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.
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)