You might be surprised to hear this from me. A nutritionist, a breastfeeding specialist, and a mom. We tend to think every mother who cares about her child will move on from breastfeeding to Baby Led Weaning and the mother will post a picture of her baby eating a chicken thigh by 9 months. However this is not true.
I discuss in my workshops many aspects that are in line with baby led weaning and in line with WHO’s recommendation for responsive feeding such as how to wait until the baby is ready, how to make meal times pleasant, how the baby needs to learn how to feed themselves, how to know the baby is full and when baby wants more. However, it is harmful to stop there as Baby Led Weaning does.
Every practitioner should discuss “How much” energy (calories) each child needs to eat per day and how much vitamins and minerals (calcium, zinc, iron) each child needs, and more importantly how to get them.
This is because babies develop at an extremely rapid rate between 6-12 months and have very high needs. Did you know that poor complementary feeding can lead to irreversible stunting (short stature) that can not be reversed after the child turns 2? Every parent should know the dangers poor complementary feeding, the dangers of iron deficiency anemia, the dangers of inadequate calcium intake, the dangers of inadequate zinc intake. How to spot the signs, and what to do about it. The dangers of overfeeding milk. All of which are becoming seen with Baby Led Weaning. An approach that oversimplified feeding without stressing the huge impact of the extremely rapid development between 6-12 months. Everyday at the clinic I see one or two anemic children, these are not children of uneducated parents, but often children of the MOST educated parents who have attended workshops and read articles.
Most children, even in developed countries will end up with deficiencies due to inadequate quality of food due to parent’s not being informed about their children’s needs. Deficiencies that cause a delay in speech, in walking, in brain development. I am sure none of which a parent wishes upon their children.
It is unethical and dangerous to simply say “Follow your baby’s lead”. You know why? Because children often do not know what’s good for them. Have you ever heard or seen first hand a child swallowing a marble, or a battery, or pieces of the remote control? If we just follow our children’s cues and have never heard of the nutritional needs of children how will we know if they are getting enough? It’s our role and duty to make sure we provide their nutritional needs and then allow them to exercise self-regulation over meals. Complementary Feeding is definitely not just for fun until the age of one as claimed on several websites and in workshops.
Does this mean force feeding them until they finish their meal? Absolutely not. It means altering milk intake, the environment, and the behavior throughout the day so that the child can get their needs over mealtime. However, how can a parent know the child’s needs if all the parent keeps hearing is “trust your child” “follow your child’s cues” and are not hearing that your child needs 11 mg of iron a day, you can get them through providing an iron source at every meal. Offer the iron rich food and let the child explore then. Don’t just offer a chicken and call it a day.
What is so wrong about giving a baby a spoon and providing a dish with mixed vegetables, minced meat, and burghul cooked with a bit of olive oil? How could such a complete dish not be recommended due to a dependence on a child feeding himself? Why can’t a child feed himself with a spoon? Why can’t the parent help the child with a few spoons lovingly until the child has the stamina to eat the portion recommended for their age?
Did you know that not a single organization adopts Baby Led Weaning? Not WHO (World Health Organization), not AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and not a single health agency. Not even la Leche League has used the term in its recommendation.Some people confuse WHO’s recommendation to start solids at 6 months with Baby Led Weaning. However even though the Baby Led Weaning follows the recommendation of starting at 6 months, it doesn’t mean the WHO endorses Baby Led Weaning. The WHO follows a responsive feeding style that I discussed above with emphasis on eating “adequate, safe, and appropriate”
The Baby Weaning trend has been shared and reshared and has entire groups and communities surrounding it. However, did the parents check the resources of the articles they are using? Did the parents attend a “Baby Led Weaning workshop” or “Nutrition 6-12 months or Introduction to Solids” Workshop because there’s a difference between a workshop that tells you all you need to know about your child’s nutrition including a comparison between the different approaches, and a workshop that provides one approach without the rest of the data about child nutrition.
I am all for trends, however not when it comes to my child’s health.
Yes, every parent should offer food in a fun and relaxed environment. By the same token, every parent needs to know all her child’s nutrition needs along with “what foods to give her child”, and “how much to give her child” for optimal development . They are both equally important, it is wrong to discuss one without the other.
If you’d like to inquire about the next “evidenced based” workshop on nutrition 6-12 months send me an email on email@example.com
WHO: Complementary Feeding
AAP: Infant Food and Feeding
La Leche League: When should my baby start solids?
Development and pilot testing of Baby-Led Introduction to SolidS – a version of Baby-Led Weaning modified to address concerns about iron deficiency, growth faltering and choking
Baby Led Weaning: A developmental perspective by a Speech and Language Pathologist