Patient-led Learning about Baby-led Weaning

watermelon

Although I am a pediatrician and a parent, I learn new things from my patients continuously.  This is one of the best parts of my job too.  However, in the moment, I can feel foolish.  One example that comes to mind is when one patient’s mom asked me what my opinions were on baby-led weaning.  Thinking she was talking about weaning her baby from breastfeeding I launched into an explanation of how a baby eventually transitions from breastfeeding to cows milk, while the mom politely waited for me to finish and then said, “no, this is a British way of introducing solids.”  While I blushed, I let her explain the philosophy of baby-led weaning to me and we discussed the risks and benefits as best I could without knowing much about it.   After getting this impromptu lecture, I went home and did my own research so that I could be prepared to answer questions and advise them at follow-up visits as they trialed baby-led weaning over the next few months.

As patients expose me to a broader range of parenting philosophies, strategies, and techniques, I grow as a pediatrician and am able to share new information with other parents.  After learning about baby-led weaning from these parents, I was better prepared to discuss it with parents in the future.  I have even incorporated things I learned about it into my usual speech about introducing solids.  Also, I was able to have some academic discussions with colleagues on this topic, in some cases teaching them what I had learned and in other cases soliciting their experiences with this method of feeding to enhance my own knowledge.

pancake

Patients always ask, “what would you do if it were your child.”  Well, when it came time to introduce solids to my second child, I did a combination of traditional pureed baby foods and baby-led weaning.  It turned out that she wasn’t interested in foods for months so there wasn’t much eating initially, but lately her interest has grown.  Some of our adventures in baby-led weaning are less about making a conscious decision to follow a particular philosophical approach to food and more about convenience.  For example, if we are eating at a restaurant and she reaches for my bread, I let her try it.  Of course, I only let her try things that she couldn’t choke on and make sure that they aren’t overly seasoned.  Besides bread, she eats whole pieces of banana, avocado, carrot, pretzel rods, pancakes, lettuce, and watermelon.  When she goes to daycare though, I give her purees, as I worry about whether or not they can adequately supervise her self-feeding.  Luckily, she enjoys her purees too, especially lentils!

purees

Regardless of whether or not a family does purees or baby-led weaning, there are a few things that I advise all parents will be universal truths of introducing foods:

1)  It is going to be messy.  Be ok with getting a little dirty.  You can take off clothes and have the baby just wear a bib to help cut down on the laundry.  An easy-to-clean high chair also helps.  We had a cloth chair with our son, but switched to a cushioned wooden chair that is much easier to wipe down with my daughter.

2)  You need patience.  Since babies have a tongue-thrust response initially, more food comes out than goes in.  It may also take 10-12 times of trying a food before a child accepts it.  So, don’t rule out a food based on 1 or 2 lackluster responses.

3)  You need to listen to your baby.  Whether doing a “baby-led” approach or spoon-feeding, you should always follow your baby’s cues.  Babies will let you know when they are hungry and when they are full, so listen to their needs.

4)  Have fun!  Eating is a highly social experience and a way many people and cultures show their love.  Make the experience nurturing, calm, and interactive.  Your baby should eat meals facing you and with you.  Enjoy exploring new foods together and watching your baby’s reactions.

Without the opportunity to learn from my patients, I may not have tried baby-led weaning with my own child.  Now I have a handful of families doing a pure baby-led weaning approach and another group doing a combination approach and I feel more competent in guiding them through this process.  I look forward to what my patients will teach me next and passing it along to others.

 

For more information about baby-led weaning, you can read these resources, however you should always talk with your doctor before introducing solids to your child.  What works for one child may not work for another and there are risks to introducing foods before a child is ready.  This post does not constitute personal medical advice.  Please talk with your child’s healthcare provider.

Baby Led Weaning: the mush stops here. 

Trusting a Baby to Know How to Eat-  New York Times 1/2014

Really Risa: Baby led weaning, week 1-  7/2014

Worried about choking?  Take an infant CPR class from one of these local Philadelphia organizations/hospitals:

American Red Cross

Jefferson University Hospital

Penn Medicine

{I have no affiliation with these courses and cannot speak to their quality.  Please research the best class for your individual goals and needs.  In an emergency, always call 911.}

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1 Comment

  1. I love that you have other patients doing strict BLW and a mix. We’re really not concerned about the label of it and considering all kinds of textures and options, even if that means some pureed chicken to avoid the choking hazard. And I love that you try all this stuff, too. Makes me so happy your our ped. Also, get ready for 100 questions when we see you today. 🙂
    risa | really risa recently posted…baby-led weaning | part twoMy Profile

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