The One Tip That Will Make Feeding Your Baby Easy

Simplify Your Life with Baby Led Weaning ~ Plumfield Dreams

When we had our first child I read everything I could about everything baby-related, and one topic that kept coming up was this thing called “baby led weaning”. Simply put, baby led weaning is a feeding philosophy that allows babies to be in control of their eating from their very first foods. I delved deeper, and was quickly converted to a believer. We fed Aria this way, and nothing could have been easier. We don’t have food power struggles, I never have to cook or puree anything different from what we’re eating, I don’t have to pack extra food when we go out to eat, I don’t have to spoon feed while my meal gets cold, and Aria has learned to enjoy the flavors Andy and I enjoy – there are no separate meals in our future. Sound too good to be true? I assure you, it’s not!

Previous medical knowledge dictated babies might begin to be spoon fed from three or four months old. We now know that, not only is this almost never necessary (regardless of the size of your baby – mine were both born over 10 lbs), it can actually be harmful because their little digestive systems are not yet equipped to handle more than milk. There is no reason to feed a baby earlier than six months (that’s at the earliest – you can wait longer). If you wait until six months, your baby is likely to be sitting up and able to move food to his mouth on his own – the only skills he needs to begin eating finger foods. So, simple as that – wait until at least six months – and spoon feeding becomes unnecessary (and you’ve already simplified your life just by waiting a bit longer to get started!).

With baby led weaning:

  • Your baby eats along with the family. He’ll observe you eating, and be part of the social aspect of the meal. As with every other developmental milestone your baby hits, when he gets to the appropriate point in his development, he will eat on his own as long as he’s given the opportunity. Think of it this way – if you give your baby the opportunity, he will simply start crawling on his own when he is ready. We all know this, but when it comes to feeding it’s become the cultural norm for us to interrupt their development by spoon feeding. Life is so much simpler and happier for everyone if you let your baby follow his instincts!
  • You give your baby the same food you are eating, and he chooses what to eat. This approach gives him control over his eating, removing the need for the spoon-feeding power struggle (and your confusion regarding when the baby is full). There’s no more coercing the baby to eat the food you are offering. Just offer a variety of foods, and your baby will eat what tastes good to him. You’ll be amazed at the variety he gets in a week.
  • Because you are waiting until your baby’s digestive system is prepared to digest solid foods, there’s no need to offer only bland foods. Offering the flavors you prefer from the outset teaches your child that those are the normal flavors to expect. You are less likely to have a picky eater, and you will not have to stick to the bland (and often unhealthy) kids menu options at restaurants.
  • You want to nurse or offer formula to your baby before he eats a meal. You can simply have him eat at his regular times, but make sure he’s not hungry when you offer table food. Since he doesn’t realize it’s intended to stop his hunger, he’s likely to just get frustrated.
  • Begin with foods that are larger, that your baby can easily guide to his mouth. It may take him a little while to move from experimenting to eating, since at first he really doesn’t associate food with hunger. At first it’s best to offer food in larger strips that will stick out beyond your baby’s fist. As long as you are eating a healthy diet, the size of the food is more important than what the food is. (In the photo above, Noah is eating half a banana. That photo is literally from his first meal – notice how good he is at it already. He doesn’t need our help.)
  • There are a handful of unsafe foods, such as honey, nuts and excessive salt. And, of course, if you have allergies in your family you should keep that in mind when deciding when to introduce those foods. Our family philosophy is that if one of us can’t eat it, none of us eat it. It’s simpler to just not cook with those foods.
  • Teeth, or lack there of, are not relevant. Your baby will be able to gum far more than you would think possible.
  • As long as you eat healthily, they’ll eat healthily. A side benefit of this approach to feeding your baby is that your entire family will likely eat more healthily! Back when we were starting babies on food before they were truly ready, we had to offer them things like rice cereal, which we now know is really not a healthy first food. Aria has never eaten rice cereal, and we don’t buy any sort of teething or dissolvable food. I don’t buy any baby food, period, and we’ve never missed it.
  • Nope, your baby isn’t going to choke! This was my main concern when I started researching, and what I learned really surprised me: when we are under a year old, our gag reflex is far forward in our mouths. So, if your baby starts eating solid foods immediately, he may gag, but he is extremely unlikely to choke. Instead, he’ll gag the food out (my kids have both done this, and it doesn’t phase them), and keep right on eating. It’s part of the learning process, and it’s as safe as anyone can be when they’re first starting to eat. On the other hand, if we teach our babies to swallow pureed food first, then later they have to relearn how to eat – oh, hey, suddenly you’re supposed to chew before you swallow! Not only are we working against ourselves, but we’ve waited until our kids gag reflex has started to move back, making them actually more likely to choke. Is it just me, or is that shocking?

