Baby Led Weaning

Growing healthy babies with healthy appetites

What do Pregnant Women need to know about BLW? That we’re here…

Back when I was pregnant for the first time, my good friend, herself a mother, solemnly told me; “If I can give you one piece of advice, it’s this… Read Past The Birth.”

What?

“You’ve got all the books, right? And you’re reading all the websites?”

Yep, and yep x 1000.

She continued; “Read BEYOND the bit where you have the baby.”

Seriously?

pregnant-woman-silhouette-clipart

(This is just what I looked like while pregnant, by the way – the umbrella being a natural consequence of giving birth during a Scottish winter.)

The condition of being a parent, my friend explained, is very binary.

“One minute you don’t have a baby, the next minute you very much have one. And apart from the hospital auxiliary bringing you tea and toast and giving your downstairs a going-over with a damp flannel, the focus is very immediately off you and onto the newborn.”

“It is at that point,” she continued,”that you are supposed to know how to do EVERYTHING ABOUT BABIES, but if you at least know how to feed them and change their nappies that’s a start.”

Reader, I ignored her.

I did it for good reason, or so I thought. Truth was, I’d had a really crummy time getting pregnant and then an even harder time staying pregnant and the idea that finally we were going to pull it off was just a bit too unbelievable. I thought, rightly or wrongly, that imagining what lay beyond the labour would just jinx the whole endeavour.

So here’s the thing.

You don’t have to read past the bit where you have had the baby, honest you don’t. You, right now, with your big tummy and your possible medium-sized fears, just have to do what you can do. But if you are the sort of person who does like to skip ahead to the exciting bit, or who likes to read up in advance and Have A Plan, then let us advise a little about the food thing.

Whether you crack the breastfeeding thing or don’t (I didn’t, not really), in six months’ time that little tiny scrap will be sitting up, or trying to, and will be ready to eat real food.

It’s unimaginable, I know, but it will happen. And in the UK, it’s called weaning.

Traditionally, weaning meant doing purees for a bit, because the advice was to start on food at 4 months, and then moving onto fistfuls of solid food. You’ll know this already, because there you are in your old family photos, somewhere around 6 months of age, happily covered in spaghetti and cake. (Incidentally, still my favourite meal).

Now, because the recommendation re starting weaning had moved from 4 months to 6 months, it turns out that you can skip the purees altogether and go straight to sensibly prepared solid food.

This is the first solid meal Poppy has ever had - but it looks like she's got the picture

Okay, Mum, that’s my first time with spaghetti, did I hear someone mention cake?

 


We call this Baby Led Weaning. 

It’s not new, people have been feeding their around- six-month-olds like this for ages, hence the cute old photos, but BLW become a bit of a ‘thing’ of late, just to contrast it with the more conventional weaning story of purees and spooning. It’s just an option that you might want to think about at some point in the next few months.

You will just give your baby real food, cut up into pieces about as long and thick as your pinkie finger. And they will just eat it. Very simple, really, and fun, just like all the best times with your child. They eat, and you coo, enjoying watching them enjoy themselves. You might take the odd picture and chat to the rest of your family and you will get to eat your own dinner while it is still hot. What’s not to like?

But I’m not here to sell BLW to you, particularly if you’re still not ready to Read Beyond The Birth. But at some point, if you think BLW might be worth looking at further, we are here at www.babyledweaning.com, we have a forum of genuinely friendly parents (we’re all just normal parents, by the way, it’s very much a peer support thing) at http://www.babyledweaning.com/forum/ and we are on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/babyledweaning.

We will also be doing a bit of a chat at MN’s Bumpfest on the 27th of September, and will be happy to help anyone who needs it.

So good luck, everyone, with your births and beyond. Exciting times lie ahead.

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FACEBOOK DOWN! (Don’t worry…)

A. You can do this stuff without help. It’s just your baby and food. You know how to eat, and really… so does your baby, with a little guidance and care from you. Start with cutting up a carrot into batons and steaming it until it’s still intact but you can still squash it between thumb and forefinger. Over-cook it, basically. That ought to keep your baby busy while Mark Zuckerberg and his minions are fixing things.

B. If you would like some assistance, remember we also tweet at @blw.com AND we have our own forum at www.babyledweaning.com/forum. That forum is chock full of fantastic people (I know most of ‘em, they’re great) who are only too willing to help with BLW questions, as well as discussing slings, nappies and global geopolitics.

