My Two Cents Truthful Comment (2 of 2): Baby-Led-Weaning (BLW)

My intended comment turned into a post again. Coincidence? Perhaps not!

This is a response to Jenmum’s post BLW Wobble. There she says she’s practicing BLW but it’s been tricky both time- and food-wise, and it’s all feeling somewhat inconvenient. She asked other BLW parents for some insight and wonders  “…is it common to feel a bit of a lull and a bit overwhelmed?”

The short answer is yes, I’m sure that it is a common feeling, I’ve felt it and it only makes sense to. Humans are social beings who are generally thought to thrive in social and supportive environments. There isn’t much support for BLW and it is not commonly found among your close family members or even circle of friends. They may not necessarily be nay-saying it, but they aren’t the like-minded, story sharing parents that would be truly welcomed.

That said, for those of you who don’t know what baby-led-weaning really is, or if you have interests, questions, or concerns about it, you can read a great article here by Gill Rapley (Deputy Programme Director of Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative) that discusses the basic guidelines for BLW and addresses the FAQ on the topic. A useful resource is babyledweaning.com.

My long answer to the not uncommon (or so I believe) dilemma is:

It can get quite messy, (I love these child aprons , perfect size to cover whole baby) and it might force you to reconsider your diet. But that’s a benefit!

If you yourself eat what you think is good for baby (and not just opt for the empty carbs as is temptingly quick and simple to do) you’ll probably feel better all around, have more energy and be connected to babe on another level: an ‘eating inuitively’ level. This is where you just know what you need to ingest based on what you’ve already had. Though baby’s needs are a little different from yours, they will be met in a more natural, whole life living way, based on a sound theory and less in a guess work kind of way.

So eating mindfully, and together, you connect to your own and baby’s body, and both of you will have a more complete diet (nutritionally and spiritually).

If it feels like too much to do all the meals together with baby doing BLW, do what you can enjoyably. I think it’s really important that we don’t give off the negative feelings to our baby that are so often associated with eating now-a-days. It’s also important that they aren’t felt rushed or pushed to eat certain foods, and especially not how much to eat.

Baby’s know what they want better than we do (compared to what we know of ourselves and to what we know of them in general). If they only eat certain amounts of specific foods and at particular times of day, so be it. It’s a wiser option to let them choose their diet than to create one that they may not enjoy.

I know you were mostly joking when you said your son would “eat only plums I’m sure if he had the chance”, but you know what? My daughter, Illuminating Sage, also adores fruit, well she gobbles up almost everything she has access to, but fruits are a favourite. Oh well! Fruits are easily digested, they are naturally sweet, which baby’s love, and they provide a lot of energy, which is especially beneficial to those littlest humans in our lives because they are always on the go.

I say if he wants to eat fruit, let him! It’s okay to go through favourite food phases, better that than prepared or rather pureed foods or the like, even if they are prepared by you, because don’t forget one of the awesome reasons we BLW, so baby can appreciate and learn the whole experience that is eating.

By using his 5 senses to take in whole foods, which is sensually pleasureful and a huge part of the eating experience, he can have that fulfilling sense and be sensibly full. Having options in front of him (shape, colour, texture, and scent wise)  he’s going to learn how he wants to eat, and thus enjoy nourishing himself all the more so that he is actually doing that, nourishing, not just shoveling stuff into his mouth. By choosing whether or not a food is something he wants right now, deciding how to chew it up, enjoying (or not) the different textures and tastes (which are often non-existent or bland in purees) and knowing how much he wants to eat, per bite and per meal, he is truly experiencing the eating process.

Truthfully it’s a lot easier when baby is allowed to be part of every meal, picking and eating (or playing with) what they choose to. (Some people choose certain meals to include baby in and part time BLW for any number of reasons.)

It is tempting to disinclude baby from our meals as a BLWer for many reasons. Some being convenience to eat what you want and not having to clean up messes (though you get messy with purees, it’s just a different extent and style). It is actually more expensive and time consuming, as well as emotionally consuming, to feed a baby prepared purees (feeding them, getting them to eat some of everything, or some of something when they may not want it, all while they are probably not tasting very much). But if what we want is for them to become natural, healthy & intuitive eaters then the best approach to take is the same as it is in all aspects of life learning, to learn by example, by watching and doing.

