Baby Dust Diaries

A Life Less Ordinary

Tag: Real Food

Good Food v. Bad Food

Photobuckethostess_20120111064640_640_480Recently, my post 15 Tips for Raising Kids With a Positive Body Image, has received a lot of comments.  I’m so glad people are finding the post and discussing this important topic!  I have two follow-up posts: Big Fat Myths About Fat and this one.

Many commenters had problems with #6 and #13 in my list;

  • Do not label foods as “good” and “bad”
  • Avoid talking about a nutrionalist approach to food – disassembling “food” into fat, carbs, calories, and other things that need to be obsessed about and counted (difficult since it is explicitly taught in many schools).

For example, one commenter said, “I think this is ignorant regarding food options. It is highly important to educate your children about proper food intake & nutrition.”

So, let’s talk about why you don’t want to label foods as good and bad and then I’ll look at if there actually are good and bad foods.

Why You Shouldn’t Call Foods Good/Bad

The dichotomy of Good v. Bad is one that children learn very early on.  If you have a preschooler you’ll hear them talk about the good guys and bad guys in tv programs.  My daughter has even said “my good” when she helps pick up toys and this is with a very strong intention on my part to NOT label her (or her behavior) as good or bad.  When she is “good” I’ll say “thank you! You were so helpful.”  And, when she does something “bad” I’d say “If we rip pages out of a book then we can’t read the story any more.  Let’s tape it back in.”  This isn’t a post about gentle parenting but needless to say labeling kids with value judgments is not a good thing.  Even good labels are bad (ha!) for two reasons; 1) kids know the opposite of good.  If you say they are good then they know that they have a capability of being bad, and 2) placing a value judgement as vague as good becomes an external pressure on your child.  If you want to read more about this concept you can start here.

What does this have to do with food?  Before we can get there we need to look at another aspect of child development called moral reasoning.  The pyramid on the left is Kohlberg’s Six Levels of Moral Development.  Children start at the bottom self-preservation and move up to adult moral reasoning at the top.  Up to age 10 children fall into the three lowest levels while middle schoolers tend to be very black and white in a “law and order mentality” it is only in the later teen years (or older) that principled morality, recognizing shades of gray, is developed.

A young child can clearly understand good and bad based on the effect it has on those around them but they can not differentiate between a good person and a bad deed.  The idea that the bad guy on Monday can do something very good on Tuesday is too complex.  You are either good OR bad.

When you say “Twinkies are bad” and your child thinks, “I think Twinkies taste good and Twinkies are bad therefore I must be bad.”  And, even worse, “well I’m bad so I might as well just eat bad foods.”

And don’t think just sticking to good works!  If you say “fruits and vegetables are good” they are going to deduce that other foods are bad.  AND they won’t eat their veggies.  Oh, and don’t think trading another word works.  Kids know the opposite of healthy is unhealthy and the connotation intended.

It is too important to me that my kids develop a self-image that is positive for me to label them even indirectly.

But Twinkies ARE Bad!

Twinkies are horrible.  They aren’t even food they are “food-like substances”.  I don’t want my kids to eat Twinkies.  I want them to eat fruits and veggies and lean protein, etc. The fear is that if you don’t scare your kids with “DOOM for all Twinkie eaters!!” then they will eat nothing but Twinkies forever and ever.

But the opposite is true: Research has shown that creating forbidden foods actually increases poor eating habits in kids (see twinkies are bad therefore I must be bad above).  Other studies have shown that authoritative feeding styles in caregivers increases children’s consumption of healthy foods.

How To Encourage Healthy Eating Without Labeling

Authoritative Feeding is a style of parenting the eating relationship with the ultimate goal being your child making healthy food choices.  Parent-controlled feeding (Authoritarian Feeding) has the opposite of desired effects (as in the forbidden food research).  If your goal is to make your child a good choice maker then you need to give them choice.  There are 3 great ways to do this:

1. Have a Division of Responsibility.

You are responsible for providing options, a place, and a time to eat.  Your child is solely responsible for what they eat and how much.  SOLELY RESPONSIBLE.  That means stop with the nagging or commenting on how much they eat or what choices they made.  Remember that children learn food likes and dislikes through nurture not nature.  They eat what they see eaten; what they see served.

