3 January 2012, by Mandy Loh
First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!!! Hope 2012 brings you much joy, great times with loved ones, prosperity and good health!
I’m really excited today, because I’ve successfully conducted a REAL SOLID EXPERIMENT. As you know, when Cristan turned 6 months old last month, we started him on semi-solids, feeding him a smooth mixture of brown rice cereal and breastmilk. This is in accordance with the “tried and tested” approach of starting a baby on solids. The next stage would require me to steam and puree vegetables and fruits into a smooth mush. As he gets more adept with eating, we’re supposed to make the mixtures thicker and lumpier, before finally allowing Cristan to graduate to real adult food.
Honestly, I had always found that approach extremely challenging, with the extensive amount of work that goes into preparing each meal for baby. (Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m kinda lazy!) To my utter delight, while surfing online just recently, I stumbled across something called “Baby-led Weaning”, which is a completely different approach to introducing solids to your baby. Written by Gill Rapley, it turns conventional parenting wisdom on its head, by advocating that there is no need to go through the “mushy stage” of starting solids at all!
According to Gill Rapley, who has studied child development and infant feeding for many years, by the time an infant reaches 6 months of age, he would be able to sit up on his own, and is developmentally capable of feeding himself chunks of actual food.
Many (including myself at first) would instinctively feel that allowing a 6-month old baby to put a whole chunk of food in his mouth would be extremely dangerous, with a high risk of him choking. In fact, Gill Rapley asserts that allowing your baby to feed himself chunks of food would be safer than spoon-feeding him mush, because he is in control of what is going on, and can take his time to touch and explore the food placed in front of him. In addition, in the first few weeks of this approach, the baby isn’t even really eating (or rather, swallowing) anything. He is merely tasting, sucking and chewing on the chunks of food, and practising the various motions required to move food from the front of the mouth to the throat.
Also, more importantly, at 6 – 8 months of age, most of the baby’s nutritional needs are still adequately met by breastfeeding, so the 2nd half of his first year is merely the runway for baby to learn the skills of handling solid food. As such, the book encourages you to view mealtimes as playtimes for baby, and not stress about whether baby has taken in enough nutrients from the meals.
All these principles made a lot of sense to me, and what particularly appealed to me was the social aspect of it as well – that through this approach, baby joins in with the family meals, eating what everyone else is having. With the opportunity to observe and imitate what others are doing around the table, baby learns much more than just eating skills, including acceptable behaviour and table manners. And because the baby is given the chance to choose what he would like to try, he becomes alot more adventurous about food, and has a healthy attitude towards eating in general. No stress, but lots of mess!
Anyway, don’t just take my word for it. If you’re keen to find out more about Baby-led Weaning, check out the book! It’s available in the public libraries, and I borrowed my copy just yesterday!
And now, here are some photos of Cristan’s first real meal this afternoon!
Totally looking forward to more mealtimes ahead!