Baby Led Weaning: The Beginners Guide for Starting Solids

baby feeding himself in high chair baby led weaning

Your precious baby is 6 months old! That’s the magic age, right? It’s commonly
accepted that this is the time when your baby needs other foods to compliment his/her
breastmilk or formula intake. Other new moms are chattering about it and you’re yet again
scouring the interwebs trying to figure out the best way to begin feeding your babe. Maybe you
have seen other moms feed their babies all organic store-bought purees or seen posts on your
Facebook mom group about making their own?! Once again, you’re stumped. Wishing
someone would shout from the rooftops the right answer for feeding your baby.
Today on the blog, we are discussing Baby Led Weaning. But before we do, we need to
first clarify that your baby is ready for this next step. Here are a few musts your babe needs to
be doing before beginning this method.

  • Baby can sit up well without support.
  • Babe has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids
    out of his/her mouth with tongue
  • Baby is ready and willing to chew.
  • “Pincer” grasp is being developed. This is when babe is able to pick up food and
    other small objects between thumb and forefinger.
  • Baby is eager and showing interest to participate in eating at mealtimes.

Baby Led Weaning (often referred to as BLW) is a method of beginning solids in your
baby’s diet that is complimentary to the first year of breastmilk/formula. This method upholds
the nature of eating as a positive, interactive experience and encourages the development of
age appropriate oral motor control. Babies “self-feed” through the exploration of different
textures and also are able to control their solid food consumption. The term “weaning” does
not imply that baby is replacing breastmilk or formula but mainly just complimenting it with
other solids.

Benefits of Baby Led Weaning

Though very little longitudinal research has been done on this subject, experts see potential for
BLW to have a lasting effect on a child’s food preferences, eating habits and palates. It also
teaches babies the fundamental life step of self-regulation. Babies cannot be made to eat more
than they need since they are not being fed by another person. They are doing the feeding and
the ones in charge of their intake. Also, another benefit of the BLW method is you can forgo the
buying, making, blending, freezing, and defrosting process of making or purchasing the little jars
of food.

Tips to get started on the Baby Led Weaning journey

  • Wait until your babe is showing signs of readiness (see above for developmental
    markers).
  • Continue to give breastmilk and formula. This is still considered your baby’s biggest
    source of nutrients until approximately 10-12 months. Remember, food before 1 is just for fun.
  • Model eating for and with your babe. Mealtimes are social events. Model proper
    chewing and eating behaviors while your baby joins in in his/her own chair.
  • Prep foods for easy grasping. Food should be cut long and skinny for baby to manage
    independently.
  • Prepare for the mess. The goal of this method is exploration. Smearing, dropping,
    throwing (oh my!) is part of the learning process. Again, modeling appropriate table
    manners is key here.
  • Consider nutrient intake. High calorie foods and also vitamins such as zinc, protein, and
    healthy fats are all good options for your babe to ingest.

Remember to do what feels best and right for your baby/family. Maybe you want a hybrid
model where baby has softer foods to start and smoothies that are nutrient dense with some
finger sized pieces to gnaw on. You are the wonderful caretaker and your babe is following your
perfect lead. Enjoy the journey!

Postpartum Nutrition: Soups that Heal

postpartum soup recipes

With so much emphasis placed on prenatal planning and nutrition, so little attention is focused on the mother’s postpartum period. A healthy postpartum is just as important as a healthy pregnancy for mother’s optimum rejuvenation and healing as she begins to care for her new baby. Just how can give your body the extra support it needs as you begin to discover the new you post baby?

Iron, vitamin B-12, and folate can promote replacement of blood cells that were inevitably lost during a large event like childbirth, says Rachel High, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Central Texas. Broths are an excellent way to provide your body with the above nutrients.

Around the world, in many cultures, postpartum women use broths as a nutrient dense way to heal their bodies.
Lizzy Swick, a dietician in New Jersey, claims that women need nutrients that are easily digested and assimilated to help and balance hormones and build blood to fully promote recovery.

Below you will find 4 soups that have been proven to promote the healing process after welcoming your new baby.

Seaweed Soup: Korean descent. Known as “miyeok guk.” Tradition has it that seaweed is hydrating and this aids in breastfeeding support. This soup is high in calcium and contain iodine. Iodine is known to aid in baby’s brain development. Fibrous which helps prevent constipation. Packed with iron to prevent anemia and promote overall well-being.
(Since high iodine levels can be dangerous for baby, be sure to check the nutritional label before purchasing that certain brand. Different brands vary.)

Pork Vinegar Soup: Chinese descent. Commonly made to support breastmilk supply. Made from ginger, pork feet, and sweetened rice vinegar. Also, typically served with an egg for added protein.

Tomato Soup: American classic. Adding fresh herbs not only aids in flavor but also helps your body’s ability to handle oxidative stress and inflammation. Basil, turmeric, garlic, and parsley are all recommended by Swick for their detoxification and antibacterial properties.