2. Provide Choice.

With young kids a choice between two things is best.  “Do you want an apple or grapes for snack?”  This gives them control over their food choices. A caveat here that drives some parents batty: kids waste food.  My daughter eats half an apple a day…and leaves the other half to rot.  This drives my husband crazy!  But what are you going to do?  Tell them they can’t have an apple for snack?  Yell at them to finish their apple?  Anything you can do is counter intuitive   You could maybe give a sliced apple but my daughter likes to eat whole ones like a big girl.  I chalk up wasted food to the cost of raising a healthy eater.  Let it go.

3. Give Trust and Control When Possible.

I recommend having a “junk food” stash that your kids can get to.  Talk to them about how much candy they should be eating in a day (negotiate don’t tell) and then let them decide when to eat it.  With little kids it might be a “now or later” choice but as they get older it can be a weeks worth of candy that they are responsible for.  They can binge in one hour or make it last all week.  Little kids and those new to this control will always choose NOW and ALL but they won’t forever.  They will learn to delay gratification, space out treats, and trust their gut.  Stick firm to the limit and discuss the choice they made (“honey, you ate your candy for today this morning.  Maybe tomorrow you want to make a different decision and keep some for after dinner?”).

It is difficult to trust children when everything about our culture says they can’t be trusted and need to be controlled by adults.  But, remember, you are raising an adult not a child.  That means you want to nurture their strong decision making skills and they can’t do that if you control all the decisions.  

 But Are Some Foods Bad?

A Twinkie really is a bad food in my book because it isn’t food at all.  I’d rather make a fattening, sugary confection from real food and let my kids eat it than to let them eat a bunch of chemicals disguised as food.  My kids will learn from me about chemical dyes, artificial flavors, etc.  That is much more important to me than their ability to count calories or fat grams.  Humans can learn to trust their eating instincts – you won’t eat yourself to death with butter – but chemicals are like any drug in that they trick your body into thinking you need that non-food.  I trust humans but not drugs and that’s what food-like substances are.

I still won’t use labels of good and bad, and with all my kids being under 4, I don’t talk about this explicitly much but I will as they get older.  And even then, I will trust them to make their own choices.  (as long as they don’t have a dangerous sensitivity) I will let my kids pick the Twinkie if that is the choice they make.  Why? Because I’m not afraid.  Because bad foods don’t make bad people.  Because they love apples and eating is joy for them not a landmine field.  But mostly because their relationship with eating is so much more important than what they eat.

This concludes my follow-ups to the original article.  I know that our culture is firmly entrenched in;

a. fat is unhealthy
b. shame helps people get skinny
c. losing weight is easy with diet and exercise

so I’m probably not going to change anyone’s mind with three posts.  However, if you look at the research I’ve linked to and maybe read a few books you will see that the evidence is overwhelming in favor of intuitive eating and against the dangerous mentality we currently have toward food.  I hope I’ve piqued your interest to learn more.

Big Fat Myths About Fat Part I


Recently, my post 15 Tips for Raising Kids With a Positive Body Image, has received a lot of comments.  I’m so glad people are finding the post and discussing this important topic!

I’ve been reluctant to talk about some of the naysayers because I’m not primarily a size-acceptance blogger and there are so many great bloggers out there already doing the work.  However, I haven’t been able to reply to every comment so I figured it was time for a clarifying post.

First, the post in question was a revisit of a previous post “I Don’t Think of You As Fat!” Raising Size-Accepting Children where I provided a little more background on why shaming doesn’t work and how close most kids skate to an eating disorder.

  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives[1. Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). I’m, Like, SO Fat!. New York: The Guilford Press. pp. 5.]
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner[2. Collins, M.E. (1991). Body figure perceptions and preferences among pre-adolescent children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 199-208.]
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat[3. Mellin, L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G.B., Crawford, P., & Obarzanek, E. (1991). A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27-37.
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets[4. Gustafson-Larson, A.M., & Terry, R.D. (1992). Weight-related behaviors and concerns of fourth-grade children. Journal of American Dietetic Association, 818-822.]

Several comments left are completely off base and lacking in a factual basis.  For example,

Fat = Unhealthy

 the fact that you refute fat=unhealthy is completely off base. This is not just some beauty myth. Being overweight truly is unhealthy. It taxes our joints, our organs and every part of our body.

It’s absurd to think being overweight is as healthy as being ideal or average weight.

