I feel like many parents these days push solids on their babies too early and too quickly. The WHO recommends that babies receive breastmilk (or formula) exclusively for the first 6 months. I'm often reading posts in my baby-related Facebook groups about giving solids to 4 or 5-month olds. Usually, the parent wants their baby to sleep longer at night and thinks that this is the answer.
Once solids are started, it seems like there is a huge rush to get the baby eating fruits, veggies, meats, grains, processed baby cookies and even dairy. Parents stress if their baby only eats a few bites of a puree. They compare notes about the exact amount of solids their baby eats. I have never once measured the amount of food I give the girls.
Baby-led Weaning's motto is 'Food Before One, Is Just For Fun.' This does not discount the importance of solids, it just relates to the amount eaten. Baby-led weaning allows the baby to control his/her intake of food by eating whole food, as opposed to purees. I've been doing a combo of purees (some smooth, some chunky) and BLW with the girls.
At 9 months, the girls have only tried fruits, veggies and most recently, lentils. They nurse 4 times per day and receive one 8oz breastmilk bottle at night. In my opinion, breastmilk should provide them with the majority of the nutrients that they need until they turn 1. I wholeheartedly believe in BLW's motto. I've introduced the girls to just about every fruit and vegetable that I could think of! I love to eat and love to cook. I want the girls to enjoy it as well. I've spiced up the blander veggies with things like garlic, onions, ginger, cinnamon, cumin and turmeric. They've had their own guacamole with onions and garlic sauteed in coconut oil and a dash of lemon. I don't stress if they only gnaw on a carrot stick for a few minutes or only take a few bites of a puree. They try everything and that's the important thing. The nutritionist in me wants to introduce them to as many healthy foods as possible to start them off on the right foot. I want food and eating to be fun for them.
Many people are told that rice cereal needs to be given at 6 months because a baby's iron stores are depleted by that point. This is not entirely true. A baby doesn't suddenly wake up on their 6-month birthday with no iron in their system. Their iron stores decrease gradually. Between 9-12 months, it's important for babies to start getting iron from food, hence the girls introduction to lentils and leafy greens like kale and swiss chard. I will be introducing them to other legumes first. They will eventually have meat and gluten-free grains. While the amount of iron in breastmilk is fairly low, it is highly absorbable so babies absorb about half of it. This absorption rate is way higher than all other iron-rich foods. [Side note for adults: Vitamin C significantly increases iron absorption. Add some fresh lemon onto your iron-rich salad greens so your body can maximize iron absorption]
My family loves to cook, eat and enjoy meals together, laughing and chatting around the dinner table. In the girls short life, they've already experienced this because my Dad bought them high chairs for their place. While they can't eat what we're having yet, it is clear how much happier they are to be part of the action.
Food is so much more than just fuel for our bodies. It's an experience. One of my good friends, Justine, a personal trainer and fellow nutritionist, is the perfect example of this. She shares my passion for food. I can only hope that I will pass on that love and passion to the girls!