Monday, September 10, 2012

BLW FTW, OMGah

{... because the Interwebs need more acronyms!}


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So! The Big! Baby-Led! Weaning! Post!

Exclamation! Point!

To say I'm excited about Baby-Led Weaning would be a massive understatement.

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 In fact, in between my incessant Instagramming {official new verb}, tweeting, and Tumblr-ing of our BLW adventures, I fear I've crossed the line from Proud, Wacky Mama to Obnoxious, Seemingly-Smug Asshole.

And for that, I apologize.

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BUT MY BABY DOUBLE FISTS RED PEPPERS, Y'ALL.

Ahem.

Hopefully this post will further explain my enthusiasm for the way we've chosen to introduce solids to L, as well as answer some of the questions I've received about BLW.

Let's get to it like the Buglet on a frozen waffle, shall we?

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Note: All my fancypants assertions of fact come from the Baby-Led Weaningbook, which I highly recommend if you're contemplating a BLW approach to the introduction of solids! 

What is this Baby-Led Weaning business all about?  So, most of the time, when you think about introducing a baby to "solids" - or, food other than breastmilk or formula - you envision little jars of fruit and veggie purees and/or rice cereal and oatmeal.  Baby-Led Wean-ers {teehee} skip the mushy stuff all together and offer proper solid food to their kidlets from the get-go... i.e. with Baby-Led Weaning, we don't spoon-feed "baby food" to L; instead, we offer her the same types of food we eat as adults and allow her to feed herself.  She decides if she likes what we give her, the order in which she eats items, and when she's ready to stop eating. 

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Okaaaaaay. But why not just go with regular baby food?  There's absolutely nothing wrong with starting your baby off on purees -- It's the route the majority of folks in the U.S. take, and it gets the job done!  But, by the age of 6 months, most babies are developmentally capable of feeding themselves the same sorts of foods you and I enjoy. {Signs of readiness include the ability to sit upright partially assisted (in a highchair or in your lap without slouching over), ability to reach for items and move them quickly into the mouth, and interest in mealtime (grabbing at food on your plate).} Babies don't need to be taught how to chew - they just develop the ability to do it {much like you don't teach your baby to roll over... when they are ready, they roll}. 

Once I realized L had the capability to feed herself, the rest of the BLW mentality just kinda clicked with me. She's been dictating food intake since she was born -- I offer her some boob action when she exhibits hunger cues, and she decides if she wants to nurse, how much she wants to eat, and for how long.  Why should solids be any different?  With BLW, there's no "here comes the airplane!" frustration of trying to spoon-feed "just one more bite."  I just plop three or four food options down on her high chair tray, and she decides what she wants to eat, how much she wants, the order in which she wants to eat, and when she's finished.  It is ridiculously easy, and {for me at least} super intuitive.  And because she really doesn't need any nutrition outside breastmilk until she's a year old, I don't fret over how many solid ounces she's taking in {although, her diapers tell me she's getting enough to make a major difference in the stink department... cloth diaper follow-up forthcoming}. 

Any other Pros to Baby-Led Weaning? Yep! Tons, actually! 

BLW is easier for us!  Let's get selfish here for a minute shall we?  Parents of spoon-fed babies either make their own baby food or buy it premade {Captain Obvious over here}.  With BLW, I don't have to fiddle with peeling, chopping, steaming, pureeing, portioning, freezing, etc to make L's food.  And I don't have to shell out extra cash to purchase premade food.  I just serve up what I have on hand.  I might cook it in a slightly different fashion, but the prep time is seriously minimal.  Additionally, of course we watch L closely while she eats {duh}, but we are free to either enjoy our own food, if we're sharing a meal together, or complete tasks in the kitchen -- as opposed to sitting in front of her highchair with a spoon... On weeknights, I usually get 100% of my prep work for our dinner finished while she eats supper; then, putting our meal together is a snap after she's in bed.  