Uh, no. Sorry.  Not true.  This is an idea promoted by the diet industry not science.  Researchers at Case Western Reserve studied the idea that “fat” taxes our organs when in fact “the idea that fat strains the heart has no scientific basis“.  I recommend this series of articles from Junkfood Science for more information: 

Fat – aka adipose tissue – is not a disease.  It doesn’t cause disease.  It has even been shown to be healthy.  I love this quote from Kate Harding at Shapely Prose;

In fact, fat people live longer than thin people and are more likely to survive cardiac events, and some studies have shown that fat can protect against “infections, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, anemia, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.” Yeah, you read that right: even the goddamned diabetes.

Losing Weight is Easy

 Weight control is pretty simple – eat less and exercise more if you want to lose weight. Maybe they would do it if told/shown how…If I had an overweight child I would help them lose weight and it WOULD happen.

The hubris here defies logic.  Three words: Minnesota. Starvation. Study.  You can read about it here or here.  Of course scores of other researchers have found the same thing like this for example which has a fascinating follow-up where they tried to get thin people to gain weight;

subjects were prisoners at a nearby state prison who volunteered to gain weight. With great difficulty, they succeeded, increasing their weight by 20 percent to 25 percent. But it took them four to six months, eating as much as they could every day. Some consumed 10,000 calories a day, an amount so incredible that it would be hard to believe, were it not for the fact that there were attendants present at each meal who dutifully recorded everything the men ate.

Once the men were fat, their metabolisms increased by 50 percent.

They needed more than 2,700 calories per square meter of their body surface to stay fat but needed just 1,800 calories per square meter to maintain their normal weight.

Within months, they were back to normal and effortlessly stayed there.

So, no.  Losing weight is not easy, simple, or even beneficial in some cases.  Everyone’s body has a healthy size and trying to alter it is nearly impossible and a bad idea.

But I know a fat person that got skinny!  No, you probably know an out of shape person that got in shape.

Stay tuned for part II where I”ll look at the myths of Good vs. Bad Food and the myth of Nutritionism.

Spicy Pumpkin Surprise Muffins

Oh boy are these good!  They are not super sweet and the cream cheese in the center is very creamy and savory so this is a great brunch muffin.  If you wanted to make them more desert-like you’d probably want to add more sugar to the batter and mix the cream cheese with powdered sugar to taste to make kind of a spice cake/icing centered muffin.

If you are sugar free you could add honey or bananas for sweetness.  You can leave off the sugar sprinkle on top too (it makes a delicious crunchy top!).  Alternatively, you could sprinkle some honey-soaked oats on top.

I’ve only begun to play with gluten free so I can’t help you there.  I’ll try them out with coconut flour some day. 🙂

Healthy Pumpkin!

I used canned pumpkin as it is June in Ohio!  In the fall when the pumpkin is in season this will be even better (I’ll update then!).  NOTE this is NOT pumpkin pie filling but straight pureed pumpkin.

Pumpkin is a super food including:

  • Pumpkins owe their bright Orange color to the carotenoids present in them. Carotenoids are free radical fighters and along with two other antioxidants in pumpkin, Lutein & Zeaxanthin, fight premature aging, and protect agains cardiovascular disease.
  • Pumpkin is high in Vitamins A and C as well as Magnesium, Potassium and Zinc – Pumpkin is a rich source of Vitamin A. Regular consumption of pumpkin (both seeds and flesh) can promote the health of your eyes and boost your immune system remarkably.
  • Pumpkin is a high fiber food.
These also have flax, yogurt, and butter – wonderful healthy fats!

Spicy Pumpkin Surprise Muffins


2 organic eggs
3/4 cup plus more for sprinkling organic sugar (I used coconut sugar)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup organic plain yogurt
3/4 cup puréed pumpkin
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or add nutmeg)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground flax
1/4 stick of cream cheese


1. Using a mixer combine eggs, sugar and yogurt.  Add pumpkin.  Mix well then add spices.  I used significantly more than listed!  Start with 1/2 tsp and taste then add more to taste.  I ended up with more ginger and cinnamon.  Cloves are very strong so go slow there!
2.  Mix dry ingredients (salt, baking powder, baking soda, and flour) in separate bowl.  Add dry ingredients in 3 parts alternating with a portion of the butter so that you end with the addition of the last of the butter.  Mix until combined.  Add flax and mix.
3.  Cut cream cheese into 1/2 cubes (roughly).  Keep it in the refrigerator until just before this step os it is easier to cut.
3.  Spray oil in muffin pan add batter to each muffin till 1/2 full.  Then add square of cream cheese; press lightly into batter.  Top with remaining batter to top of muffin tin.
4.  Shake/tap muffin pan to level out batter and make sure the cream cheese is “hidden”.
5.  (Optional) sprinkle with sugar
6.  Bake at 375 degrees for 18 minutes.  Place on wire rack to cool.  Eat warm so the cheese is gooey!

