Baby-led weaning and parent-led sanity(Read article summary)
One mom approaches baby-led weaning with optimism and success, until she ventures to ask a question on an online forum, only to be harshly criticized by other parents.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff
When I first learned aboutÂ baby-led weaningÂ (BLW) I was beyond excited that I could give my baby the same food we were eating at dinner. I read more about this type of introduction to solid foods to babies and was intrigued by it.Â
The more I researched, the more I learned about the benefits. Studies suggestÂ that BLW can make a child more independent, creative, lower chances for obesity later in childhood, and help with fine-motor skills.
Being a first-time mom, I joined Facebook groups on BLW and found out how â€śseriousâ€ť this whole BLW movement was. Baby-led weaning had some pretty strict rules. You can only serve your baby food that they can put in their mouth by themselves, starting when they are about six-months-old.Â
I learned that I couldn't help my daughter out, even if she seemed frustrated and couldn't hold on to a slippery piece of pear. I could only use a spoon if I pre-loaded it and handed it to her.Â
Itâ€™s a messy, yet fun, process to watch your baby explore food and try to feed themselves. But, it can be pretty scary when the baby starts gagging, then you are not â€śallowedâ€ť to do anything when they gag, because thatâ€™s how theyâ€™re learning how to eat solids. You must also learn the difference between choking and gagging.Â
I enjoyed giving our baby bananas, avocados, and sweet potatoes. I watched her carefully, and when she became better at chewing and swallowing, I introduced more food such as fish, pasta, and bread.Â
I remember we were invited over to a friend's house for dinner when our baby was about 8-months-old. She was getting the hang of BLW, but she was still making a huge mess around her, and on her clothes and face.Â
So I asked a question on one of the BLW Facebook groups: "Will our baby be OK if I give her baby food puree when we eat at our friendâ€™s house, to avoid the mess?"
And I was attacked. I was told if I feed her pureed food from a spoon, then it would not be called BLW anymore. It would be called â€śtraditional weaning.â€ť To put a finer point on the message, one mom wrote, â€śIf a vegetarian eats meat once in a while, will he still be called a vegetarian?â€ť
I didnâ€™t know one method of feeding a baby was that serious. Is a baby who does BLW smarter than a baby who does traditional weaning? Of course not. Just like a child who reads before his or her classmates is not necessarily â€śsmarterâ€ť than the rest of the class.Â Â
One is not a better mom for giving her child pieces of steamed, organic asparagus rather than a jar of pureed, mashed bananas. Every familyâ€™s situation is different â€“ whether comparing social and economical circumstances, or values and traditions.
Despite the rude â€śadviceâ€ť I received from the group, I did a combination of BLW and traditional weaning for dinner with our friends. I usually try to feed our baby healthy, nutritious food, but sheâ€™s tasted french fries, ice cream, baklava, Nutella, and even coffee. We eat out occasionally, and I still give her baby food pouches for snacks.Â
Iâ€™ve learned that to be a mother is to be flexible and open-minded to different ideas and suggestions.Â Â
Shaming parents just because they donâ€™t follow â€śthe rulesâ€ť in one area of parenting is nothing short of immature. Mothers and fathers make their own rules â€“ and hopefully they quickly learn not to abide only by the rules from Facebook groups sometimes comprised of competitive, uptight, and judgmental parents.Â
The mommy wars and competition seem never-ending, whether itâ€™s about breast-feeding vs. formula, BLW vs. traditional weaning, stay-at-home vs. career moms, and the list goes on.Â
Since becoming a first-time mother, I have learned to do my own research, to listen to different points of view, and to stop asking potentially controversial questions on online forums.