This is also why it’s important that we try to influence them as little as possible. Baby’s are soaking up everything around them 24/7, and a lot of it seems passive to us, though really it’s the way they learn behaviours. They always get something out of our actions. But especially when we’re trying to force something on them (like what to eat for example) do they do the most ‘interpretive learning’. Meaning they get something out of it that we may not intend for them to. Let’s say he is either full or hasn’t had enough and we start cleaning up or take it away from him (maybe we’re in a hurry), he might very well internalize something like “I want/don’t want more food, mama is making me do the opposite, since mama is my all knowing guide, god even, I must be wrong & unworthy to determine what is good for me and my body.” These actions are telling baby something that we might not mean, but will inevitably convey if we don’t really consider what we are asking of the little being. Something like this can lead to poor nutrition choices in older children continuing into adulthood. If we can’t trust ourselves to know what our body needs, then we will see the detrimental effect our whole lives, in many aspects, not just food wise.

We personally try hard not to influence Illuminating Sage while we eat, and in every aspect of her life, but I’ll list what we do and don’t do as general guidelines when we eat (because that’s what I’m writing about now):

DO

Cook with baby, inolve her somehow in the preparation, have her nearby playing with kitchen stuff if she’s interested (and she usually is) when not in a carrier.

While eating, have her on our laps so she can experience the motions (the 3 of us often eat together so she can also watch what the other does). This also enables her to eat off of our plates so she is learning about sharing (and she does share her food, she has been offering us bites alternately with herself since she was 8 months or so). It also shows her that she is getting the same food as us and she feels included (I know because if one of us has food she will express interest, and because we allow her the option of trying it, she decides whether or not she’d like some, and this depends on what she’s up to at the moment). We waste less! Also, she is content being held, and not in the least because she knows that she can go down and play on her own at anytime (there is not as much immediate freedom in a high chair).

Have extra utensils on hand for her to experiment or play with.

Be prepared to breastfeed at anytime before, during, or after a meal. This may mean a quick clean up too if it’s been a messy meal, or if she wants it now I just take off my clothes (or embrace the messy breastfeeding babe if my company doesn’t permit nudity : ))

Lower your cleanliness standards at least until you know that baby is done with her meal, unless you can do it slowly and kindly all the while staying present to baby’s eating and other needs (I’v yet to master this without feeling like I’m influencing her to hurry or finish etc.)

Allow her to eat as much or as little of any of the foods present as she desires.

Seek friendly support or advice if it feels right or you want the connection.

DON’T

Try to force or even express extra interest, before she does, in certain foods. When she does like certain foods more, or laughs or smiles at the taste of something, be present to her feelings and enjoy that with her. But this doesn’t mean try and present this food to her in the same meal again and again so she’ll eat ‘more’ or ‘enough’, nor does it mean you should expect the same reaction every time she tries it, or stop offering her other foods in that nutritional category because you’ve found one she likes. The same goes for foods she seems to dislike. (Though I wouldn’t pretend to dislike something just because she does, like by saying “yuckgh!”)

Rush or hurry.

Feed her as a general rule. Unless it’s a game that she’s initiated or something playful like that, or if you’re sharing a handheld fruit and she wants a bite etc…use your judgment.

Worry if she seems to be ‘regressing’, for lack of a better term. If she goes back to breastfeeding more or exclusively for a while and slows or stops eating her solids, know that it is temporary, just like breastfeeding itself is, and she won’t rely on this forever.

Force her or show disappointment at her lack of utensil dexterity, or lack of interest in using them at all. Same goes for the use of her hands for that matter (for the first few weeks Illuminating Sage only slurped or chewed off the plate or out of the bowl). In fact try not to show much enthusiasm for these things either (punished by rewards), just go with the emotional flow, she’ll be genuine and you can share in her feelings.

Offer foods you are uncomfortable with her trying. Reasons may vary, ours go from size of the food chunks, to whether or not there is sugar in it, to the organicness of it, many of the same rules we follow for ourselves. We luckily (and strategically, based on our diet and lifestyles) have no allergies to worry about so far.

Let it stop you if you’re out of your home. Just be prepared with whatever tools you think you might need, and let the restaurant, family member, or friend know what your up to if you feel more comfortable doing so.

Let others stop you from doing what you think is best!

My Two Cents Truthful Comment (1 of 2): Not So Sleeping Baby

I responded to a fellow commenter here at namastemommy re getting a co-sleeping baby to take a pacifier at night because she wakes very frequently for a quick snack before settling back down to sleep. She asked for gentle suggestions, this is mainly what I said, though I’ve emphasized some points and worded it a little gentler than I did the other night as I was quite sleepy and my response may have come off a little differently than I intended.