Caldo de Pollo (Chicken Soup): Mexican descent. In that culture, it is believed to take 40 days to heal mother’s reproductive organs and regain original shape after birth. This period is known as the “cuarentena.” This basic soup is recommended because it is typically not too spicy or heavy for this special period. Also, it contains carrots, tomatoes, garlic, lime and safflower which all contribute to overall well-being.
May you have a peaceful postpartum period. Be well, mamas!

Postpartum is a quest back to yourself. Alone in your body again. You will never be the same, you are stronger than you once were. -Amethyst Joy

Protein Hacks During Pregnancy (and Beyond)

We have all probably heard it said a time or two that a pregnant mama should be
getting enough protein. Just how much protein is enough though? And what’s the big
deal anyway?

The recommended DAILY amount for a pregnant woman is around 80
grams. To put it in perspective, one large egg is 7 grams and a 4-ounce chicken
breast contains around 35 grams of protein.

It is important to get enough protein throughout your pregnancy because the amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks for you and your baby. The recommended amount promotes healthy
development.

Below you will find several hacks to help you sneak in that extra protein to keep you
energized and healthy throughout your pregnancy.

  1. Upgrade those oats: add a scoop of Greek yogurt and a fistful of sliced
    almonds to make your breakfast even more luxurious.
  2. Opt for eggs (over cereal): two eggs in the morning will begin your day with
    approximately 14 grams of protein.
  3. Beans, beans, beans: throw some beans in that salad (or in that taco) to
    increase the yummy-ness factor.
  4. Power Up Those Smoothies: Throw in some extra greens, flax, and chia seeds
    in the blender for an even healthier treat.
  5. Energizing Snacks: Cheese, Boiled Eggs, Nuts/ Nut Butters, Beef Sticks. These
    are all excellent and portable protein options.
  6. Guava Goodness: This is the most protein rich fruit containing almost 5
    grams. Add it to a salad, eat it as a snack, or in a smoothie!

But…there will be days where you may not reach those 80 grams. It is ok. You have
not failed yourself or your baby. Just try again the next day.

“Be kind to your body, gentle with your mind and patient with your heart. Stay true to
your spirit, cherish your soul and never doubt yourself. You are still becoming, my love,
and there is no one more deserving of the nurturing grace of your love.”
-Becca Lee

Celebrate Autumn With Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin seeds

Autumn has finally arrived in Maryland and that means that is it pumpkin season. Almost everywhere you’ll find lattes, pies, and soups with its namesake. We are celebrating the harvest with the seeds of this seasonal squash. Also called pepitas, these little seeds are extremely nutrient dense, and contain a wide array of vitamins and minerals. Here are why pumpkin seeds are fall’s favorite superfood!

Protein During pregnancy you should be consuming an extra 25g of protein per day. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of vegetarian protein with about 5g in a one-ounce serving. Adding some seeds to a salad or a smoothie is an easy way to increase your protein intake. Pepitas are also particularly high in tryptophan, one of the 9 amino acids that comprise protein. Tryptophan is used by your body to synthesize the hormone serotonin; which is partly responsible for nervous system health, sleep regulation, and muscle growth and repair.

Minerals Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of several essential and trace minerals.

  • Zinc Just one-quarter cup of pepitas provide nearly 20% of your recommended daily allowance of zinc. Consuming adequate levels of zinc helps maintain your metabolism, improves immune health, and facilitates digestion. Zinc is also vital to proper fetal development. Increasing your intake will help ensure you have a healthier pregnancy, birth, and baby.
  • Magnesium Pumpkin seeds are also a fantastic source of magnesium. This macro-mineral used by the body to form teeth and bones, synthesize proteins, regulate metabolism and maintain heart health. Obtaining more magnesium may also increase blood flow and nutrition to baby via the placenta.
  • Iron During pregnancy, blood volume increases 40-50%, and iron is required to make all those new red blood cells to transport oxygen through you body and to baby. Pumpkin seeds are one of the richest plant-based sources of this essential mineral.

Omega-3  These fatty acids are crucial for brain growth and fetal development. Consuming sufficient amounts of Omega-3’s from foods like pumpkin seeds is linked to better birth outcomes including a higher placental weight, lower risk for preeclampsia, longer gestation, and higher birth weight.

B-Complex Vitamins  There are eight ‘B’ vitamins. All are crucial to normal body functions and a healthy pregnancy. The B-complex vitamins are essential for proper metabolism function, immune support, and normal nervous system growth in baby.

After you are finished carving your pumpkin make sure to set aside the seeds. Here are twelve plant-based recipes featuring pumpkin seeds. Enjoy!

Introducing Solids With Baby Led Weaning

baby led weaning

Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy Of Pediatrics recommend exclusively breastfeeding your infant for the first six months. As you approach this milestone, you’re probably thinking about introducing solids to baby. There are two ‘schools of thought’ regarding the the addition of complementary foods. Feeding milled cereals and puréed foods by spoon is the traditional approach. Another way to offer solids is through Baby Led Weaning (BLW).  This style encourages baby to feed herself and skip the spoon, completely. The following is a guide to help you learn about, and decide if, a baby-led approach is right for your family.