My Month With Water Kefir


Welcome to the January 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener and gentler. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Since becoming a SAHM I’ve been on a streak of introducing new, more natural and healthy, things into my diet.  For example I’m making my own laundry detergent, deodorant, toothpaste, and shampoo.  I even been washing my face with oil! I’ve also been making things from scratch like bread and healthy cookies.

There were a few things that just became incongruous in my lifestyle.  One, coloring my hair which I’ll talk about soon and two, drinking large quantities of Dr. Pepper.  If you “don’t like” pop (as we call it in the Midwest) and it is easy to stay away from it for you then I’m jealous.  Sometimes when I first wake up all I can think about is a Dr. Pepper.  I’m like a junkie.  Despite abstaining during my pregnancies I picked my habit back up with much glee each time.

Now, Aellyn wants drinks (she says “bites”) of mommy’s pop.  I know there is just no way to convince her forever to drink only water if I’m not doing the same.  Thing is I hate water.  I know, I know it doesn’t “taste like anything.”  I’ve heard it all before but the fact is I don’t like the way it does or does not taste.  I can have a drink to quench my thirst when I’m working out but I don’t like to drink it at other times.

I needed a healthier drink choice I could happily share with my daughter.

I first read about water kefir, also called tibicos, when I was researching making my own yogurt.  You may have heard of water kefir’s more famous sister milk kefir which is often just called kefir.

What is Water Kefir?

Kefir is a living product.  Like yogurt is a product of milk with bacterial colonization, kefir is a product of either milk or water colonized with a symbiotic community of bacteria AND yeast. They create a matrix that looks like little gelatinous crystals called kefir or tibi grains.  They are white but can take on the colors of the sugars they are cultured in.  Here is a good example of the difference between water kefir (l) and milk kefir (r).

Milk kefir eats lactose – the sugar in milk.  Water kefir eats sucrose or fuctrose – so it needs sugar or another type of sweet like molasses.  (note: although I’ve seen recepies online for honey – honey is technically antibiotic so it is generally NOT recommended).  If you give kefir food it will thrive and grow.

Why Water Kefir?

As a cultured, fermented food it provides beneficial probiotics.  Generally the probiotics of kefir are considered 10x as powerful as those of yogurts.  Also, as water kefir does not require any dairy it is one of the few fermented foods available to those who do not tolerate dairy or who are vegan.

Probiotics help you maintain a healthy gut flora which is so important for the whole immune system.

It is super cheap to make and is self-perpetuating.  Well cared for kefir grains multiply and the other ingredients you have right in you pantry.

You can learn more about water kefir here and here.

So How Do You Make Water Kefir?

Super easy!  You need:

  • 1/4 cup of water kefir grains
  • 1/4 cup of organic brown sugar
  • 4 cups of water
  • a wooden spoon
  • a glass mason jar
  • a non-metal strainer

It is important to not use purified water (because the kefir like the trace minerals in water) but also NOT to use chlorinated water.  So, if you have municipal water (and if you do, you aren’t drinking it anyways because of the fluoride, right? 🙂 ) you need to let the water sit out for 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate.  Spring water is another option (but make sure it is spring water and not municipal water with the word “spring” on the label).

Step 1:  dissolve the sugar in the water.  I just stir it in but some people like to heat it up to really get it incorporated.  If you do heat it up make sure it cools completely before you introduce the living kefir grains. OPTIONALLY you can add dried fruit at this step which should be sulfur-free – available at most health food stores.  Apricots and Figs are popular ones.  I started with just the sugar.

Step 2:  pour in the kefir grains.

Step 3:  cover the jar with a lid or with a towel and rubberband.  I’m using the rubberband method.  It does not need to be airtight in this step

Step 4:  Allow the kefir to ferment for 24-48 hours.  Do a taste test.  If it is too sweet you can let it ferment for up to 6 days.  It seems people find there perfect time based on taste preference so you have to experiment.