UPDATE: It’s back. We’re here. https://www.facebook.com/babyledweaning

fb

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FYI New Guidelines on Choking and Infant Resus

First of all, it goes without saying that if you’re doing BLW this is an area that you will have looked into already. (And if you haven’t… as they say on the adverts… just do it. Crazy not to.)

Personally, I think every parent should try to investigate some basic infant resus, because as those little blighters become more mobile and more curious they have a habit of picking more daft objects up to check if they are food or not. I cannot tell you how high we had to keep our first daughter’s brightly coloured school erasers in order to keep them away from our younger child.

From what I saw on our Facebook page this morning, it seems like this is a technique already advocated in the US and Australia, but for the benefit of the UK and anyone else who is interested, here is the latest video as featured in a Sky news report. 

In fact, it differs only very slightly to the rather brilliant UK National Health Service video ‘How to help a choking child’.  

Can you see, in the NHS video the baby rests on the woman’s arm throughout much of her resus? Whereas St John Ambulance are now saying that there will be better support if the child is on the arm AND thigh? A tiny difference but if it’s best practice, let’s do it! (Might have been better if the St John uniform wasn’t so dark, eh? Can you even see those trousers?)

 

choking image

As an aside, it is also interesting to query the figures mentioned in the Sky News report, reproduced below. In a survey of parents of 1000 under-fives, 380 said they had seen their child choke, with only 50% knowing what to do in that event. There are two ways of looking at this… one, 190 children choked, and their parents didn’t know what to do but everyone (we assume, for Sky News would have looked for the goriest story possible) was okay. That’s encouraging (but still do your homework).

The other way of looking at it is that parents STILL don’t know the difference between choking and gagging and some of the chokes were mis-represented gags. It is worth knowing the difference as going straight for resus when they’re dealing with a gag can cause babies to aspirate food.

Gagging is actually a safety response to food travelling too far back into the mouth so when we see our babies gagging they are actually handling the problem and it’s best just to keep calm (or at least look calm) and wait until it passes. Choking, you will know about. The baby looks panicked, no or very little sound can come out, and lips may actually start turning blue. Be smart, educate yourself and know how to act quickly. 

So all in all, it’s good news for the BLW crew, in that each and every one of us should already have considered choking, and how we will respond should it happen. (For the record, it happened once with my first child… dratted raw apple, and this below was her a minute later, after she had gotten over it and was onto a rice cake. It just never happened with my second.)

FROM SKY NEWS TODAY

New first aid advice on how to help a choking baby has been issued to parents.

St John Ambulance, the British Red Cross and St Andrew’s First Aid have updated their advice after research suggested that many parents did not know what action to take.

The new advice is to place the baby face down along the thigh while an adult strikes the child’s back.

First aid experts say this gives the baby more support compared with the previous advice, which was to place the baby along the adult’s arm.

A survey of 1,000 parents of under-fives found 38% had seen their child choke.

Half of the parents said they did not know the correct way to help their child or how to clear the obstruction.

Nearly half said they avoided giving their child certain foods in case they choked.

Clive James, training officer at St John Ambulance, said: ‘If an infant is choking then, in the first instance, they should be laid face down along your thigh and supported by your arm, give them five back blows between the shoulder blades with your heel of your hand.

“Previously this was done along the arm but the leg is felt to be more secure and provide more support.

“Check their mouth for any obstruction. If there is still a blockage then turn the infant onto their back and give up to five chest thrusts.

“Use two fingers, push inwards and upwards against their breastbone.

“If the obstruction does not clear after three cycles of back blows and chest thrusts, call for an ambulance and continue until help arrives.”

 

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What is BLW, anyway? And what is it not..?

Right, this is coming totally off the top of my head, so forgive me. I will add, edit, fumble and apologise later if I’ve inadvertently stuffed something up…

Recently I’ve seen so many people fighting over what Baby Led Weaning actually means. Not on our own www.babyledweaning.com website, funnily enough, and not on our forum, both of which are havens of tolerance and gorgeousness dontchaknow, but Facebook seems to be aflame with accusations of ‘mummy martyrdom’ for not using spoons, purees, pouches and whatnot.

For what it’s worth, here’s my understanding of the two main types of weaning your lovely little milk-fed baby onto solid food, as lovingly practised by perfectly sensible parents the world over.

 

Baby Led Weaning
Child
self-feeds bits of ‘cutted up’ food from 6 months, as per the World Health Organisation guidelines. Milk on tap. Everyone happy.

Traditional Weaning (for want of a better expression) -
Parent makes purees, puts them on a spoon and gently and un-pushily feeds the child. The age might be as low as 4 months, because children can eat from a spoon from that age, but very often it’s at around 6 months as per the World Health Organisation guidelines. At some point, possibly even immediately, the parent lets the child self-feed as well, so that they’re having both finger food and puree. Milk on tap. Everyone happy.

