Almost daily I receive comments or questions on my baby’s eating habits.
“Wow, she’s a good eater!”
“I can’t believe your baby is eating that!”
“She just gobbles everything up!”
“What does she eat?”
“Aren’t you nervous to feed her solids?”
“Isn’t she too little to be eating that? Does she even have teeth?”
Food is important to me. Not just because I know the impact nourishing foods have on the body and not just because I am a dietitian.
Food transforms your senses; it is an experience.
Food is a creative outlet; a culinary adventure waiting to be had.
Food is a way to show love; preparing a meal for someone is an act of service.
Food elicits memories of families gathered around the table; it brings people together.
Food reminds me of times spent having more fun in the kitchen than enjoying the meal itself; crafting something exceptional with special people.
The complexities associated with my love of food is not a short story but a love affair reserved for another day. I love to eat and there is so much more than the meal itself to express why food is important to me. I want Shiloh to feel the same way.
I always knew I wanted to cook for her but I never realized that I didn’t have to make anything special or different than I was already preparing.
In March of this year, 2017, I read a news article entitled “9 Surprising First Foods you Should Feed Your Baby.” One of the quoted experts was a dietitian, Wendy Jo Peterson, with an upcoming book on how to feed your baby from the first bite. Shiloh was four months old at that time and while I am well versed in childhood nutrition through adulthood, it was time to refresh on evidence based research for what I should feed my babe… I pre-ordered my book and it arrived just in time to prepare me for the introduction phase of baby-led weaning. As luck would have it, I connected with Wendy Jo on Facebook. After I fan-girled her for being the author of what was to become my new favorite book, I asked if she would answer a few questions for you – from the expert herself! Meet Wendy Jo, a Culinary Nutritionist and co-author of Born to Eat!
|Dani:||Wendy Jo, what is self-feeding and/or baby led weaning?|
|Wendy Jo:||An infant who self-feeds, simply feeds them self from the start, meaning first bite, whatever the texture. Baby led weaning was coined in the UK by a researcher and midwife Gill Rapley. Many have strong feelings about solids only, purees, etc. I answer a lot in this video: https://youtu.be/540NSQK57WA|
|Dani:||Take 5 minutes to watch this video, you will be glad you did!|
|Dani:||What, in your opinion, is the best part of baby led weaning?|
|Wendy Jo:||As a culinary dietitian, I find that this approach really empowers a family to eat together and all eat the same meal—from first bite. This gives everyone a reason to eat better, savor the food, and model a healthy approach to the plate.|
|Dani:||What do you tell a parent who is worried about gagging and choking, what is the difference?|
|Wendy Jo:||This is one topic that I urge parents and caregivers to take a CPR class and watch as many videos as you can that break down the differences between the two. I remember sitting on my hands as Miss A worked her way through a gag—which is normal. Gagging is normal, and the baby is skilled to work through it. A choke is when a food is lodged in and blocking airflow. Babies make no sound, look panicked, and may begin to turn colors. When you start with a BLW approach the baby puts the food to their mouth, they are in charge. They have a gag reflex that is super close to the front of their mouth, and as they gain more skill this gag reflex moves farther back into their throat. Spoon feeding bypasses their gag reflex.|
|Dani:||Yes! I have experienced that myself. That is why it’s so important to encourage babies to feed themselves. I bought Shiloh special spoons that small hands can manipulate. I help put foods like yogurt on the spoon and she can bring it to her mouth to feed herself.|
|Dani:||How do you approach babies who are difficult at meal time?|
|Wendy Jo:||Difficult? Meaning refusing food? Meaning wanting to get up? We don’t make the table a battle ground. We offer food, a variety and always include something we know our baby/child is interested in, and when they are finished they can leave the table. We follow Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility and let the rest go.|
|Dani:||Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility:
The Division of Responsibility for infants:
The Division of Responsibility for babies making the transition to family food:
The Division of Responsibility for toddlers through adolescents
While I also appreciate Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility, one important goal I have with experience based learning and my children’s book series is to inspire and engage children with foods that are not offered in the home. It is my hope that kids will be motivated to ask their parents to purchase and try new whole foods, discover new favorites, and become less picky eaters.
More info on Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility here: http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/dor/divisionofresponsibilityinfeeding.php
|Dani:||What is your favorite food and/or favorite meal to prepare for your family?|
|Wendy Jo:||Our family enjoys a variety of foods. At home we love Mexican food, which is harder to find here in Europe, and I’m from Texas and California so it’s our favorite. We also love grilled pizzas, chicken pot pie, and anything from my garden! When eating out I go for Thai, Indian, or Sushi =)|
|Dani:||A woman after my own heart… and stomach!|
5 Things to Know Before You Start:
- Wait until 6 months of age and certain signals that a baby is ready to eat. These signals include sitting up independently, interest in table foods, putting toys in his/her mouth, grasping items with more hand control and absence of a tongue thrust (tongue moving towards the front of the mouth).
- Special “baby food” and purees are not necessary – simple modifications to food preparation such as shape and texture will get you started. Finger sized and shaped foods are perfect for tiny hands and foods with soft textures are easy for gumming.
- It is wonderfully messy! We do diaper only meal times when able, use a splat mat under the high chair, and a bib with a pocket. Plus, our all dog clean-up crew love their new post-meal responsibilities!
- Never leave your baby unattended during meal time. If your concern with self-feeding is choking, an infant CPR class is empowering and will help you to feel more comfortable at meals.
- Breastmilk or formula is the primary source of your baby’s nutrition until 1 year of age, so don’t worry if it looks like they are playing with the food more than they are eating – that is part of the process!
Final thoughts to share about our baby adventures in food:
- We included Shiloh at every meal eaten at the table since she was born. We had a high chair with an infant insert or placed her in her stroller at the table.
- We talked to her and engaged with her at meal time. Time spent around the table is family time.
- At 3 months old, we started using sign language with Shiloh. She has been signing for milk since she was 6 months old and is able to communicate with us when she wants to drink.
- At 4.5 months, Shiloh was reaching for food and wanted to taste things we were eating – with our level of understanding and comfort, we fostered her interest in taste testing when she asked.
- We offer her everything we eat but using the textures and shapes suggested by her skill level and age provided in the book Born to Eat.
- Take a deep breath and relax. Enjoy this delicious adventure! At first, feeding your baby can be scary, but it is so fun to introduce your little one to your favorite foods!
Purchase your own copy of Born to Eat here: https://www.amazon.com/Born-Eat-Whole-Healthy-Baby-s/dp/1510719997/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500927890&sr=8-1&keywords=born+to+eat
I know you will love the book as much as I do!
Do you have a baby that is Born to Eat? Share your experience with us!
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