We Went to a Baby-Led Weaning Workshop

I’m trying not to do too much stuff with my baby. I have lots of non-parenting work to do and I like to just spend my quality time with Avery quietly, relaxing at home. But I had finished all my work for the week by Thursday, and when my naturopath (from hypnobirthing classes) invited me to a baby-led weaning workshop on Friday morning I decided it would be a good learning experience – and it couldn’t have been more appropriately timed in terms of Avery’s development. We’ve been dabbling in solids for a few weeks now and I had LOTS of questions.

The workshop was hosted at a local high-end grocery store (the kind I never shop at because I prefer to pay a reasonable amount of money for my food). It was led by a naturopath who specializes in prenatal care and children’s health. She has been offering this workshop for 15 years, and is an encyclopedia of all the new knowledge on weaning, allergies, nutrition, and even choking.

*cool fact #1: there is no increased risk of choking with baby-led weaning vs spoon-feeding purées. Babies will gag. This is OK and is not the same thing as choking (it’s important to know the difference). This reflex will go away, but yes, it is very unsettling while it lasts.

The first half of the 3 hour workshop was lecture style. I made sure to ask about allergies and food sensitivities since Avery has eczema. 

Allergies and Food Sensitivites

The instructor is a firm believer that baby eczema is almost always food related, even though many traditional MDs will say otherwise. She said that if your baby reacts to a certain food, you need to cut that food out (seems obvious). I asked if/when that baby would ever be able to try that food again, and here’s the tip I got:

*Fact #2: Wait 3 months before reintroducing a food that caused a reaction. Babies usually outgrow food sensitivities but the gut needs to heal from the first exposure, and it might need some time to mature a little more before being ready to handle that food iten again. 

She recommended bone broth for gut healing, BTW. I found a great post about bone broth here. Also important to note on this topic is that a serious allergy doesn’t show up on the first exposure. The first exposure may just look like a mild sensitivity. The real danger of an allergic reaction (like anaphylaxis) will happen on the 2nd or 3rd try. So be ever watchful when it comes to allergy-prone foods like nuts, eggs, soy, shellfish… But DO try them before 1 year old because the latest research shows that early exposure decreases risk of allergies. We actually got a prescription from our family doctor for a child epi pen and we have it on hand JUST IN CASE.

IRON REQUIREMENTS

The big concern in babies who are 6 months or older is iron deficiency. There are mutliple factors that lead to an iron deficiency in infants. One is that their ability to absorb iron from breastmilk changes as they start eating solids (maturing gut and all). Another factor is just not getting enough iron-rich foods. Babies need 11mg of iron a day, and even iron-rich foods like spinach provide surprisingly small percentages of the daily requirement (a 2 ice cube size serving of spinach, for example, provides less than 10% of the requirement). Our instructor recommended looking at the Dieticians of Canada Food Sources of Iron guide.

*fact #3: a good reason to hold off on introducing dairy until 9+ months is that dairy can inhibit absorption of iron.

*fact #4: Meat and legumes actually make a good first food (instead of fruits) because they are high in iron. Liver is the best meat for your baby in terms of mineral and vitamin content. 

Recommendations around baby cereal as a first food are changing – they might not be as healthy as once thought because babies <9 months don’t yet have all the digestive enzymes to digest refined carbohydrates. However, iron fortified baby cereals do have a place in your baby’s diet as an iron supplement if you can’t get enough iron into them through unrefined foods.

Making the Food

The second half of the workshop was hands on. We each got to choose a food from the counter to prepare for all the babies in the class, and then we were left to figure out how to make it in a way that would work well for baby led weaning. I chose liver because a) I love liver, and b) everyone scoffed at the liver and I always choose the underdog.

I made a liver and apple pâté  with just a little olive oil. Fry everything up in a pan, put in a blender and pulse until the biggest lumps are gone and everything is blended together, but keep it thick enough that a baby could use their hands to pick up bits to feed themselves. 

