We all want the process of introducing solid foods to our mini me's to be easy and fun. But with all the conflicting information of what to do, when to start, want foods to start with, it can be a daunting task to say the least.
Today I attended an 'Introducing Solids' workshop with the aim being to get a full understanding about what, how, when and why we introduce solids in to our babies diets, supported by recognised reliable research underpinned by the lastest published guidelines. I've got to say, what an eye opener, I learnt loads.
It was a great workshop in more ways than one. It changed my thinking in terms of understanding that starting solids with your baby is a natural developmental stage for them and how we as parents are there to offer help, support and encouragement through this development stage. Just like we do when they are learning to walk, they start to take their first steps when they are physcially ready. We don't teach them how to walk, we don't lift one leg then the other for them , but rather they learn in their own time, in their own way... exactly the same principles apply when introducing solid food.
Wow.. when you start to view the introduction of solids as a development stage to be guided by each babies individual physiological readiness, rather than a process we impose upon them .. you start to relax more about the when, the how and the whats because we should actually guided by the babies themselves.
Before the course I pretty much thought, I've successfully weaned 2 children (albeit in in different ways, one on the more traditional way of purees, the other baby led weaning), realistically, what am I going to learn.. let me tell you... LOADS
Myth Busting - Babies are ready for weaning when they:
- Intently watch you eat - yes, they do, but they watch us do other things too. Babies are interested in everything we do. Babies don't know what food tases like, they don't know it will stop them being hungry. They are simply observing and watching.
- They are grabbing for your food - yes, they do, but they also grab for anything within reach, hairbrush, phone, remote control. But this is not a sign that they are physiologically ready to digest food
- They are waking up through the night - yes they do, but babies are biologically programmed to wake more frequently for extra milk and cuddles before a growth spurt or when they are experiencing development changes such as rolling over, sitting up. Babies will actually gain more calories and fats from their milk which keeps them fuller for longer, than they can through eating the small amount of solids they are introduced to. The research shows that the introduction of solids has little or no impact on babies waking less frequently.
- They are chewing on everything - babies put lots of things in their mouth, it is not a sign of hunger, it could be a sign of teething.
- Are 4 months old - Guidelines from UK and the World Health Organisation recommend babies are not to be introduced to solid foods before 4 months old, and best around six months. This guidance has been around for almost two decades.
- Are 6 months old - most babies are ready around six months, but for some it will be 5 months, some 5 1/2 months, others 6 months, and others 7 months. There is not a magic switch at 26 weeks old that makes a baby ready for solid food.
There are only THREE actual signs that a baby is ready for the introduction of solid food
- Babies lose their tongue thrust reflex. This is something babies are born with as a protective mechanism to stop choking. They automatically push out of their mouth anything they can't handle. (Have you every tried to give your baby calpol, as soon as you spoon or squirt it in their mouth, they push and split it straight back out) Around 5-6 months, babies lose this reflex
- Babies are able to put things to their mouth accurately on purpose. A baby sees an object, picks it straight up and puts it straight in to their mouth. It is not haphazard, or by luck, they do not miss their mouth and eventually get the object in.
- They are able to sit up on their own without support (they still may topple over to one side or the other!)The back is straight, their head and neck are lifted.
This was just the start, we learned about the history of introducing solid food - pre-historic times infants were breastfed until about five years old! At the beginning of the 1900's most babies were not given solid foods until about three years old, but with the changes in society, mothers going out to work etc, the introduction of solid foods became earlier and earlier, by the 1960's/70's it was common for solid foods to be given to babies as young as 6 weeks old.
Thankfully, with increased scientific studies and a greater understanding of physiology and development by the 1990's 70%of babies were fed solids by 3 months old and in 1994 the government and the WHO recommended waiting till between four and six months. In 2001 the guidance changed to wait until around six months.
This was facinating I can tell you. We talked about as parents, what sort of attitude did we want our children to have towards food. We learnt on how to present food - purees, mashed, finger good and more, meal times when you are starting off, meal ideas. We discussed baby led weaning, fears around gagging and choking and so much more.
I'll be honest, I can't wait to run the first Mini Me Time Introducing Solid Foods workshop. All you mama's (and papa's) are going to go away feeling confident, enthusastic, reassured, excited and with all the knowledge you could wish for to make the choices right for you and your mini me when it comes to starting with solid food.
Keep an eye out - I'm looking to schedule the first workshop in January - hope you can join me