These days, plenty of myths are floating around about weaning: What it is, when it should occur, who should manage it, and how it should be accomplished. Gill Rapley, author of Baby-Led Weaning and other books, busts some very big myths.
Myth: Baby-led weaning is a new idea; the latest craze
No, not at all. Anyone who remembers the 1970s Dr. Spock books knows that some form of baby-led weaning started at least in the 1970s.
More likely, though, baby-led weaning started thousands of years ago. This was long before we had blenders, and long before Gerber started putting baby food in jars.
Myth: Baby-led weaning is about ending breastfeeding
At some point, babies no longer breastfeed. But the aim of baby-led weaning is not about breastfeeding cessation as an outcome. It’s about the gradual process of eating family foods.
By allowing older infants to select the types and amounts of family foods they wish to eat, they will eventually eat enough so that they will no longer depend on their mother’s milk as a source of nutrition.
Myth: Pureed foods are necessary for weaning infants
Foods that are offered by spoon almost always need to be pureed. However, there is very little — if any — need for the spoon.
Babies do well with hunks of food that they can grasp with their hands, especially food that they can hold in their palm while eating the other end of the food. (Think broccoli stalks.) Spoons are very different; they are managed and manipulated by the parent, rather than the baby.
Myth: Babies are incapable of managing their own introduction to solid foods
If you believe this, then you have made the first step towards distrusting your child and their abilities. You are asserting that your logic and reason are the only method of looking for solutions and managing situations.
Children are born with good intuition. Later, most are taught that reason and logic are superior approaches.
Eventually, whether we are parents, nurses, business owners, athletes, or researchers, we try to reignite our lost sense of intuition. Because it is hugely important for our success. Jonas Salk said, “Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.”
Myth: Babies will choke if they self-feed
Contrary to popular assumption, babies are less at risk for choking when they are in control of what goes into their mouths. Rapley explains that they are incapable of intentionally moving food to the back of their throats until after they have developed the ability to chew. Chewing is a skill that develops after the ability to grab things.
Myth: By age 6 months, all babies will eat food the first time it is offered.
Certainly, health care authorities, including the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many others have said that foods should be offered at 6 months. But some babies — especially those who were born prematurely — may not be developmentally ready to accept foods the day that they turn 6 months old.
There are many non-developmental reasons why babies might not accept the food. Maybe they don’t like the temperature, the texture, or the feel of the spoon. Or maybe they just don’t like the taste!
How many parents stress out when their baby doesn’t automatically accept table food the first time it is given? I’d say, too many. Sometimes, the baby just isn’t ready.
How many parents ask, what did we do before science showed that babies need extra iron around 6 months of age? I’d say, too few.
What did any of us do before public health authorities gave a timeline for when the first food should be offered?
What did we do before we had calendars?
Are we worried that somehow, we need to control what the baby does or doesn’t do with accepting table food? Instead, maybe we should notice how babies like to explore a “toy.” From that, it seems reasonable to think that at some point, those same babies will want to explore and eat this “toy.” Baby-led weaning is about letting babies decide what goes into their mouths. It’s really that simple.
What myths have you heard about baby-led weaning? Share your comments below.