Straining my kefir grains after 48 hours of fermentation

Step 5:  Strain the water to remove the grains, which are now ready for a second batch, into another jar that has a tight fitting lid.  In this next step you want to hold on to that CO2 so you want a lid that will hold that in.  A flip-cork style is best (see below).

Step 6:  Now you can add flavors!  Fruit juices, fruit, vanilla, ginger, the options are endless.  I’ll list my experiments below.

Step 7:  Allow this mixture to further ferment for 24 hours then drink!  You should have a light bubbly carbonation and a sweet and tangy drink.

Stumbling Along

I got my kefir grains in the mail 2 weeks before Christmas and immediately started my first batch!  The instructions that came with the grains mentioned that it can take the grains several fermentation cycles to acclimate to their new environment and I’ve found this to be true.  I don’t feel I’ve gotten much fermentation happening.  I feel like I’m drinking sugar water and don’t notice any carbonation.  I should taste a decreased sweetness but it has really been too sweet.

In my 3rd batch I put blueberries in the second fermentation and the next day poured out a gelatinous mixture.  I wish I had videoed it! lol.  It was like loose jello. Clearly something is going on, right?

This led me to research and this is when I learned about the chlorine problem and to not use metal utensils.  Sigh.  I’m not going to give up.

My next two batches were delicious.  I used raspberries and lemon in the second fermentation and made a delicious raspberry lemonade.  I’m still not feeling any carbonation but I might be expecting too much?  I’m going to keep at it.  Also, this week since I have been drinking this now for a while I stopped eating my daily yogurt to see if some of my previous intestinal problems would return (I have IBS) and they have not.  So, I feel that I’m at least getting the probiotics I would have gotten in yogurt.

My 2nd fermentation with raspberries and lemon (l) and my 1st fermentation (r) of the next batch

I’m still craving carbonation and I think I may have found an alternative solution to that but the water kefir tastes great and is another traditional, healthy food I can add to my diet!  I say, the experiment was definitely worthwhile!

Fermentationally yours,

Baby Dust

Have you tried kefir or water kefir?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Make your own moisturizer! — Megan at boho mama whips up a winter skin-friendly moisturizer.
  • Cold Water Only — Brittany at The Pistachio Project talks about how you do not need hot water to wash laundry.
  • Family Cloth… Really?? — After lots of forethought and consideration, Momma Jorje finally decides to take the plunge with family cloth.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle : 5-5-5 Things A Day — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about decluttering her home in an attempt to create a gentler living space. She takes on a new project where she sets a goal of reducing, reusing and recycling every day.
  • Pros and cons of family cloth — Lauren at Hobo Mama would love to continue replacing paper products with family cloth … if she could only get over how damp she feels.
  • Craftily Parenting — Kellie at Our Mindful Life finds that crafting makes her a better parent.
  • Changes — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen couldn’t choose just one area to experiment with, so she wrote a long post about all the fun changes initiated in her life!
  • Life without Internet: Not all it’s Cracked up to Be — Adrienne at Mommying My Way tries to go a week without the Internet, only to realize a healthy dose of Internet usage really helps keep this stay-at-home mom connected.
  • My Progression to Raw Milk — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares her natural parenting progression all the way to trying raw milk.
  • mama’s new little friend. — Sarah at Bitty Bird tries a menstrual cup to “green her period,” and is pleasantly surprised when she falls in love with the product!
  • Before you throw it out, try homemade laundry soap! — Jennifer at Practical OH Mommy shows visual proof that homemade laundry soap is cheaper, easier, and works better than the store-bought chemicals!
  • Oil, Oil, No Toil, No Trouble — K from Very Simple Secret talks about her foray into the oil-cleansing method.
  • I Need a Hobby — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro couldn’t decide which experiment to run, so she did them all.
  • 7 days of macrobiotics for a balanced family — The Stones make a [successful] attempt to release the “holiday junking” with 7 days of macrobiotic meals to balance their bodies and souls. Elisabeth at Manic Mrs. Stone includes an explanation of macrobiotics.
  • Chemical Free Beauty Challenge — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction turned to natural alternatives for her daily beauty and cleaning routine, with great results.
  • Greening my Armpits!? My Green Resolution — Shannon at The Artful Mama talks about how she decided to give up her traditional antiperspirant and make the switch over to crystal deodorants and definitely isn’t looking back!
  • Going Raw (for a while) — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares her family’s experience with raw food.
  • Do we get to eat gluten today? — Sheila at A Gift Universe has been trying to figure out if her son does better with or without gluten in his diet … but it’s really hard to tell for sure.
  • Hippies Can Smell and Look Fabulous Too! — Arpita of Up, Down And Natural details her experience of going shampoo-free and overhauling her cosmetics to find the balance between feeling beautifully fabulous and honoring her inner hippie.
  • Our cupboards are full…but there’s nothing to eat — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud takes on the challenge of chomping through the contents of her storecupboard rather than going shopping — but there’s something that she just can’t bring herself to do …
  • Elimination Experiment 3.0MudpieMama recounts the messy adventures of her baby daughter trying to be diaper free.
  • Family Cloth Trial — Amyables at Toddler in Tow talks about making and using family cloth wipes in the bathroom for the first time.
  • Taking a Hiatus — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares how her experience of much less internet interaction affected her family and how it will change her approach in the future.
  • Trying Out the Menstrual Cup — Lindsey at an unschooling adventure ditches the tampons and gives menstrual cups a try.
  • Managing Food Waste in Our Home — Tired of the holiday waste, Robbie at Going Green Mama takes a weeklong focus on reducing food waste in her home, and learns some lessons that can take her through the new year.
  • Going Offline, Cloth Tissues, and Simplicity — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama muses over her time away from blogging and social networking. In addition, she shares her newfound love of cloth tissues and simplicity.