For a comprehensive look at Baby Led Weaning, I highly recommend this book (affiliate link). You can find more tips for getting started here.

An Intro to Baby Led Weaning ~ Plumfield Dreams

From left to right: Aria’s first meal, beef fried rice; one of Aria’s earliest meals, half a bratwurst, cut in half lengthwise; Aria at 10 months, eating an entire apple.

7 Quick Takes: The One Where Noah Turns Six Months

Aria & Noah January 2014 ~ Plumfield Dreams

  1. So, we had this snowstorm on Sunday. And then there were the sub-zero temperatures that followed. I won’t post pictures, because I assume the fact you’re reading this blog means you don’t live under a rock, and that means you’ve already seen pictures. Anyhoo, we had this nasty weather, which was incredibly pretty from the warmth and comfort of our house, and the kids and I just left the house for the first time today. Since Sunday. When all we did was go outside and shovel for a short while in the morning. We’ve been on the edge of nuts. Aria has been whiny and a bit wild, and I’ve been slowly becoming more cranky. As of today we have plans to leave the house for something four days in a row. Woot!
  2. I decided on a reading goal of 75 books this year. That’s right around what I read in 2013. Though, I read more last year than I did in the couple of years previous, so I don’t know how realistic it is. I’ve also joined Goodreads, in addition to Shelfari. I still like Shelfari’s interface better for the most part, but Goodreads has won the market, so I decided I would also go where the people are. It’s not difficult to update my reads on two sites rather than one.
  3. Noah was six months yesterday. Once you have children, you never again catch up to time.

    Noah Six Months ~ Plumfield Dreams

    It’s getting a bit harder to take a picture with the pig. He attacked it instantly. (He’s cute, right? That’s not just me?)

  4. We had Noah’s six month check-up today. He is healthy, as usual. His height and weight caught up with his head circumference at the top of the charts. He weighs 20 pounds and is 28 inches long. (Here’s the report from his four month check-up.)

    OAD document, social media

    Aria loves her owl wheeled backpack. Recently she’s begun experimenting with new uses.

  5. The ladies at our doctor’s office are wonderful. The nurse, Joy, was happy to weigh and measure Aria at my request. Aria took her baby doll to the doctor’s office, and Joy measured her when she did Noah, and then we put “baby” on the scale before Aria was comfortable getting on. Aria was excited to go today. She kept talking about it, and when Joy called for Noah, Aria hopped right up and followed her back with no concern for my presence. That’s very rare. Aria is 30 pounds and 36 inches tall. Y’all. I’m only 64 inches tall.
  6. We decided not to trade rooms with Aria right now. When I measured for furniture we weren’t thrilled with the fit. For that and a few other reasons we decided to try putting Noah’s crib in with Aria’s first. It’s been there about a week now, but Noah hasn’t slept in it much. Aria really wants him in the room with her. She talks about it and asks for him, and the one time thus far we did her bedtime story while he slept in his crib she whispered the entire time. It was sweet. We haven’t put him in there much yet because he wakes up as soon as we lay him down. He’s not used to that much space, so he rolls right onto his stomach and can’t get back, and then he gets fussed up and nap time is over. We’re easing into it, but it may take a few more weeks, until he has a bit more consistent control of his own body.
  7. Did I mention my favorite group won The Sing-Off? The finale aired two days before Christmas, so it might have gotten lost in the shuffle. I was in such suspense waiting for the announcement. I get way too involved. My heart was pounding. I backed it up and rewatched their reactions twice. And now I’m excited for them to release an album and go on tour.