#munchkinmeals clementines, pita bread, lettuce & avocado from my chopped salad #babyledweaning
an appetizer of clementines before sharing avocado, lettuce, & pita from my entree

When we go out to eat, I don't have to mess with packing baby food and spoons.  I might pack an orange or some veggie spears, but the majority of her meal comes off our plates. {And girlfriend wants what's on your plate, let me tell you... Whatever you're eating should really be hers rightthissecondgimmethatohmahgerd.}

BLW encourages good eating habits. Allowing babies to control the pace of their meals helps develop natural appetite control, and likely combats higher BMIs and obesity later on in life. No, for real.  Smart scientists said so. {I unapologetically swiped that article from Emily... par for the course, as I get all my good hippie shit from her.} And honestly, I've noticed an improvement in my eating habits -- overall, I try to plan healthy dinners for E and myself, but it's easy to slip down the "I'll just eat Parmesan noodles for the thirteenth day in a row" slope when you're fixing lunch for one every weekday.  Now, L and I munch on hummus and squash and yogurt together.  If only BLW encouraged the offering of mini champagne cocktails... We would be quite the Ladies Who Lunch. 

BLW discourages picky eating. One thing that initially drew me to Baby-Led Weaning was that BLWing parents are always talking about their kids eating everything... sushi, curry, fish, kefir -- all kinds of crazy, amazing foods that most kids won't touch.  I'm an adventurous eater {and E is usually down for the ride as well, so long as hid plate isn't too fancified}, and I want my child to be an adventurous eater.  Would it be the end of the world if L ordered grilled cheese at every restaurant for the next 12 years?  No, but I'd love to see her branch way out from the kids' menu.  I'd say a penchant for Greek yogurt and a fervor for pickles at the age of 6 months is a damn good start on the road to daring culinary endeavors. 

BLW helps develop fine motor skills. Leaning to feed themselves improves babies' dexterity and hand-eye coordination.  This is good news for my buglet, seeing as, with half my genetic makeup, she's going to need all the help she can get in this department if she has any interest in team sports. It really is amazing to see how fast she picks things up {literally}... two weeks ago, she was still gingerly moving things around on her tray and attempting to pick pieces up, only to have them slip repeatedly out of her hands.  Now, she is a chunk-grabbing machine. 

Your BLW Baby looks like a badass.  I mean, seriously, is there anything cooler than a six month old going to town on a wedge of grilled zucchini?  Yes, you crazed lunatic, lots of things.  NAY. 

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I. Am. Fabulous.

So... any disadvantages?  It's messy... in a big way.  I'd suggest investing in a highchair without a stitch of fabric on it {shoutout to the OXO Tot Sprout Chair!}, a few rinse-able bibs {we love the Bumkins Super Bibs}, and a rat terrier for easy cleanup.  Other than that... nope! 

Well, dude, what about the CHOKING?  I always get nerdily excited about answering this question... The Short Version follows thusly:  If given food cut into the proper size, a BLW baby is no more likely to choke than a spoon-fed baby. But I'm not letting y'all off that easy... LONG VERSION: Babies' gag reflexes are much closer to the front of their mouths than adults'.  When babies are allowed to feed themselves, they learn how to gauge appropriately-sized bites.  If they bite off more than they can safely swallow, that gag reflex is ready to expel the too-big-bite before it gets anywhere near their throat.  As they grow and progress, the gag reflex moves backwards.  {THIS IS FASCINATING TO ME.} Some gagging with BLW is normal and to be expected as your child learns what their mouth can handle.  We haven't experienced too much gagging, but I do see L spit out food that she isn't able to swallow all the time. Again, we always keep a close eye on her while she's eating in case we need to take a swipe at a renegade food chunk.

#munchkinmeals waffle w/ hummus, grilled zucchini, cherry tomatoes, applesauce #babyledweaning

How do you prepare L's food? What foods did you start with? Do I need to be concerned about allergies?  Again, with the simplicity of it all...

