Thursday, 21 June 2007

Baby Food

There seems to be quite a bit of media attention (in the UK at least) being given to baby food and baby-led weaning (BLW) just now. I noticed an article at the BBCNews website yesterday - Pureed baby food is 'unnatural' - and there's a wikipedia entry on baby-led weaning too. And ParentDish has picked up on the BBC article too.

I came across Gill Rapley's Guidelines for implementing a baby-led approach to the introduction of solid food via a comment (I don't know where I saw that, but there's a post about introducing solids here)at the Ask Moxie blog when I was reading around about introducing solids. I think that a lot of what Rapley's saying has been distorted but the media unfortunately -- putting the general population on the defensive perhaps because purees and jarred baby food have been the norm for so long?

Although I haven't done things exactly according to her guidelines, so much of what Rapley says makes a lot of sense to me. I've done a mix of spoonfeeding and giving finger-foods to our daughter. Against my better judgement I did try giving her rice cereal mixed with breastmilk as one of her first foods, she was so unimpressed; she ate some but kept giving me these looks that said Really? I'll eat this, but you realise it's breastmilk that tastes nasty? Why are you making me eat this? So we didn't do that again, and if she doesn't like something I don't try to force her (not that getting her to eat something she's taken against is much of an option) -- sometimes I'll try again another day with a different prep method.

At 11 months she eats a fair variety of foods, and clearly prefers food with texture, and things she can put in her mouth herself. She'll give most anything a try, but isn't afraid to reject something that doesn't taste good to her. One aspect of BLW that I think makes a lot of sense is trusting the baby to tell you when it wants to eat food, and how much. It seems to me that it follows on naturally from breastfeeding on demand which is what we've been doing since she was born. Hopefully she's learning to eat when she's hungry/drink when she's thirsty and stop when she's had enough (she certainly seems to be maintaining a healthy weight and developing on track). I sit down with her in her chair for meals, but she also gets to snack throughout the day (as do I, not only because breastfeeding makes me hungry a lot but also because with PCOS the idea of more small and frequent meals is more valuable than ever).

Our daughter hasn't yet shown any food sensitivities (so far so good), started teething before we were introducing solids, always had good head control, was really interested in food (trying to steal it from us and mimicking our chewing motions while watching us eat) and could sit up before we got started. She's also never had much trouble swallowing so long as whatever she was eating wasn't too much at once. She figured out how to cough forward anything that she wasn't going to be able to swallow so that she could gum/chew some more and try again or spit it out. There's been very little gagging, and nothing she couldn't handle herself. Here's hoping that continues. I imagine this would be a lot harder if she had allergies, reflux or developmental difficulties that make eating a challenge. I'm sure she'll get fussier when she's asserting her independence (and really I was a terribly fussy eater so I keep thinking it can't be as easy as it's been so far).

I'm really pleased to say we haven't used any jarred babyfood so far (although right now I'm having trouble preparing for going away from tomorrow through Sunday to a place with no kitchen access and no idea what food will be on offer...). I have bought big jars of applesauce to mix with barley or oatmeal. There are some other processed foods she eats now -- teething biscuits (although sometimes I bake those myself), unsweetened breakfast cereal, pasta, bread, sheets of nori (the hands down favourite) and rice cakes for snacking. Mostly though I just cut up fruit and tofu (she'll only eat it plain in cubes), steam veggies, poach egg yolks and chicken and boil up oats, lentils and pearled barley. I do puree prunes in the food processor but mostly she doesn't like purees, prunes are the exception. She thought pureed peas were a horrible idea but whole peas are her candy. (Oh and she also nurses plentifully still -- I'm not worrying too much about which solids she eats because I'm remembering that breastmilk is still her primary source of nutrition.)

I'm definitely moving more and more in the direction of giving her what we're eating simplified. I've been more focused on introducing foods one at a time, and holding off on a lot of the common allergens (although she had wheat pretty early on) than one perhaps might be when following the BLW guidelines with not much of any food allergies on either side of the family. She's getting pretty close to a year now, her digestive system is getting stronger and able to cope with more and more new things so I'm looking forward to introducing her to lots of tasty things in the next year!

If you're interested in reading more about Rapley and baby led weaning there are links at the wikipedia entry I mentioned. I just listened to the interview on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour from 2004 with Rapley and Annabel Karmel (author of Feeding Your Baby and Toddler). Karmel voices some concerns that I think a lot of people might have about Rapley's approach, and Rapley explains her approach. I found it interesting (although I found Karmel's delivery a little off-putting but that may be just me). The segment's about 12 and a half minutes long -- check it out here.

Part of what spurred me to write a blog post about this was the coincidence of the news stories and a new Ask Moxie post that led to a mention of the baby-led weaning introduction of solids yesterday. I had another look at today and saw that someone had posted in the comments with a link to another interesting sounding site that I've taken a brief look at. It's a site started by two mums following Gill Rapley's guidelines called simply baby led weaning

I'm also planning to read through this webchat Rapley did at the progressive parenting site. This is a new parenting site to me but it looks right up my alley -- they say:
We are strong believers in each baby being an individual and each family have unique sets of circumstances. We also think a parent’s best asset is their instinct but that instinct has to be an informed one.

I'll have to check it out more and see what else is there.

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