Noah’s Birth Story

Noah's Birth

{You may wish to read Aria’s birth story first. You can find it here.}

I was nervous waiting for Noah’s birth. I had done everything I could to prepare, and I knew I could handle whatever came. But I didn’t want to handle a birth like Aria’s. I wanted an easier birth. I mean, I wasn’t asking for anything crazy – just easier than Aria’s birth. That was not such a tall order. I was afraid I wouldn’t get it.

My pregnancy with Noah was easier than Aria’s. I stayed smaller, he seemed smaller. I didn’t swell like I did with her, and I didn’t have sugar issues. My blood pressure remained good the entire time. I was ready to be done with the pregnancy as my due date approached, but I was not impatient like I had been with Aria. My due date was July 10, 2013. At 3am the morning of July 9th I awoke to a feeling of a pop inside of me. As my eyes flew open the water began to gush. My water broke. I was not happy. I knew that part of the difficulty of my labor with Aria was due to my water breaking before labor. Determined to stay calm, I woke Andy and requested towels. I mopped up, made myself comfortable, and by the time I was drifting off again a little before 4am contractions had started. I felt peaceful. This was going to go differently. Contractions were consistent, and gaining strength. I dozed, not trying to track anything. I knew I had time and my body would let me know if I needed to get moving. At 6am I got up to use the restroom. By the time I laid back down I realized my contractions had lightened and moved further apart. Uh-oh. I awoke again at 8am with no contractions. None.

I got up, had breakfast, showered, did my Bible study…all the while worried that I was not laboring and the clock was ticking. I had an appointment around 11am, so I didn’t bother to call the midwife’s office to check in. Andy asked about going to work, because he had a project that needed to be completed. I told him to go ahead, because things weren’t moving at all. When I arrived at the appointment and told the nurse my water had broken at 3am but I wasn’t having contractions she was very upbeat about it. She didn’t seem concerned at all. I didn’t buy it. (I learned later I was right not to believe her – she was worried for me, too.) Stephanie checked me and found I was 3 cm dilated. That was good news, at least. With Aria I labored actively over 12 hours to get to that point. My water was definitely broken, and gushed again when she checked me. She, too, was nonchalant, calmly telling me that I knew what to do and to call her when I needed her. I left feeling a little reassured, because she hadn’t mentioned a clock. Aria and I made our way across town to grab some fast food for lunch. On the way I called Andy and filled him in, letting him know he could stay at work, but should probably plan to come home early and to be prepared that I might call him and tell him to come ASAP. I also called my mom, who was our sitter for Aria during labor, and filled her in. I got off the phone with my mom as I pulled up to the ordering window. By that point I had started to have some contractions – being checked had kickstarted them.

By the time I left the drive thru line, about 20 minutes after leaving the hospital, my contractions were strong. On my way home I called Andy and told him he’d better come home now. At the Waterloo exit I called my mom and asked her to drive down and help me get Aria in the house, because I didn’t think I could do it. My labor wasn’t painful, but it was definitely intense. I was contracting every 8 minutes, and contractions were strong. Aria and I ate lunch, and then I put her down for a nap. I did some chores around the house, and around 2pm I also laid down for a nap. By that time contractions were 4-5 minutes apart, but lasting only about 30 seconds. I tracked my contractions, dozing in between until around 4pm. Andy had arrived home, and laid down on the bed with me, but I didn’t need his help. I was completely internal at that point, and doing fine. I wasn’t in pain, I was just concentrated. At 4ish I looked at my contraction tracker app and realized I had been having contractions 3-4 minutes apart, lasting about a minute, for an hour. That was the marker I was supposed to look for to head to the birthing center. I wasn’t sure, though. This wasn’t painful. I didn’t want to go in and find out I was only halfway there and had to hang around the birthing center indefinitely. I waffled, talked to Andy about it, and within a few minutes contractions picked up some. I had him call Stephanie. She said she’d meet us at the birthing center at 5pm, if we could wait that long. We knew we couldn’t get there before that, so we said that was fine. Andy called my mom and she came down to stay with Aria.

