If you missed my first post about Intro to Baby-led Weaning make sure you check it out first!
If you read my post last week (Intro to baby-led weaning) I hope you’re at least a little bit intrigued about this process. Whether or not you think I’m crazy is a different topic.
The fear of choking is a very real fear for most parents as they begin to introduce solids to their babies, and there is no doubt that fear is elevated with baby-led weaning. However most of that fear is 1) a good thing because it makes us hyper vigilant when our babies have food, and 2) is largely unwarranted thanks to the infant gag reflex.
Infant’s Gag Reflex
At six months of age, an infant’s gag reflex is very high up in their mouth, as they get older, the gag reflex gradually moves back to its permanent place at the back of the throat. This is great for Baby-Led Weaning because, as babies are learning how to maneuver food in their mouths, how much food is too much, how to get food out of their cheek with their tongue, their bodies give them a warning far before they have actually entered the danger zone (in the form of gagging).
Most of the time, a baby will gag food back to the front of their mouth, and either spit it out or keep chewing and he or she will be completely unfazed. Once they have triggered the gag reflex a few times, they learn not to do it. As they get older and more experienced, gagging happens less and less often. However, as the gag reflex moves back (around 8 months), it becomes less effective as an early warning sign. Babies that haven’t been able to explore food and textures from the beginning will actually be in danger of choking by the time the gagging starts.
In our culture today, many well-meaning people (whether through observing what “everyone else” is doing or being instructed by their own mom) believe that babies should be started on some form of solid food as early as 3 months. I know that we moms are just trying to do what is best for our babies and if you want to do BLW, that’s awesome, if you choose to use purees, good for you. If you cloth diaper…gold star, if you use disposables….high five, whatever works for your family BUT I firmly believe that solids before 6 months is a no-go for several reasons:
- Solid foods are not as densely packed with nutrients as breast milk or formula and are not as easily digested for babies.
- Baby’s digestive system is still immature and they are not able to pull all the nutrients out of solid food so they just pass right through
- Babies have small stomachs and if they are filled up with food, they will not have enough room for all the breast-milk or formula that baby still needs to develop properly, resulting in even less nourishment
- Finally, babies that are given solid food before 6 months are at a greater risk for infectious diseases and allergies
Many people think that because baby is watching them eat or makes lip-smacking movements that they are wanting to eat too or are hungry. Keep in mind that babies are fascinated with ALL of your day-to-day activities, it is how they learn about the world around them, and how they fit into it. They don’t even realize that food is meant to make them full, even once they first start eating. If they are being fed on-demand, they aren’t hungry, they are just trying to hone their skills and be like mom and dad.
When is your baby truly ready for solid foods?
If you notice any of these signs then that means your baby is ready to start solid foods.
- Sitting up unsupported
- Reaching out to grab things and gets them to his or her mouth quickly and accurately.
- The very best sign is once baby is putting food into his or her own mouth which they can only do if given the opportunity.
Whatever the case, however you choose to feed your little one, never ever leave a baby alone with food, and it’s always a good idea to get certified in infant first-aid/CPR.
I would love to hear your thoughts, if you have done BLW and loved it, if you are intrigued and looking more into it.
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Latest posts by Hailey Mugica (see all)
- Thanks for the Inconveniences; Feeling Blessed - December 15, 2015
- Baby Led Weaning…Where to Begin? - November 10, 2015
- Encouragement for the dreaded breastfeeding through “biting season” - October 26, 2015