 

Now, despite the equally blissful end result, these two methods are not the same.
The key thing is that in the BLW method, the parent just has to take a step back and let the child get on with it. The baby learns to chew first, and to spit out, and THEN to swallow food.

With the more traditional approach the baby is using everything that they’ve learned from taking in liquids to swallow the puree, while also tackling this new, and in some instances rather thrilling, experience of chewing and swallowing as well.

Is this mixing of spoon-fed puree and finger foods a problem?
Probably not.

Is it Baby Led Weaning, as described by Gill Rapley in her best-selling weaning book?
No, it is not.

Is that a problem?
No sirree, but it does mean that talking about doing ‘a mix of BLW and (spoon-fed) puree’ makes not a jot of sense. Unless you, for example, also think that you can be ‘a mix of vegetarian and carnivore’? Buddy, chum, old pal… you’re an omnivore, be happy.
Take what you want to take from the vegetarians and the meat-heads (she says, extending this unlikely comparison through all sorts of pain barriers) but don’t call the veggies mean names because they want to do something different to you. **

Let’s be clear, though. If you are weaning your child in a more traditional fashion you are MOST WELCOME to hang out here. Finger food recipes are finger food recipes, after all, babies are babies, and very few of us are getting a solid eight hours these days. Who amongst us wouldn’t benefit from a relaxing chat about the exact way to chop up a steamed carrot..?

And if you join us on the forum, we’re discussing much, much weirder things as well… everything from make-up to mooncups, very often both at the same time… Peace out, folks.

091008_135555

 

**(This is where the comparison falls down horribly for me, I admit, as I regularly tease veggie pals about their laughably puny muscles. *prepares barbecue* *awaits flaming*)

Oh, and PS. If you want to explore all this in greater detail, here’s a link to a chat on this subject that we had on the forum a while back. Covers the pros and the cons, the ups and the downs… all that shizzle.

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*drumroll* Find out who won the FB competition (and some news…)

So we had a comp on the Baby Led Weaning.com Facebook page to celebrate 6000 ‘likes’  (seriously… I KNOW).

Orange trousers?

My chum, the lovely and talented Charlie Meyer had offered us this charmingly bonkers image as a prize, and so it fell to her children to pick a name from a virtual hat, or at the very least make a bored, stabbing motion at the screen. And upon whom did their grubby finger alight?

 

Step forward Miss Laura Oakley! CONGRATULATIONS!  Make a speech! Oops, she fell over her huge dress! YAAAY!

We hope you love it very much.

 

(Also… I have another announcement. Brace yerselves.

As you may already have observed… we need to revamp the site. We (ahem, mostly mostly Jem) had actually done quite a bit, but it all had to get chucked for one reason and another and basically it’s all taking a long time. Money, innit? We can’t make the time to do it, because we’re not getting paid and we have mouths to feed.

So. The big plan had been to put ads on the new site, but unless we can make ourselves some time to make the site… we’re stuck.

New Plan.
We’re going to dip our toes into the ads thing (I’ve been refusing them for YEARS now) and see if that frees up some time for us. I’ll be careful, I promise. This whole thing, the site, the forum, the FB, the massively neglected Twitter feed… it’s nothing without you and no-one knows that better than I do, believe moi.  Stay tuned for further developments, folks.)

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Almost No-Knead Bread Recipe

So we were talking about flour on the Facebook page (as you do) and it came up that we make most of our own bread. I posted a photo (partly to substantiate the claim, partly to BOAST) then had to admit that it’s actually my husband who does most of the work. Think of me as a consumer rather than a manufacturer. 

Over to the baker…

My almost no-knead bread is really just an even more simplified version of the Jim Lahey No-Knead Bread that was popularised by The New York Times in 2006. I’ve linked to the recipes and clips below.

However, I think the basic recipe can be improved further because the one drawback with the original recipe is that the very wet dough is tricky to work with and especially to shape. The way to improve that is with a slight trade off. That is, a bit less water and a little bit of kneading.

Here is what I do instead:

Ingredients:

3 Cups of strong bread flour of your choice (450g).

¼ teaspoon quick yeast (such as Dove Farm bright orange packet) (1g).

1 ¼ teaspoon salt (8g) Fiddle around with this if you’re avoiding salt, but we think it does need some.

1 mug water (250g) (you may want slightly less or more, it is a bit trial and error. But try this amount first time).