My mom’s first birth was similar to mine, though not quite as traumatic. Mom had told me this time around I should go as soon as my contractions were timeable, because I likely wouldn’t find them painful after last time. With that in mind, I determined to head in even though I wasn’t certain. Andy got everything around while I went to the restroom and got dressed. When I stood up my contractions moved closer together but shortened to 30 seconds again. I wondered if I was making the right decision, but my contractions were coming 1-2 minutes apart, so I knew I had to go in now. Both my father-in-law and brother-in-law are first responders on the fire department in our town. I was determined they were not delivering my baby. 😉

This time I knew sitting was miserable, and I knew I was in charge, so I refused to sit. I rode to the birthing center on my knees backward in the front seat of the van. We arrived shortly after 5pm. By that point I’d been in labor since noon. When we walked in I was still feeling pretty good. Definitely serious, definitely deep in labor, but not in what I would describe as pain. We went in the room and I decided to lie on the bed. It was miserable. The midwife student, Sarah this time, checked me. I was 7-8 centimeters dilated! I was thrilled – in a very serious way. That was what I was hoping, but not allowing myself to believe could be possible. The bed, which had felt so wonderful at home, was suddenly horrific. I got in the tub and laid on my side. Andy started the playlist of music I love. I had put it together specifically for this stage of labor. I had some light back labor, but only for a few minutes. Within a few contractions I felt an overwhelming urge to push. I was now in extreme pain, but it hadn’t kicked in until after we got to the bedroom in the birthing center. I thought for sure Sarah would tell me not to push yet, but she said I should do what my body was telling me. I pushed 30 minutes or so, and progress was quick. It was obvious with every push. Before I knew it Noah was crowning. I felt every inch of it this time, and it was amazing.

Noah James was born, in the water, at 6:34pm on July 9th. He was 10 lbs, 7 oz, and 22 1/2 inches long. He turned out to be slightly heavier than Aria was at birth. He definitely fooled us on his size!

I had been in labor for 6 1/2 hours, and we had been at the birthing center fewer than 90 minutes. Noah arrived with one little fist up by his head. That position caused a tiny tear, but it was so minor it required no repair. Mom and Aria came soon after Noah was born. Aria was excited, and seemed to understand the situation immediately. My dad and sister arrived a short time later. Andy’s parents and his brother’s family also joined us quickly. Andy and I had dinner (and Aria mooched, even though she’d already eaten), and I nursed Noah. Noah got passed around in the living room while I got up and dressed in the bedroom. Then I went out and joined everyone in the living room. By 9pm everyone but my mom and Aria had gone home, and the birthing center nurse was finalizing paperwork so we could go home. We were back in our own home by 11pm. I had the strangest sensation looking back on the day. I got up and had breakfast, then went to my midwife appointment. Aria and I had lunch, I labored and delivered, we had dinner, and went home and went to bed. I just had a normal day, except I had a baby between lunch and dinner. Surreal.

The difference between Aria’s birth and Noah’s was, well, everything. Noah’s birth was peaceful. Except for the last hour, it was almost enjoyable, even, because I knew I would soon be holding him. Stephanie commented that if we took Aria’s birth and divided it by Noah’s birth, we’d almost have two normal labors.

I had energy immediately after Noah’s birth. I moved around better that same night than I did a week after Aria’s birth. Of course nursing was not stressful to the extent it was the first time, because this time I knew what I was doing. We picked up life again right away. Noah was born on Tuesday. On Saturday we went to a wedding, and on Sunday we went to church and family dinner. Things have kept on that way.

Researching and experiencing childbirth has made me passionate about unmedicated birth. When I got pregnant with Aria I *knew* I would have an epidural, because I had a low pain tolerance. Stephanie patiently and sweetly told me we had time to discuss options, and would do whatever I was most comfortable with. She gently maneuvered things so that by the time I had Aria I wanted an unmedicated birth, and was considering that I might someday want to teach Bradley Method classes. By the time I gave birth to Noah I had realized that I was now dreaming of someday being a doula. I am grateful for the two birth experiences I have been blessed with. The extremes give me a wide range of personal understanding from which to draw if I’m ever able to realize that dream.

Now, I wonder what a third birth will be like?

Aria’s Birth Story

Aria's Birth

I want to tell you about Noah’s birth, but that would be pointless unless you had Aria’s birth for comparison. So here is Aria’s birth story. Noah’s will come right after.