Update on Baby Led Weaning: AKA Self-feeding for infants

I thought I’d pop in with an update on the no purees thing.  It is really going so naturally that I don’t think about it but I realize it is “weird” so I wanted to update.

Aellyn loves to eat.  It is a game for her!  She doesn’t want me to feed her and that doesn’t bother me.  I want her to feel independent and to experience everything about the food herself.  She often makes a yucky face and then looks at us and then goes back to eating.  I’ve come to learn that her yucky face doesn’t mean she doesn’t like it because we haven’t given her a single food she’s refused!  We recently decided to have her start sharing what we are eating.  There are no food sensitivities in our family so we felt comfortable moving forward (if you have sensitivities I’d be more cautious in timing new foods).  The only things we do different for her is leave off sauces – we eat spicy stuff and really it is just added salt, sugar, etc. that she doesn’t need right now.

She has had:

  • carrots
  • asparugus
  • broccoli
  • green beans
  • cauliflower
  • squash
  • zucchini
  • sugar snap peas (in the pod)
  • potato (mashed and baked)
  • sweet potato
  • banana
  • baked apple
  • peaches
  • blueberries (mashed)
  • yogurt (yobaby – the only thing we spoon feed)
  • cheerios (and other small cereals/gerber graduate type foods)
  • roast beef
  • chicken
  • salmon
  • pasta
  • ravioli (cheese)
  • perogies with spinach

That’s all I can think of now.  The only things we are truly avoiding is milk, honey, nuts, strawberries, citrus, nut butters, peas (too small), … can’t think of anything else now.

I’m so surprised at how easy this has been.  And effortless!  No time spoon feeding, no time pureeing, no cost buying baby food.  No waste (baby food jars and such).  I feel her pincher grasp has grown by leaps and bounds becaue of this and she is developing a very good relationship with food and with family dinner time.  If I hadn’t read about BLW I’d never have thought to try it.  I hope if you are reading this for the first time you’ll consider giving it a try too!

Picture:  Aellyn eating cheerios – and leaving one on her chin!

Complementary Feeding and Baby Led Weaning

I previously talked about the importance of waiting until 6 months to give your baby any solid foods.  So, once they hit that milestone, what do you feed them?

There are really two topics – 1) how does breastmilk play into the diet of a food-eating baby? and 2) what is the most natural way of eating for babies?

The first topic is called complementary feeding – meaning the period between exclusive breasfeeding and complete weaning.  The WHO details the nutritional needs of breastfed babies after age 6 months in their document Guiding Principles for Complementary Feeding of the Breastfed Child.  Breastmilk provides the majority of a baby’s nutritional needs through 1 year.  According to  breastfeeding should continue at the same level while solid foods are introduced and only begin to decline near or after the first birthday.  As you can see in the chart above solid food calories (complementary feeding) are first additional calories on top of the breastmilk calories and only later do they begin to provide a greater percentage of calories.