Preparation: I usually prepare L's food in the same manner I'd prepare it for E and myself, omitting any salt or super spicy seasonings.  We like sweet potatoes roasted, squash grilled, and raspberries straight out of the colander... L eats those items the same way!  With harder fruits and veggies, it is easier for her to chew and ingest if they are served cooked in some form or fashion... So while she is happy to gnaw on a raw apple or carrot all day, she actually eats more if I roast or steam them.  A toaster oven comes in really handy for roasting small portions quickly {and without heating up your entire kitchen}.  Don't be afraid to experiment with seasonings either... L has sampled and enjoyed garlic powder, basil, oregano, tarragon, chile powder, paprika, cinnamon, pumpkin pie seasoning, and nutmeg. Do remember that babies can't handle much salt and should have no more than 1 gram per day {0.4 grams of sodium}.

I think the biggest consideration for preparation is the size and shape of the food you offer to your baby.  In the beginning, it's easiest for babies to pick up foods with a "handle"... think longer spears or wedges that allow baby to grasp the food in her fist with a considerable portion hanging out on which she can gum or bite.  For slippery foods such as avocado or banana, try leaving the peel on one side for easier grasping.  Once your baby masters a pincher grip, she can pick up and eat pea or cereal-sized food.

For more details on exactly what we feed L and how we prepare it, check out our little electronic BLW "diary" - Quesita Eats {Everything}.

Beginning Foods: We started with banana, avocado, peach, and squash... pretty standard stuff, whether you're doing BLW or spoon-feeding. All are low on the potential allergy scale and seem to be pretty easily digestible.  That said, with BLW, you can start with filet mignon if you wanted - there's no "correct" first food.  And on that note...

#munchkinmeals supper: 1/2 whole wheat waffle + hummus, roasted cinnamon apple, pomegranate Greek yogurt #babyledweaning

Allergies: By waiting until 6 months {or after, if your baby isn't showing signs of readiness or interest in eating} to start the introduction of solids, the potential for allergies is minimized {as opposed to beginning spoon-feeding solids as early as 4 months}... Again, this is all from the BLW book -- I'm definitely no pediatrician!  For that reason, and because we have no major familial food allergies, we did not do the whole "feed one food and one food only for three days before introducing another" rigmarole when we started BLW.  Basically, I'm going with the flow but using my best judgment {by introducing foods that are traditionally more difficult to digest at lunch so as to gauge her reaction during the afternoon and introducing them with foods we already know she tolerates well}. So far, we haven't had any issues other than a small facial rash after trying raspberries for the first time.  And, um, some gas with larger quantities of dairy... girlfriend can put down some Greek yogurt. If you and/or your pediatrician are more comfortable introducing new foods one at a time, rock on with your bad self!

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What else, what else, hmmmm... Suffice to say, we absolutely love Baby-Led Weaning!  I am happy to answer any other questions y'all may have in the comments section... Ask away!

ETA: Did you speak with your pediatrician about BLW, and was she on board? Our pediatrician is young and a mom herself, so I assumed she would be familiar with baby-led weaning.  Um, yeah, she looked at me like I had twelve heads when I brought it up at L's 4 month checkup.  After her initial confusion, she wasn't too thrilled with the concept, but she didn't dismiss it.  She basically said "watch her closely so she doesn't choke."  At our 6 month appointment {2 weeks after L's actual 6 month "birthday"}, she briefly asked how many times a day L was eating solids, if we'd experienced any allergic reactions, and that was that, other than a discussion about the recommendations regarding strawberries, eggs, and peanut butter {she's down with the AAP's new guidelines that give the go-ahead for all foods other than honey for babies under one year old - which made me happy... I can't wait to see my baby eating a chunk of quiche!}.  