My pregnancy with Aria was fairly difficult. My nausea wasn’t awful, but I was uncomfortable a long time. I gained quite a bit of weight and swelled up early. By about 12 weeks into the pregnancy I couldn’t wear my wedding ring anymore. It was ridiculous. I failed the one-hour glucose test, but passed the three. Barely. My sugar levels were elevated, so I was told to watch my sugar. I consistently showed some signs of potential preeclampsia, so I was watched quite carefully. I never developed it full-blown, thank God, but I was really miserable by the end. My blood pressure wouldn’t regulate, and I spent most of my time the last couple of weeks lying on my side to try to lower my BP.

My due date was December 20, 2011. On December 22nd I had an appointment with my midwife, and was barely dilated. I was so frustrated. I was miserably uncomfortable, and I had hoped to have the baby before Christmas. The thought of being pregnant on Christmas made me mad. Yeah – I was done with pregnancy. It didn’t help that I was HUGE, and everyone I saw looked shocked and quizzed me on how I could still  be pregnant. (People, do NOT do that to a pregnant woman. It’s insensitive, and you take your life into your hands.)

The afternoon of the 22nd I suddenly felt an extreme gush. My water broke! I called Andy, who was on his way home from work, and told him to meet me at the midwife, because I was going to get checked. By the time he got there Stephanie had informed me that what I was experiencing was an increased discharge that could go on for a couple weeks, but was not my water breaking. I was furious. I felt strongly that the universe was conspiring to make me miserable. (Yes, I had taken hormonal leave of my senses.) I couldn’t believe I might have to deal with this obnoxious discharge for a couple of weeks, on top of everything else.

I went home, ate dinner, walked to the library for books, and went to bed by 8pm feeling mad at the world. Around 8:30 my water broke. For real this time. For certain. No question. I phoned the midwife on call, and she told me to try to sleep while I was still able to. Sleep? Seriously?? I was so excited there was no way I could sleep. I tried valiantly, but slept not a wink. My contractions started around 11pm. They were far apart, and not painful at all. The next day around noon we went in to get checked. I was 3 cm dilated. After laboring more than 12 hours. But that didn’t strike me at that point, because I was oblivious to reality. I was just thinking this labor thing wasn’t so bad after all. We went back home, and around 2pm took ourselves to the birthing center to have the baby. By that time I was in actual pain. My labor had shifted to back labor, and the pain became excruciating. I can’t even describe it. It was just bad. Each time I had a contraction Andy had to push on my lower back so hard that his arms started to give out. And it still wasn’t hard enough. I labored in the tub, but wasn’t progressing. So I got out and walked around, and then got back in the tub. I was miserable and things were not moving. At one point sheer wishful thinking had me wanting to push.

Somewhere around 10pm Stephanie gently told me we were going to go another hour, and if things didn’t pick up we would need to transfer to the hospital and start Pitocin. She told me later that she could tell then that I was nowhere close. When she checked me I was dilated to 5-6 (probably closer to 5 – she was trying to be encouraging). At that point I started freaking out. I wanted an epidural, and I wanted it now. I couldn’t believe I’d been in so much pain I could no longer see straight for that many hours and it wasn’t doing anything. For the next hour they (Stephanie and the midwife student, Angela, who helped at the birth) had to coach me away from freaking out with every contraction. At 11ish Stephanie said we would start the process to move to the hospital. It turned out to be a long process. Andy had to pack everything up, Stephanie had to start a port for me (well, she did it out of kindness, because it was cheaper for us to do it there), and I had to sign paperwork. I would love to go back and see that paperwork, because I was blurry-eyed from pain and my arm was shaking so badly my signature didn’t remotely resemble anything.

Andy drove me to the hospital, a few hundred feet away, and it was the most horrific car ride of my life. Sitting was the most miserable thing I could imagine. Somehow my heroic husband drove and rubbed my back at the same time. (Rubbed – ha. More like ground his fist into my back.) It was after 1, maybe even 2, in the morning before I got my epidural. By that point I’d been in active labor more than 24 hours, excruciating and close contractions for nearly 12 of those hours. I remember being very angry that the anesthesiologist was taking so long to get to me. I had no concept of time, but it ended up being about an hour after we got to the hospital before I got the pain relief. Andy told me later that when I was sobbing to him that the guy was too slow, didn’t he care that I was in so much pain? the fellow wasn’t even at the hospital yet. After all, by this time it was 1am on Christmas Eve morning, in a small hospital. The anesthesiologist was understandably not at work. That epidural was the most amazing thing ever. I was told I might have discomfort, but I had none. I felt juuuust fine. I went to sleep, completely exhausted. Andy went to sleep in a cot beside my bed.