“Maybe your dd is sensing your worry and is trying to reach out to you. It’s a funny thing, but I EC (elimination communication) my dd 11 months now, and she’ll stir and fuss sometimes if I have to pee or if I am having a hard time sleeping.

What’s most likely is that it’s just a phase/teething thing/milestone related like when my dd was learning to do big things-crawling-standing etc…she’d sleep either more or less, feed more or less and especially so at night, or change daily routines and rituals.

You can wait it out, I know it’s tough, but respecting her changing glory is something we attached parents do to create that beautiful being. By being present to her needs and supporting what she’s doing, listening for maybe a reason why she’s doing things, we can relate and relax and truly enjoy it even if it keeps us awake (but if you follow this guidance you’ll hopefully be able to sleep more soundly, and her too).

I would gently recommend not using a pacifier, or a miracle blanket (?) (mentioned on the other comments). It’s not what she needs. What baby’s need, and what she might benefit from is human contact. For her to know that she is in a safe and loving environment with mama will be your best bet. If you aren’t too chilly, sleeping nude helps too when we’re going through these times. Or, like with my dd for her first 4-5 months (and still now at times), she literally slept nestled in the elbow/crook of my arm and it helps for a quick snack to sleep because she’s literally right there, easy to find, and she won’t stir for you if she’s already with you. If you do this for a while she’ll hopefully learn that you are always there and then on her own time gradually sleep next to you peacefully and soundly like my dd has been lately.

If none of this appeases, just know that we as mothers are made to wake at night, it won’t last forever. Most importantly, if you listen to your intuition you’ll more than likely figure it out on your own what’s going on and how to approach it. Because it sounds like you don’t feel that this continuous waking is right (as in instinctively, not the opposite of wrong) for you guys right now, and you of all people would know if something is up, I would recommend trying any of these: just spend some time the two of you: watching her, looking at her cues for basic needs, really seeing how she just IS, even just spend 24 hours naked to reconnect. But truthfully, she’s your daughter, your beautiful bond is what’s holding you together, not what everyone else thinks.”

I would add to try just cuddling or gently rubbing her back to sleep, or some other simple option like this. I have heard many success stories with this and it could be because maybe baby needs to know someone is there, but isn’t hungry or doesn’t want the breast, just wants some other form of comfort, and not un-reasonably so. The same goes for this as it does for any other option along these lines, that it may be a temporary solution to something that either is temporary, and thus the waiting game is played and mama wakes to do one of those things anyway, or it’s something deeper rooted and it would be best for both if they really look at what’s going and what might change for the joy and peace of both mama and babe.

Thinking about it, if this happened to us, I would look at what’s going on during the day first. Looking at the simple but sometimes not so obvious things (we get caught up thinking that everything is about what we did or didn’t do as parents so we sometimes pass these by)like: have there been any changes lately? visitors, pets, trips, moving or getting ready to move? Have we made any noticeable changes in our lifestyle? They may not seem big to you, but baby’s are very sensitive. Have you stopped, slowed or increased TV, music, car rides, hiking/walking or other activities, indoor/outdoor time?

Then I would look at things that would have a direct and obvious affect on baby like changes in: child care, toys & activities (inactivity or climbing and crawling urges not allowed by someone?) diet related (maybe she’s getting too much/little of something especially right before bed)
It could be anything really, that’s why communicating with your baby is so important, so we can understand what’s going on with them. This can be daunting and tiring and joyful and exciting all at once, and we won’t understand everything that is our baby, but we can try our best.

I would then take a hard, long, and honest look at my relationship with baby. Are we getting enough time together? Is that what she’s after? Is she feeling and participating in enough real life every day stuff? or in some baby’s cases the question might be is she sitting in some kind of a chair, pen or in front of the tv, or not really interacting with people who aren’t simply playing with toys? Is she really gettjng the breast whenever she wants it? or might we be weaning her intentionally or unintentionally? Perhaps she is not ready and is expressing that she needs mama and/or the breast more and knows that at night is the only time she can truly have this? This could also be a phase.

Is she welcome and encouraged to take out her stress in a healthy and productive way? Or is she protected against or prevented from expressing herself and releasing emotions by crying and the like when she needs to? (find some great info, resources and articles like this one here at kindredcommunity.com on Aware Parenting and Non-Violent Communication especially)

Oh the possiblities! It’s almost as though babies are human…oh wait!

More to come on co-sleeping and the joys and challenges that accompany it. Also: the use-or rather my personal choice to not use- a pacifier, ECing at night, motherly intuition, baby milestones, extended breastfeeding on demand and baby-led weaning, and more!