51 comments:

  1. I'm 30, and I still eat like a BLW infant most of the time. Not because I'm chic, but because I can't be bothered to turn the ingredients into a dish most of the time. I must say, my motor skills are improving ;)

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  2. Great post! I'm no where near having a baby and I still live to read your blog bc of your humor, and great hippie advice for the future ��

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  3. Amazing post Kate. I read every single word. Miles and his large and in charge belly thank you! I am about to blog and link directly to this. I bow to you, Baby Lead Weaning guru! :)

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  4. I am so glad I found this! My son has been recently diagnosed with reflux and consequently has lost weight. :o( We've been breast feeding and started "solids" but everything he eats comes back up... All day long. We're also finding out that he's picky and I'm backpedaling trying to figure out how to reverse it. This may do the trick! We also need to pack on some lbs! New reader! Keep it up, momma!

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    1. Try a chiropractic adjustment! Sometimes acid reflux can be caused from their stomach being pushed up into their esophagus. Obviously do your research and find a good one, but some chiropractors can adjust the organs, and this often helps with acid reflux and colic. I've seen my chiropractor do this loads of times.

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  5. I'm so glad you took the time to explain everything. Jack will be in daycare & I'm not sure they would be gungho about BLW. I wonder if I could do this in the evenings or if that would be really confusing for him. I love the idea of this.

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  6. So I have no bebes and there is no plan for bebes in the near future, but I too am FASCINATED by this. BLW is something we will def try with our future wee ones, for a number of reasons, but selfishly, I'm also an extremely adventurous eater (as is the husband) and we want our kid(s) to be that way too.

    On a separate note, I checked out the Tumblr and that pic of her with the peppers and E? TOO FREAKING ADORABLE.

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  7. I am sans bebe (and much to the dismay of my in-laws, probably will be for a few more years) but I love reading about L's cloth diapering, BLW'ing little self. She's a ham! Those yogurt pictures are just too much!

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  8. Awesome, awesome write-up. I couldn't agree more with everything you said (and am proud to report that my 14-month-old eats everything under the sun), and just forwarded this post to my friend who is expecting. We also swear by the Bumpkins bibs, and I put that high chair on my Amazon wish list for when baby #2 comes around. I can't begin to tell you how much I hate my existing high chair.

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  9. Oh my my, I cannot wait to embark on the BLW adventure in 7-8 months!!

    Question - did you discuss this with your ped? Is he/she on board?

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    1. Our pediatrician is young and a mom herself so I assumed she would know about BLW but she was pretty clueless when I brougth it up at her 4 mo appointment {she is pretty traditional though}. She kinda looked at me like I was nuts when I explained it but was basically like "just watch her so she doesn't choke."

      At her 6 mo appointment {which was 2 weeks after her 6 mo birthday}, the pedi asked how many times a day we were feeding solids, and I just said twice a day, and that was the end of it -- I didn't mention the BLW. For me, it falls under the category of "I respect your opinion, pediatrician, but I'm going to go with my gut and research on this one!"

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  10. Love love love this and now I am hungry

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  11. Great post!! Thanks for taking the time to explain everything. I'm sure I'll have more questions, seeing as we're about to start solids, but I will email you if I do!! :)

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  12. Love this information. My bebe is due in October and we hope to do BLW. What were your pediatrician's thoughts? Was he/she on board? Our pediatrician seems like he might be sort of old-school when it comes to this kind of stuff and am concerned I am going to get push back from him.

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    1. See my response to Rachel above :) Short answer: Our pedi likely thinks I'm nuts in this regard and wasn't thrilled about the concept, but didn't tell us it was a terrible idea either.

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    2. Sorry I didn't see you already answered this! Thanks!

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    3. No apologies! I just answered a few questions in one fell swoop!

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  13. Yay! I've been waiting for this post. I started reading the BLW book last week. Now we're just waiting for the little mister to get to the 6 month mark to get started. One question, did your pediatrician have any hesitation? Ours brought up starting cereal at 4 months at our last appointment and I brought up BLW and that I had read babies don't need the additional "nutrients" from cereal and she got kind of huffy. Might have to make a change in doctors. BTW- Miss L is looking adorable!

