I know, no big deal, right? Well, he’s four months old. Last week he swiped a piece of avocado from my spoon as I was lifting it from my plate. He stuffed the whole chunk in his mouth, and, much to the amazement of the friends I was lunching with, swallowed it. I wasn’t sure if it was intentional or just one of those jerky, flailing, air-punching movements he still makes with his arms. Julian was on my lap again today as I started on a banana. He yodeled, grabbed my hand and jammed the whole thing in his face where he kept it until he had gnawed, sucked and chewed half of it. He would occasionally pause, look at me and grin, and then continue.
Am I now on board for Baby-Led Weaning? When my daughter started on solids two and a half years ago there was no such thing. I was Alpha-Mummy by steaming and pureeing organic fruits and vegetables. Now, it seems, I was causing future eating disorders (or at least stridently picky eating). Who knew? A friend who recently introduced solids to her son using BLW gave me Gail Rapley’s book while I was pregnant with Julian. To be honest, it sat on my bedside table untouched until this week. For those who haven’t been swept up in the BLW tide the gist is that rather than mush up baby’s first foods and feed him with a spoon (as millions and millions of people have done for… forever) you give baby well cooked finger sized portions and allow him to pick it up and put it in his mouth himself. It’s a fairly subtle difference in approach if you ask me. A parent is still choosing which foods baby will try and, at least in the beginning, cooking the food a bit more than you would for own consumption. Not according to Rapley and her, um, rather intense followers. The book states over and over how BLW allows babies to choose what and how much they eat, respecting the child’s appetites and through respecting preferences creates less picky kids. In BLW world parents who are spoon-feeding purees are apparently incapable of being sensitive to the fairly obvious cues babies give when they’re full or uninterested in new flavours (spitting food out, turning their heads away, brushing the spoon away, etc.). Never mind that almost all contemporary parenting books recommend taking an easy going approach to introducing solids.
It all reminds me of the other trend that blew through baby town when Esme was a baby – infant toilet training. Remember that one? Parents observed their children closely enough to know when a diaper was about to be sullied and rushed their babe to the toilet where they were placed on or over to do their baby business. I admire any effort to reduce diapers, I really do. But we’re talking about infants, not toddlers or pre-schoolers, infants. I remember thinking, until a child can walk to the toilet, what is the point in training her to use it? What’s the hurry?
Well, you can tell that I found this book irritating, right? But I did find some elements compelling. I can see how giving babies pieces of soft, grab-able food allows them to develop dexterity and gives them a more fun (if way more messy) experience. I was won over by Rapley’s argument that babies as young as six months are able to cope with pieces of food and won’t choke. But what about a moderate, a little of this, a little of that approach? How about feeding my baby purees and also offering him a couple of pieces of food to chew on as well? Oh, no, says BLW. Yes, you can give your baby purees as well as bigger pieces of food but you risk not receiving all the benefits of BLW and may even undermine them.
This is what I really can’t stand about a lot of parenting advice. It’s never enough to say, “Here’s an idea that you might want to incorporate into what you’re already doing.” It’s got to be, “Do this or you’re screwing up your kid permanently.” It’s the tsk, tsk that I can’t stomach. I know it doesn’t sell books to be moderate. I get that you need a clear, marketable, novel take on things. But let’s get real. What do most parents do? They do what works. Which usually is a combination of what worked for a friend, what your baby responds to and what doesn’t make you crazy.
So. What am I going to do with my hungry boy? Well, he’s a little young for solids according to some books, right on time according to others. I’m going hold off a little while but then I’m going to make the purees for him that I made for his sister and I’m also going to try giving him more substantial pieces of food. And, dear reader, I’m going to let you know how it goes.
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