I didn’t wake up until around 7am, when I told the nurse I thought I might be ready to push. She told me to wait as long as I thought I could before trying. I waited until around 8, and then knew I needed to push. Of course I was lying on my back in bed, just the position I didn’t want to be in, but had to be in because of the epidural. Stephanie, Andy, and a nice nurse (I liked all the nurses who were part of the labor process) helped me through this stage. It took 4 1/2 hours. At the time I knew it felt like it was never going to end. I remember thinking several times that I never wanted to do this again, even while knowing, sort of helplessly, that I would. I purposely didn’t look at the clock, I just pushed and rested, pushed and rested. The nurse kept giving me sips of Sierra Mist, and after each one I thanked her. I remember hearing her marvel that I was being so polite. I also remember thinking it was a good thing I was a singer, because I was able to push a good long time when I needed to. When I mentioned that to Andy afterward he told me there were a few times they worried about me because I was pushing so long they weren’t sure I was still breathing at all.

In addition to being over 10 lbs (10 lbs, 3 oz, and 23 inches), Aria was sunny-side-up. She just was not interested in helping me by coming out quickly or easily. On the other hand, while I was working so incredibly hard, she was chillin’ out happily. Her heart rate never faltered, she was in no distress whatsoever. I remember being proud of her for that. It turns out that’s just part of her personality.

Despite her apparent ease, Stephanie finally told me that we were going to push one more time and if we didn’t see good progress (the crowning type), we would need to move to a c-section. She’d been preparing me for that eventuality for a while at that point. I pushed one more time, and we got good enough progress that she held off. Eventually, with lots of help from Stephanie and the nurse pushing on me in various ways while I also pushed, Aria was born. It was 12:24pm on 12/24/11. I had been in active labor for 37 1/2 hours. I had pushed for 4 1/2 of those. I was SO tired. I was excited to see that baby girl, but all my reactions were delayed. I felt sort of numbed by the physical and emotional toll of the whole ordeal.

Immediately I recognized that, though I wanted an unmedicated birth, if I hadn’t done the epidural I wouldn’t have made it without a c-section because I would have been too tired to push for so long. I also recognized that in another time or another place Aria and I would not have lived through that birth. And lastly, I recognized that with any attendant but Stephanie I would have ended up with a c-section. I am grateful for that woman for so many reasons.

I had what Stephanie described as a 2.999999999 degree tear. The closest she’d ever seen to a 3 without technically being one. I stayed in the hospital until late in the afternoon of December 26th. The first few days I had a terrible time with nursing. Every inch of my body hurt from the labor and delivery. Nursing hurt, and Aria wasn’t latching properly. I felt like I was starving her, she wanted to eat constantly, and I could barely move. I was emotional and exhausted and in pain. I honestly wondered why I had even thought I wanted children to begin with. It took a couple weeks before I could walk normally and sit normally. By then I also felt good about the nursing, and had recovered enough emotionally that I felt well-connected to my little girl.

By four weeks postpartum, I was thinking about the next baby. Yep. I might be a little crazy. I didn’t say anything to my husband for a while, because he was still traumatized. 🙂

The Lord had lined everything up perfectly for us to work through such a difficult labor. He led me to Stephanie before I ever thought about pregnancy, or knew anything about childbirth options. He led us to Bradley classes, which gave us the information we needed to work our way through the experience and make the decisions we needed to calmly and rationally (okay, relatively). And he gave me the disposition to deal with the entire situation. I’m not emotionally fragile. Many women would have been shattered by that birth, but I recovered from it quickly considering the trauma. When Stephanie and I discussed our approach for Noah’s birth, she pointed out that we had already handled worst-case scenario, so we knew I could do it and we knew what we would do should it arise again.

Which leads me to Noah’s birth. I was determined to try again for that unmedicated birth at the birthing center. But you’ll have to follow me to another blog post for that story, because this post is already waaay too long. 🙂