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    1. See my response to Rachel and The Blackwoods above :)

      On the cereal front, our pedi was fine with skipping cereal - she agreed that it has zero nutritional value other than iron. She did recommend an iron supplement, but L is getting iron from other food sources now.

      From speaking with other BLWers, it seems like a lot of pediatricians are not super thrilled with the idea. The BLW "movement" started in England so maybe it just hasn't fully made its way across the pond yet?

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  14. How do you/how does L handle the gooey stuff like yogurt? I mean, does she scoop it up with her hands our are you giving her a spoon? My guy loves yogurt and I'm spoon feeding it to him, but he would very much rather be feeding himself!

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    1. We load a spoon up for her and then she grabs it. She gets it into her mouth about 50% of the time!

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    2. I think it is time for my little guy to start shirtless dining, then. I need to get over my aversion to mess...

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  15. Great post!! I feel so lucky that I (we) have you guiding us on this crazy BLW adventure!! :) Reid's favorite thing in the world right now? Hummus. So awesome. I'm so happy that you're documenting all of this- it is definitely helpful!

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  16. We have been doing BLW for over a week now, I am terrified of bringing it up to the pediatrician because she had no clue what I was talking about at the four month checkup.

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  17. Woohoo! I never heard of BLW until you brought it up when you were pregnant with L. Reading the book and was in amazement about the concept because Madison did a lot of BLW without my knowledge. This kids loves hummmus, yogurt, cottage cheese, pickles and tomatoes. Her favorite food is shrimp and cocktail sauce. I started her on cereal but she hated it. My doctor said too, that the only thing cereal provides is iron. She gets that from her large food palate.

    Keep the post coming fellow hippie mom. I love learning new things from you and sharing cloth diaper happiness. I just potty trained my cloth diaper babe at 22 months because toddler pee is gross!

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  18. You should check out "dinner - a love story" - its for kids (as opposed to babies), but interesting in terms of developing healthy, young adventurous readers!

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  19. I mentioned it to the pediatrician this am and she did the same thing. Stared at me and was like what is that??? Lord Tubbington is starving and he needs more food, so fingers crossed

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  20. Glad to hear you and L love BLW as much as me and S! I must warn you, though ... you may be breeding a little food monster. I swear Sam eats as much as I do now! I'm in trouble when he hits his teens.

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  21. Ahhh! This makes me so jealous! I want to step up my game. Can I just copy what you do bite for bite? ;)

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  22. The only thing I'm wondering about is allergies. 25 years ago we were told to wait until one year for dairy, nuts, citrus, eggs - all the highly allergenic foodstuffs. No longer?

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    1. I believe as recently as one year ago, AAP recommended abstaining from egg whites, strawberries, nuts, and honey until 1 year. I think dairy was 8 or 9 months. But the new guidelines eradicated everything but honey... so everything else is fair game after 6 months, so long as you don't have any family history of allergies. Some pediatricians are sticking to older guidelines, but ours gave the go-ahead for anything we feel comfortable with!

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  23. I saw on the national news tonight that rice contains more arsenic than was previously known. New recommendation is if you feed your baby rice cereal, offer it no more often than once a week. News like that might cause pediatricians to take a little more interest in BLW!

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  24. how old is your infant? and how many teeth?

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    1. At the time of this post, she was 6.5 mo old. I believe she had two teeth (bottom).

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    2. Would you recommend BLW if a baby doesn't have any teeth yet?

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  25. Hi Kate! I have a 6 monther who we are starting on BLW and I was wondering if you could tell me if there was a period of time that L had little interest in even picking up the food that is on her tray? My little guy isn't impressed with what we are putting in front of him, not even to play? Maybe he is still getting used to his high chair? Given he has only had about 5 or 6 times doing this whole routine, or lack thereof. Any helpful hints?