What is Baby Led Weaning?

BLW is a theory originated by Gill Rapley, a British health nurse. The word ‘weaning’ is the UK equivalent of Americans saying ‘starting solids’.  With BLW, you forgo spoon feeding, a parent initiated method, and trust your baby to nourish herself, a baby initiated approach

When is my baby ready to feed herself?

Spoon feeding is so popular and almost unchallenged in our culture. Many families choose to introduce solids prior to six months.  Before this age, babies are not developmentally ready to feed themselves. With BLW, you wait until baby is developmentally ready to eat. When your infant reaches the following milestones, she is ready to start exploring food:

  • is at least six months of age
  • has lost the tongue thrust reflex
  • can sit with little or no assistance
  • reaches and bring objects to her mouth accurately
  • shows focused interest in food and your eating

Why choose BLW?

It’s progressive and instinctual! A baby initiated approach to food is an extension of breastfeeding. A healthy, full-term baby can feed herself as soon as she is born. Baby tells you when she is hungry, she nurses at her pace, and knows when she is full. BLW builds on this philosophy and applies it to complementary foods. This style is also easier. Your baby enjoys the foods you cook for the entire family.  There is no need to prepare separate recipes for you infant.

How safe is BLW?

‘I am worried my baby will choke on food!’ The BLW philosophy makes sense in theory, but many parents are nervous to try this approach for fear of choking. BLW is as safe, or safer than traditional spoon feeding. As long as your baby is ready to feed herself, as listed above, she can engage in BLW.

baby led weaning info
What food should baby eat?

For safety, foods should be served in large chunks that baby can easily grasp in hand. These are a good start:

  • Soft fruits cut in big pieces – bananas, peaches, ripe melon, avocado
  • Steamed vegetables – sweet potato, summer squash, pumpkin, broccoli
  • Buttered toast cut in slices
  • Omelette
  • Pasta
  • Mini muffins
  • Steamed fish
  • Well cooked steak

Here are an additional 100+ foods and recipes to enjoy.
To learn more about Baby Led Weaning, check out Rapley’s series of books.

Nourishing Recipes For The First Trimester

Nourishing recipes for the first trimester

Obtaining Essential Nutrients With Whole Foods

Eating a colorful, varied, and minimally processed diet is ideal for optimal health, and during pregnancy this becomes more apparent. Your body requires specific essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to support and grow baby.

In these three recipes, I will explain why certain foods are ideal during the first trimester, and how their specific nutrients help you and baby. These nourishing dishes are all free from grains, dairy, and refined sugars.

First Trimester Smoothie

Coconut milk is a great alternative to traditional dairy; it is a rich source of several B-complex vitamins including B1, B3, B5, and B6. (There are 8 B-vitamins) Some of the many benefits include immune and nervous system support, and enhanced energy production. During pregnancy, you also require more protein to support the rapid growth of your placenta and baby. Almond butter is a delicious addition to the smoothie and a great source of plant protein.

½ sliced, frozen banana

½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries

3 tbsp almond butter

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ cup full fat coconut milk

¼ tsp lemon zest

Place all ingredients in blender and mix.

Ultimate Prenatal Lentil Salad

Adapted from My New Roots

This salad is particularly delicious! Lentils are an amazing source of folate, a B-vitamin that helps baby’s neural tube develop properly. Folate also helps support red blood cell production, which is important as your blood volume increases throughout pregnancy. Lentils contain a ton of protein and fiber, which really increases the satiety factor of this dish.

1 cup black (du puy) lentils, rinsed, cooked, and drained

¼ cup dried tart cherries

handful of finely chopped fresh herbs. (I enjoy mint and parsley)

3 tbsp chopped capers

¼ cup chopped almonds

Vinaigrette:

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp strong mustard

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp ground cardamom

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp cinnamon

Place salad ingredients in bowl. Prepare vinaigrette by placing all ingredients in a jar with lid. Shake well to combine. Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss everything together. This dish tastes best fresh at room temperature.

Wilted Greens with Creamy Lemon Tahini

Adapted from Love and Lemons

This recipe is loaded with superfoods. Dark leafy greens including spinach, chard, and kale are rich in vitamins and minerals. Greens like spinach are a surprisingly great source of calcium, which is needed for baby’s bone development. The addition of avocado lends more than creaminess to the sauce. It also contains high levels of vitamin B6, which helps baby’s brain development. Vitamin B6 can also ease nausea, a common first trimester symptom. Dark greens and the sesame tahini provide a superb source of iron, which supports red blood cell production, helping to prevent fatigue and anemia. Adding lemon to this dish enables your body absorb iron more effectively.

4 cups dark leafy greens (I prefer baby spinach)

1 cup broccoli florets

⅓ cup sesame tahini

½ avocado

juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper, to taste

Sauté greens and broccoli in olive oil and set aside. Blend tahini, avocado, and lemon together in food processor. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water, to thin, if necessary. Plate greens and pour sauce on top.

Enjoy!

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