If introducing solid food is not primarily for nutrition or caloric energy, then why do we introduce solids during the last half of the first year?  For fun!  Just as babies put toys, feet, cell phones, etc. in their mouths to explore their world they will do the same thing with foods.  Anyone who has spoon fed a baby knows that most of the food does not end up in the belly.  Children at this age use food to explore taste and texture and to further hone their fine motor skills at getting the food into their mouths.

Continuing that train of thought: if the purpose of eating in the first year of life is not nutritional then what should baby eat.  “Baby food” – that is jars of puréed fruits and vegetables – have become the ubiquitous version of what babies should eat.  However, this convenience food is little over a century old.  In the mid-19th century artificial baby foods were created for sick children and were bought in pharmacies or given by doctors.  It wasn’t until the 1920’s that commercially marketed baby food was generally embraced as a convenience food.  Prepared baby food of this sort leaves much to be desired ; however, the method of feeding is just as counterintuitive upon inspection.  If babies explore the world with their hands and mouths…why are we feeding them with a spoon?

Aparently I wasn’t the first to think this odd.  Gill Rapley, a UK nurse and UNICEF advisor,  first researched the concept of giving whole foods to babies as her Master’s thesis where she coined the term Baby Led Weaning (BLW).

Sounds intimidating, strange, new-agey?  Another “weird-o” hippie parenting idea from Paige, right?  😉  But, seriously give this one a second because it is really so obvious once we turn off the Gerber brainwashing.  The short of it is this:  
Skip purées.  Skip spoon feeding.  Give your baby food.  Let them eat.

Crazy right?

To me this seems to flow naturally from breastfeeding.  I feed Aellyn on cue when she wants to be fed.  I don’t watch the clock or ration out her food – or try to get her to eat a certain amount.  Breastfeeding is purely baby-led.  She decides when and she decides how.  Why should that change when she starts getting solids?  And remember, since food is for fun and not nutrition in the first year, you don’t have to painstakingly make sure baby gets x number of tablespoons down the gullet!

But babies can’t eat food, you say!!!  Here are some highlights from the BLW basic guidelines from Gill:

But won’t the baby choke? 
Many parents worry about babies choking. However, there is good reason to believe that babies are at less risk of choking if they are in control of what goes into their mouth than if they are spoon fed. This is because babies are not capable of intentionally moving food to the back of their throats until after they have developed the ability to chew. And they do not develop the ability to chew until after they have developed the ability to reach out and grab things. The ability to pick up very small things develops later still. Thus, a very young baby cannot easily put himself at risk because he cannot get small pieces of food into his mouth. Spoon feeding, by contrast, encourages the baby to suck the food straight to the back of his mouth, potentially making choking more likely.  
There is no need to cut food into mouth-sized pieces. Indeed, this will make it difficult for a young baby to handle. A good guide to the size and shape needed is the size of the baby’s fist, with one important extra factor to bear in mind: Young babies cannot open their fist on purpose to release things. This means that they do best with food that is chip-shaped or has a built-in ‘handle’ (like the stalk of a piece of broccoli). They can then chew the bit that is sticking out of their fist and drop the rest later – usually while reaching for the next interesting-looking piece. As their skills improve, less food will be dropped.

There are many benefits of this method of baby feeding:

  1. A baby that is developmentally able to grab, chew, and swallow is more likely to be developmentally able to digest the food.
  2. Baby learns to eat as much or as little as he needs – as he did with breastfeeding.
  3. Meals are not a battle to shove strained peas past pursed lips and hence babies can enjoy a better relationship with food that can lead to less pickiness later.
  4. Since you aren’t spoon feeding meals can be family time and baby will learn that eating is a social as well as biological experience.
  5. BLW’d babies generally learn to use utensils sooner because they can experiment themselves.
What about cons/things to think about?
  1. It is going to be messy.  But hey, you’re cleaning up spit up, poop, etc. all day and your sister-in-law is going to buy those finger paints eventually so just go with it.
  2. You still have to supervise eating.
  3. You should still introduce one food at a time with days in between to look for food intolerances.  Also, obey allergen rules – like no cow’s milk before 12 months.  Here is a good overview of an allergy friendly introduction to foods.
See it in action: 

And the photo gallery
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