A bit of flour for dusting

An egg and a spot of milk in a cup to create a nice wash with a shiny finish (optional)

Equipment:

Mixing bowl (or two)

Spatula or wooden spoon

Casserole dish or oven proof pot either ceramic or metal is fine. The key issue is that it has a lid and can be preheated in the oven.

A chopping board or preferably a silicon baking tray.

Oven gloves or similar… you seriously do NOT want to burn yourself on the scalding pot/dish.

 

Method:

Add the flour, yeast, salt and water into a large mixing bowl.

Combine by hand or with a spatula or wooden spoon if you have an aversion to getting messy hands.

Recently, I have added in a stage of kneading the dough for five minutes rather than simply combining it all together but it is strictly my preference. Besides if the dough is too wet you probably won’t be able to do that kneading anyway.

At this stage when you have a nicely combined dough (after a couple of minutes) you might want to transfer the dough to a second mixing bowl coated with olive oil. Alternatively, stick with what you have if the messy bowl doesn’t bother you much and your preference is to save on the washing up.

In either case, cover your bowl with the dough with cling film for a minimum of 10 hours and ideally 12 hours at room temperature , say on a work surface in your kitchen.

A few hours into the waiting process, you can remove the cling film and work the dough around a bit in the bowl for five minutes by hand or with the spatula. Fold the edges in towards the centre as you turn the dough around. That should give you something resembling a ball shape. The idea with this stage is that you can work some of the airholes out of the bread so you get a denser bread that is better for sandwiches and spreading (precisely because there are no holes in it). Again though, this is a personal preference for me and you can again miss this stage out.

I also miss out the very messy stage with the dish towel covering the dough for two hours as having tried it I could neither see nor taste a notable difference in my bread.

After the dough has been covered for your around a minimum of four hours (but around 8 hours for best results) you are ready to bake it.

At this stage, turn your oven on to heat up to 250 degrees centigrade and put your cold casserole dish or lidded pot into the oven to heat up.

While this is happening, get your dough out off the bowl and transfer it onto a floured/oiled board or work surface. Actually, if you have a silicone traybake tray, put it on that, the flexible sides are great. 

Work the bread around for a few minutes shaping it as you go into the final shape you want for your loaf.

Once the oven and casserole/pot are heated to 250 degrees than take out your pot (with oven gloves!), remove the lid and place your shaped dough into the pot. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with a dusting of flour and/or brush the egg and milk mixture onto the top with a pastry brush. Put the lid back on and place in the oven.

Set your timer to 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes take the lid of the pot and brown the top of your loaf to your preferred hue (I tend to cook it uncovered for three to five minutes).

 

After that your loaf is done, tip it onto a wire rack to cool.

 

 

You can find Jim Lahey’s original recipe here: http://www.sullivanstreetbakery.com/recipes

 

The very useful video demonstration here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13Ah9ES2yTU

 

And the original NY Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/08mini.html

Yay! And this is what it looks like in the casserole dish we have. Some people have asked for timings etc, so I can say that he normally makes up the dough before going to bed, then leaves it and bakes it the next morning. If he’s in for the day, he does the middley bit of faffing, if he’s asleep, he doesn’t.


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What would it take to convince you to try Baby-Led Weaning?

No. I’m keeping the spoon. You may conduct your ridiculous experiment when I am finished.

A guarantee that they’ll be Good Eaters(TM) at the age of four?

Nope, can’t do it. I mean, they probably will be good enough eaters, but they’ll still be pesky human beings, prone to changes in taste and challenging boundaries. But you’ll trust them to come good, because you’ve seen them hoover up broccoli.
You, my friends, will have Faith.

A guarantee that they will not gag or choke?

As above, I’m afraid. Gagging’s great, it’s a safety mechanism, and while it sounds barf-a-rrific, it’s such a cunning way of moving food shapes around a little that you will marvel (once again) at how clever and wonderful your child is.
Choking? Not fun. Rare, though. I had two babies, one of them choked once, and it was on a bit of apple that I just knew I shouldn’t have let someone give her but I was scared to look a prat. Lesson learned, Mother, don’t be scared to look like a prat in front of your friends. Fortunately I’d done my sensible parents’ Infant Resus course and the baby was fine with a bit of a whack on the back. She, naturally, was unbothered, and I had to wrestle the apple from her pudgy fists before it went straight back in.

So, what will convince you to do Baby-Led Weaning? *drum roll*

It’s a little experiment. Very simple. (Not altogether enjoyable.)