Other people made spiraled beets, steamed apple wedges, whole grain cereal, and  meatballs. Here’s  Avery’s plate before and after:

My favourite tips on preparing food for baby-led weaning:

  • Steam apple or pear wedges rather than puréeing or giving raw (skin on is fine) 
  • Buy a spiralizer to play with food textures. Fruits and veg are great spiralized and then baked. 
  • Make little meatballs, either a size the baby can bite into, or small enough to pop in their mouth whole without being a choking hazzard
  • Make liver into a pâté
  • Cook whole grain cereals like oats and barley that are thick enough for baby to grab handfuls

    I hope someone out there was able to get some useful info from this summary of what I learned today. We had a surprising amount of fun learning and cooking, and not so surprising, Avery LOVED trying all the food. We have a real food lover on our hands. I just hope this enthusiasm extends into the picky toddler years…

    (these pictures are crappy quality because I had to use the selfie lens on my phone and she was being a wiggle worm) 

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    Avery’s 6th Month

    My baby is no longer an infant. I don’t actually know if there is a scientific cut-off point for this, but I’m calling it. She’s a movin’ and shakin’ baby and she’s showing me that she’s not so delicate anymore as she tries to drag herself over my lap and faceplants. Or as she smacks herself in the face repeatedly with the toy she is whipping and throwing around. Good thing she’s not so delicate anymore, because I dropped my phone on her head and gave her her first goose egg. #mommyfail
    We had her 6 month well-baby visit (Dr. appt) today and she did really well. She waited for the doctor for an hour, half of that was spent naked in the cold exam room. She was also way overdue for a nap. So proud of her. If you recall, the last two times she had vaccines I asked the nurse if I could hold her and both nurses said no. This time the nurse told me to hold her, and it went SO. MUCH. BETTER. Considering Avery was already crying a bit when the nurse came in the room, she only cried for a few seconds after getting her shot and it was a lot less heart wrenching. This nurse is my new best friend. 

    Weight: 17lb

    Length: 25 3/4″

    New this month

    • First solid food, Feb 8th, 2017 
    • First water out of a sippy cup. Not her first water consumption though – the real firsts came from the bathtub and swimming pool where she laps it up like a dog. 
    • Started brushing her teeth at night (no toothpaste, just water)
    • Hair is starting to grow. Its finally getting thicker and actually looks messy when its not brushed. From a distance, though, she still looks pretty bald.
    • Playing the drop-and-pickup game. She started to realize the pattern of “drop this, and it comes back”, so I guess this is her learning object permanence.
    • So many new sounds, including the lip vibrating thing where they blow out through pursed lips. What’s that called? Blowing raspberries?
    • Two teeth!
    •  
    • Rolling over from back to front. 
    • Sitting up on her own. She used to topple forward when she reached for her toes, but now she can sit pretty and play with her toes.
    • Outgrew her skip-hop playmat. The little dangling animals that she’s supposed to reach for now rest on her body (all four corners at once), and she only spends about 60 seconds on the mat before scooting or rolling onto the floor. So we upgraded to one of those big interlocking foam play mats. Our house is really starting to look like a kid lives here. My wife wants to sell our dining table that seats 12 and buy a small one so we will have more room for Avery to run around. I’m not quite ready to give up my canvas for seasonal tablescapes yet though…
    • Also outgrew the bassinet configuration on our stroller. Its time to let down the foot rest that has been velcroed up as one wall of the bassinet and let her feet dangle.
    • First time in the jolly jumper (and of course the best picture I captured has a pack of toilet paper in the background) 
    • And finally, first goose egg / bruise. And it was my fault. She only cried for a few seconds before I got her distracted though, so it went about as well as it could have.

        Likes

        • Being tickled. Mo gets her worked up into a fit of giggles by tickling her.
        • Bath toys. In swimming class she learned how fun it can be to chase a toy through the water, and now she has taken an interest in toys in the bathtub. Mo bought her a pack of little boats for bath time. We also can’t keep her in the little baby bath chair anymore – she just wants to splash and be free.
        • Being cuddled in the Moby wrap when she’s tired but not ready to go to sleep. We’ve extended her bedtime a little by doing this (5pm was just too early for us even though that’s when she seemed to naturally crash). 
        • The jolly jumper

        Dislikes

        • vaccines…
        • The sun… We have a little vampire baby. This is her face literally every time she goes out in the sun. 

              When Avery exited newborn-hood I took notes on what I wanted to remember about those precious early days. Now that she’s half a year and sitting up on her own and starting to understand the world around her on a whole new level of complexity, I want to take note of how she is right now. I love the way her face lights up when she wakes up and sees that I’m there with her. I love the way she burrows her little body into me while we sleep (even though it pushes me to the edge of the bed and is kind of uncomfortable…). I love the way she plays with my necklace while she nurses, and how she feels my face with her tiny hand as if she’s learning every feature. I love the sound of her laugh, her yawn, and even her shrieks. She is growing and learning so much every day, and I always want to cherish the connection we have – we are still the whole world to each other.