Baby Led Solids 101: Why Stop Purees?
Baby Led Weaning at a Glance
- Baby's nutritional needs are met entirely by breastmilk or formula the first year.
- A baby should only start eating solids once their tongue thrust reflex has faded.
- Preparing purees for baby not only wastes time, but also bypasses natural developments in baby's readiness.
- BLW is all about following baby's cues and helping them develop the skills they will need for life.
- No costly blenders, no frozen cubes, no toting baby food everywhere!
Why Not Purees?
There's nothing inherently wrong with pureed baby food. It's not toxic, and will nourish your baby in the same way that Baby Led Weaning (BLW) can. To understand the problem with pureed food, it is important to understand some of the reason they came about.
Like most modern convenience foods, those little cans of pureed baby food and boxes of mushy cereal didn't come about because babies couldn't eat table food. It was because companies saw a way to capitalize on a parents desire to want the newest and best for their children, so they pureed the food for them and sold it in easy little jars. (Pablum is different. It was created to increase the amount of Vitamin D in a baby's diet and prevent rickets, a common problem at the time.)
These days, parents are starting to understand that eating well and saving money aren't mutually exclusive, and they've started pureeing the foods at home. Companies have capitalized on this too! There are a million and one products made exclusively for baby food making (which work exactly the same as the steamers, blenders and ice cube trays already in our kitchens), all to make your baby food making a little easier, which isn't a bad idea because even once you're done making the food, you have to sit there and feed it to them a spoonful at a time after.
But what if there was a different way? What if you could be nourishing your baby, helping advance their development, and saving money and time all at once?
Welcome to Baby Led Solids!
How Does it Help Development?
The first year of a baby's life is packed with developmental milestones, some that are obvious like smiling, sitting up, and crawling, but others are less obvious.
Up until around the 6 month mark, babies inherently possess a tongue thrust reflex, which helps prevent them from choking on things they try to put in their mouths. It's also a great marker for when your baby is ready for solids; if baby is pushing the food back out with their tongues without grimacing, they're probably just not developmentally ready!
The good news is that for the first year of their lives, babies get all of the nutrition they need from breastmilk or formula, so the act of eating solids is not about how much they ingest. It's about learning to pick up the food with their fingers (pincher grasp), put it in their mouths, and chew/gum it until it's ready to swallow. Gagging is a normal.
Let me repeat that again. Gagging is normal. And it's not the same as choking. A choking baby will be making no sounds. Gagging is a noisy affair where the baby is learning that the food is not ready to swallow, and their bodies are doing the right thing by pushing it forward again. Don't interfere! We don't gag on our foods (well, most of them!) as adults because we have learned how to eat!
After your baby has lost his or her tongue thrust reflex, they'll be ready to start chewing on some food! Only once they've figured out how to chew something up and move it around their mouths (where saliva helps break it down) does the tongue start to actively move foods to the back of his or her throat. Many think that BLW has a greater risk of causing baby to start choking, but in fact feeding babies according to their developmental cues reduces the risk of choking, not increases it. Often when a parent spoon feeds a baby they are providing a near liquid food that bypasses the tongue and many a baby will suck it back (since it can't be chewed) and the act of moving it back without the participation of their tongue will cause choking.
Beyond the Basics
So what's next if you've decided that Baby Led Weaning is something you'd like to try with your baby?
Here are a few great resources to check out for recipes and next steps:
Check back later for more articles in this series which will cover age appropriate foods and recipes to try!
Pureeing Made Easy!
Pureeing Still Right for You?
For some families, pureeing will still be the right choice. Sometimes babies don't have the coordination to feed themselves, or have special issues that prevent them from eating foods in a non-puréed state. As was mentioned earlier, there is nothing wrong with using pureed baby foods for your baby, it's just important to know that there are other options available that can help save you time as a parent.
With that in mind, here is a great resource currently available for parents interested in starting their baby on Purees or in trying it both ways to see which works for you!.