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    1. Hi Aron! When we started, L was constantly grabbing at our food when we were eating, so she was pretty game to man-handle her own. She'd also been playing in her high chair while I prepped food for a while before we started BLW, so maybe the familiarity factor is coming into play for your kiddo -- he might just be too enthralled with his new view! I would just keep trying - BLW is supposed to be all about making solid food fun - if he doesn't seem interested in tasting or playing, just let him chill there for 10 minutes, and then move on to a new activity. Don't feel like he "should" be eating or super interested in the food -- 6 months is supposed to be the very SOONEST most kids are ready for BLW - it might be another month or so before he really gets into it. L loved to play with the food at first, but she really didn't eat much.

      Does he like any teething toys in particular? Popping him in the high chair with a few of those might help him associate Chair = Chewing?

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  26. a little encouragement : I have done as you do....
    My baby is 15 years old now with any problem of allergy. He eats everything.
    But I recognize : i t was a big mess around his chair.
    I began at three months with cooked apples and second cooked zucchini..... no purees

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  27. I just came across this post and your blog from pinterest and i love this! I am 38 and pregnant with *cough cough* my first and am very interested with BLW. I am a planner and like to have things planned out and yes, I know the baby will shatter my plans! lol

    Anyways, thanks for this post! I am definitely researching this and love your blog!

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  28. First, I want to say that I really enjoyed this post. Now, on to the BLW... I used BLW for baby girl #1 (1yr), and baby #2 will get the same advantages. It has been a huge success and my siblings all comment on how baby girl eats everything under the sun whereas their kids are extremely picky and never want to sit for food! From Thai to Indian food, she will take it all. Also, to conquer the messy highchair problem, I allow my dog to clean up after baby's mess, and the food she throws.

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  29. Love this! Thanks! I will try to share with my daughter. I'm very new on here.

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  30. My LO turned 6 months this past week. She watches me when I eat, like she is interested, but when I give her a slice of banana or other food she just throws it down. I've been trying for 2 weeks now and she just drops whatever I give her. My doctor is so against BLW and suggested I try purees of course. I did, with no luck. LO will not even open her mouth!!! Guess I just need to wait longer???

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  31. Please be super careful with this. Babies DO and have choked.

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    1. She's currently four, so I think we did okay. Regardless, I supervised my children closely as they learn to eat and would recommend others do the same, whether they are starting with whole foods or purees.

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  32. Awesome~ You are funny! Loved the educational article and entertainment.
    I have been hearing more and more about BLW and was curious about it. My only issue is anyone other than myself watching the baby closely and knowing what to do if (heaven forbid) she does choke. I would be so paranoid having a family member or babysitter giving baby food. I need to read that book you mentioned and keep researching. Would love to know any other bloggers that you recommend!
    Any experience with that issue?

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    1. There's absolutely no rule that says you can't do purees some of the time if you're uncomfortable leaving your baby alone with someone who isn't familiar with BLW! It's not an All or Nothing sort of thing! I have a lot of friends who did BLW at home but sent purees to childcare. Plus, after 2-3 months of solid foods, it's likely your baby will be confident enough around finger foods that it won't seem nearly so scary!

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  33. My baby boy is 5 months and has not yet had any teeth break through. He does sit at his high chair and can sit up on his own. Do you recommend them to have teeth before starting the solids? Also how did it effect L's bowel movements?

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  34. My baby boy is 5 months and has not yet had any teeth break through. He does sit at his high chair and can sit up on his own. Do you recommend them to have teeth before starting the solids? Also how did it effect L's bowel movements?

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    1. I'm pretty sure the BLW experts say teeth are not necessary. They can gum pretty well! Poop didn't really change until she started actually digesting a decent amount -- for the first couple of months, it's more just experimenting with taste and texture!

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happy little comments!