Tuesday, October 7, 2014

BLW in India

On every packet of infant food and formula, there's a "note" that says mother's milk is best for an infant for at least 6

A month ago, I had rather imperiously written about the benefits of delaying solids and starting E with something called Baby-Led Weaning or BLW.

The central tenet of BLW is to allow the child to decide what to eat and how much of it to eat. I was completely convinced of its benefits when we started E on solids. For her first meal, she was given a tray of steamed carrots, beans, and apples. She gnawed on everything for a bit, and then dropped it on the ground to our very grateful dog.

E's first meal

Since E doesn't have a genetic history of food allergies, I was introducing a new fruit or vegetable every 24 to 48 hours. As such, she tasted pear, beetroot, broccoli, and potato. The warning that the book by Gill Rapley contains about BLW being messy should have been in red lettering; all caps; in bold; underlined; in font size 72; and highlighted in neon green.

Between catching bits of food and fending off our dog, baby-led weaning was taking its toll on me. E found it hilarious that she could drop her food to a dog who would dutifully trot up and snarf it down what self-respecting dog eats broccoli?. Ergo, no food was being eaten by the baby; the dog was getting a well-balanced diet; E was learning how to feed the mutt rather than feed herself; and my dog was learning the annoying habit of beggary.

At least we don't have a cat.

Changes needed to be made. I tried feeding E a little bit of banana mashed between my fingers. She made a face and promptly spat it out. I gave her other fruit and veg with no luck. The baby didn't know how to swallow anything other than breastmilk.

On a friend's suggestion, I mashed up half an avocado with some breastmilk so that she understands that this food can be swallowed. Unfortunately, as long as she was sitting up, she would spit out anything placed in her mouth. Then, on my mother's suggestion based on experience with me I tried feeding her the avocado mixture with her lying down on my lap her head near my crotch. Success!

A few days of lap feeding and I now had some measure of confidence with the spoon. However, I found that our normal metal spoons were hurting E's tootsie gums. Switching to these silicone-tipped spoons was sheer brilliance because it doubles as a teether during feeding time.

Other gear I use to feed include, this Phillips Avent blender set that comes with 6 storage containers and a wet grinder and these Tupperware bowls, which are great because they have a little handle for the feeder to hold E gets super excited about consuming food and start banging her hands on the table. I needed a firm grip on the container to avoid its contents ending up everywhere but in baby's mouth. Now, I steam fruit or veg in the microwave; allow it to cool for a bit; and purée it with some water in the mini-blender. Et voila, breakfast and dinner are served!

L to R: Munchkin Spoon, Avent Blender Set, Tupperware Bowl

As I mentioned in an earlier post. I think it's important for E to learn how to feed herself. So in addition to spoon-feeding her, I also offer her steamed matchstick-sized pieces of whatever is in her purée. This way, she still learns how to chew and move food from the front of her mouth to the back AND her tummy gets full. Moreover, it's a great way to keep her occupied when we're in a restaurant.

Three weeks into feeding E purées and we're having a blast - I love thinking up flavour combinations and she loves her daily outing to the whole foods market. She enjoys being fed off a spoon while I've actually managed to eliminate two daytime breastmilk feeds. If my husband is at home to watch E, I can actually go out for a 4 hour stretch twice a day!

I suppose I could've been a BLW purist and stuck to only finger foods. But it was taking too long. Gill Rapley's book says that it can take up to three months for baby to connect playing with her veggies with hunger satiation. As E crossed the 6-month milestone, I was beginning to get tired of feeding her 10 to 12 times a day just 3 feeds less than newborn stage. I was exhausted from planning our outings to match feeding times and treating trips to the salon like a military sortie.

Breastfeeding is the best choice a mother can make for her baby but it's a choice a woman makes about her body. The day you start regretting that choice is the day you need to think about alternatives.

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