Ask Gastromommy: Signs of Being Done

I am often asked: how do I know when my baby (or toddler) is done with his meal? This is an entirely valid question, as they can't tell us with words - at least not until they are older! 

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Sign Language for Meals

We've been using sign language for meals since early on in our BLW journey. We really started to see the benefits around 14-15 months when Theo signed for "more" and "all done." Some babies are faster with language and may sign much earlier, like Theo's girlfriend Ellie who is super verbal. I recommend starting sign language early on, as it aids in communication and may prevent some frustration for both you and your child. Popular signs include "more," "all done," "eat," "milk," "please" and "thank you."

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Herbs, Spices, Oils & Seasonings

Variety is the spice of life, right? No pun intended. ;) Just like toddlers, older children and adults, babies enjoy flavor! With BLW, there is no need to deprive your baby of herbs, spices, oils or seasonings. In fact, their use is encouraged, which makes the whole experience more delicious and interesting for your baby and more enjoyable and creative for you as parents. It also makes it easier to feed your baby what the rest of the family is eating. There’s no need to make bland food!

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Utensils

EXPOSURE TO UTENSILS: The best way to introduce utensils to your baby is through exposure from the very beginning of BLW / solids (if not beforehand!). Exposure means giving him opportunities to hold, play with and use utensils. Embrace the mess and let him explore and have fun. :) It is also crucial to give him ample opportunities at social meals to observe you, other family members and meal companions using utensils.

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Ask Gastromommy: Teeth

A common question about BLW is, “How can my baby eat solids without teeth?” This is an entirely logical question. As an adult, it’s hard to imagine chewing and eating food without teeth. Nonetheless, babies do not need teeth to eat solids. They have very hard gums, which they can use to mash food down. If you put your finger in your baby’s mouth and he bites on it between his gums, you will be amazed and shocked to see how hard and strong they are!

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Ask Gastromommy: Food Quantity

For this first installation of Ask Gastromommy, I am going to focus on food quantity. I’ve gotten several questions about it, such as: How much food should I give to my baby? What about when he’s older? 

In the beginning of BLW, it’s best to offer your baby a small selection of foods. Overloading your baby with too many options can overwhelm him! In the first few months, I put only 3-4 pieces / kinds of food on his tray at a time. I always had more food ready in case he wanted it, which he almost always did. ;)
 

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Introducing Non-Animal Milk with Solids (8+ Months)

Around 8 months, you may want to start introducing non-animal milk (almond, cashew, soy, coconut, etc.) in a straw cup at meals. This is a great way to get your baby used to drinking milk (besides breast milk or formula), which will aid in the transition to cow’s milk around one year. It will also help with the transition from bottle to cup, which should occur (fully) between 12-15 months.

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Introducing Water with Solids (6+ Months) & Recommended Cups

Introducing a cup around 6 months with solid foods is recommended to expose babies to a different substance coming from a different vessel, and to begin to learn the skill of cup drinking. The best cups support muscle development in the mouth and are helpful in supporting the skills of language development and open-lidded cup drinking (Babygroup, 2016).

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Constipation

Babies often become constipated when they start eating solids. Their GI systems have to get used to digesting food! In fact, it may be more common for breastfed babies because their stomachs are used to processing only breast milk, which is easily and highly digestible.

The consistency, appearance and smell of babies’ poop will change when they start eating solids.

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All about Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), Part 6: First Foods & Foods to Avoid

The following foods are recommended by Rapley & Murkett (109-112) as easy first finger foods for babies (6+ months).
 

  • Steamed (or lightly boiled) whole vegetables, such as green beans, baby corn, and sugar-snap peas
  • Steamed (or lightly boiled) florets of cauliflower and broccoli
  • Steamed, roasted or stir-fried vegetable sticks, such as carrot, potato, egg plant, sweet potato, parsnip, pumpkin, and zucchini
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All about Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), Part 5: Starting with BLW - Where & How

Where and how should I feed my baby? Make sure your baby is upright and safe in a high chair or on your lap. This is very important to prevent choking. Personally, I would recommend a high chair, as BLW can be quite messy! We have the Stokke Tripp Trapp chairbaby set and tray, which has been awesome. Additionally, a bib with a sizable pouch to catch falling food is extremely useful! We use the Baby Bjorn bibsCheck out my Feeding Gear Guide for more information about all of this.

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All about Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), Part 4: Starting with BLW - When & What

Readiness Signs: With BLW, solid feeding starts at any point after six months of age when babies demonstrate readiness and interest. Some babies may seem ready at 5½ months, while others may not appear ready until 7-8 months. True readiness signs include: sitting up with little or no support, reaching out to grab things and taking them to her mouth quickly and accurately, and gnawing on toys and making chewing movements; however, the very best sign is when she starts to put food in her mouth herself, if given the opportunity (Rapley & Murkett, 8-9).

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UPDATED! All about Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), Part 3: Problems with Spoon-Feeding & What about Choking?

Problems with Spoon-Feeding: According to Rapley and Murkett (2008), “Spoon-feeding isn’t bad; it’s simply not necessary… feeding babies this way carries a potential for creating problems that doesn’t exist with BLW... Partly this has to do with the consistency of puréed or mashed food, and partly it’s to do with how much control the baby has over her eating” (16).

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All about Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), Part 2: Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages of BLW: BLW has many benefits. If your baby is ready and eager (more on readiness signs later), and is at least six months old, he is definitely capable of picking up, holding, chewing and eating solid foods. It may take him a little while to get the hang of it, but he can and will! (For my son, it only took a few weeks to learn how to grasp and eat food more effectively; he quickly learned to use both hands and open his mouth before he brought the food up to it, for example.)

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All about Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), Part 1: The Basics

BLW is a gentle, commonsense way to introduce solids. While continuing to breastfeed (or bottle-feed), babies are allowed and encouraged to feed themselves real, whole foods – when they are ready. Babies have the autonomy to experiment and discover food at their own pace, while developing “chewing skills, manual dexterity, and hand-eye coordination” (Rapley & Murkett, xiv).

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