Simply sit in front of your beloved tomorrow night, and have them cut up your food into pieces and feed them to you. Mebbe mash ‘em up a bit, even, get all those flavours nicely mixed. MAYBE even whizz them up a bit, if you’re feeling racy.
Serve on a spoon, not a fork.
Now, see if they get the portioning right – is your mouth unpleasantly full, or half-empty? Do they feed you slowly, so that you are begging them for more (with your eyes, hush now, no speaking, you’re a baby. Furious yelling will be fine). Or is it so fast that you worry you can’t swallow the first bite before the second and third hove into view? And what if you don’t like the dinner but your partner or friend can’t abide waste? Eeeer. Open wide…

Try it, and see what you think. Don’t forget to finish with a lemon-scented wipe to the lips! Think of it as dessert!

And if that doesn’t convince you to let your baby have a bash at self-feeding, nothing will.

Which is Fine. At the very least the experiment will likely have made you a better spoon-feeder, and that sort of understanding and care can only be good for our babies, no matter which weaning method we choose.

RESULT!

(many thanks to margaux for the lovely pics)

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There is a reason this site looks so Web 1.0 – An Appeal for Photos

seriously. this is what it was like.

It’s because I started it aeons, ago, fact fans. Back when there were about nine hits for the search term ‘baby led weaning’, I kid ye not.

Remember dial-up? Yuh-huh. That singy-songy, plinky-plonky fax noise before making contact with the outside world? Yup, that. (As an aside… remember faxes? *snort* Funny old tech.)

Anyway, the thing then was to allow pages to load nice and quick, no footery images pliz. We did have a photo gallery (indeed we still do) but you needed to enter it under your own advisement. The images were (still are) mostly low-quality, cropped down so they wouldn’t take up too much room on your interweb.

So, here’s the thing, I need to sprinkle the site with purty pictures, I think. It’s looking boring. Are there any photographers out there, or even parents who just got that one lucky shot (perhaps of a porridge pancake or some other recipe foodstuff), who wouldn’t mind helping me back fill my pages with glorious technicolour? (And vids, too. Oh yes I’ve just learned how to embed. Take that, old skool).

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Happy Easter All Ye BLWers!

Do make sure to enjoy all of the chocolate eggs that your Mothers-in-Law and other randomly disapproving relatives will have bought for your tiny babies today! (File the experience under ‘these people never cease to amaze me.’)

Mind you… I do think on this happy day one can take healthy eating a little too far… please observe below. Not my work, I hasten to add.

I'm a Lindt bunny, honest!

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Attachment Parenting, Internet Forums and all that jazz. In which Aitch ponders whether she is a crusty after all.

Really I just want everyone in the world to read this article from The Times Higher Education Supplement about attachment parenting and a zillion other things

Of course I hardly need tell you that I don’t consider myself an ‘attachment parent’ as such, not least because I run screaming from any sort of ‘movement’ that requires ‘quote marks’.

The reason I used a sling with my first daughter was because it felt right, and because it let me Do Things. The reason I used a sling with my second daughter, who was nearly seven weeks premature, was because to do anything else felt utterly, utterly wrong. I should have been firmly attached to her still, indeed she should have been inside me, so the nearest thing was to lash her naked to my bare skin and keep her there. Likewise sleeping together (they napped in a hammock); it was easier, we all got more and better rest, so we did it. What else? Breastfeeding? I gave it my best shot… it didn’t work out, I broke my heart, but the babies loved me nonetheless. And of course Baby Led Weaning… I did like that bit.

The article above strikes me as at least three articles in one. It’s a fascinating history of the female in academia, a reflection on ‘attachment’ studies (the famous ‘wire monkey mom’ one, which makes me unusually sad every time I read of it) and the conclusion, which warms my heart because I know its truth.

“An environment that contained a network of support for mothers and children was formative in our species’ development. We have forgotten these memories today and, as a result, deceived ourselves about what children, and our society as a whole, ultimately need to feel secure.”

We don’t. We have that support now, on the BLW forum and all over the internet. We women (in particular, I know there are men too *waves*) are taking back the power to parent our kids the way that instinct informs both them and and us, and we support each other in so doing, day and night.

When I had my ectopic pregnancies, it was to the internet that I turned for kindness and compassion and hope that things would work out in the end. Likewise when I had my children, particularly for the scary bits, it was internet strangers who stepped in to console me and comfort me.

So I guess what I am saying is thanks, to all of you, because your participation in this fantastic new network of parents is one of the key factors in giving all of our children the loving and generous futures that they deserve. *rattles pom-poms in cheerleading style* ‘RAAAAAY FOR US!

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