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BLW and EC...What's With All The Letters Mom???

John

Today's post is all things BLW (what is it? how do I start? what do I do?) with a side of some other things the girls are learning this week! It feels SO good to be able to find a chance to get caught up with all of our latest happenings! SO much has been going on and I have just been busy, busy, busy trying to learn about all these new things going on and finding the best way to introduce them to the girls(and be able to report back to my favorite mommies and daddies!!! But again, before I get too carried away with all these things to cover, let me start with one thing at a time..... BLW: So LOTS of ppl have asked me, "What exactly is BLW and how does one go about starting this?"  Well.... here is the Reader's Digest version! BLW (Baby Led Weaning) actually has NOTHING to do with breast feeding! When I first saw these letters popping up in various mommy FB groups, I was like "Oh, that's not for me! I'm BF for a few years! NEXT!" Finally, one day I stopped to sneak a peak into one of these posts... and what do I find?? Nothing but talk about solids. So of course I turned to my best friend in the mommy world, Google, and dove in head first. Turns out, weaning in good old British English refers to "the introduction of foods other than breast milk/ formula."

BLW is AMAZING!  Basically it's the belief that babies don't need to be spoon fed and can just eat whatever....(of course here you ALWAYS want to watch for health/ nutrition factors.  Like salt... don't give your baby salt! that kind of stuff!) Through some conversations with fellow moms (and research) I have come to learn there are a few VERY basic common concerns that I had as well.  I was overly fortunate to have a mommy friend who did BLW help guide me through this HUGE jump into "grown babyhood" (in addition to the tons of reading up and exaploring I did).  The most common concern I saw over and over was "id be worried he would choke on the stuff..." FALSE! The main reason we know it is false is bc babies' gag reflex is more forward in their mouths than adults, and gagging is a way for them to protect from choking.  YES, there will be LOTS of gagging, but you have to remember to stay calm! Baby will work it out on their own! gagging DOES NOT = choking!!! With offering only purees you are teaching baby to swallow.  Once you offer "lumpy" foods, baby gets confused about whether to swallow or.... Well, they haven't really learned how to chew thus far so.... it seems more logical to me to just start off with teaching to chew. I feel like baby would be more likely to choke when introduced to "lumpy" foods because they are just used to swallowing everything... milk, purees...   (my mom was THE WORST about flipping bc they "were going to choke." After watching (helplessly) a few times, she was all for it! YAY MOM!) To piggy back off of this fact is the concept that babies can chew bc they have teeth under their gums.  This brings me to the next HUGE point about BLW.... WHY IT'S CRUCIAL TO WAIT until around 6 months to start solids!

We waited til 6 months for 2 reasons, both of equal importance to us.  A) Babies digestive systems are not ready yet! Feeding solids (especially rice cereal) can lead to obesity and diabetes during early childhood. Babies are not ready to eat and swallow the foods we eat, no matter how finely pureed.  Kellymom.com does a GREAT job of explaining the open vs. closed digestive system (referring to allergies; also offers a few more pointers that are more scientifically backed).  Huffpost also has a great article on WHY mom's think 3-4 months is the time to start solids.  It seems most moms think their babies are hungry and ready for solids at that age because they tend to cry a lot.  This is the time to insert a PSA about the "wonder weeks" and "4 month sleep regression."  Babies cry for LOTS of reasons, and food is not one of them at this age.  Everything they need comes from breast milk and/or formula.  (We are teaching the girls ASL for this very reason. So they can TELL us what they need/want without us having to guess.... pleased to announce that as of today, for the first time!,  we have BOTH girls signing for milk... its still rough around the edges, but they know what they are doing!!!)

My mom was one of those grandma's who was all for suggesting rice cereal to help them sleep through the night. In addition to B) waiting til 6 months old to have the girls annaprashan, we just knew they were not ready to have anything but milk yet.  The other reason for holding off on the rice cereal is that we wanted to make sure the girls knew the difference between their milk and eating.  Putting rice cereal in their milk (or even offering purees) does not teach babies to eat.  The main idea behind BLW is that it allows baby to explore their food through, not only taste, but also texture, colors, and smells. (You know, they get to use all 5 of their senses... well 4 of them. I incorporate sound by letting them see me scramble their eggs, hear and see their food sizzling of the stove...) BLW also is great for encouraging independence and self confidence! They learn to feed themselves and develop their hand-eye coordination in the process.  One big thing that made me "anti-spoon feeding" (we still spoon feed our porridge so don't take it too literally) is that with spoon feeding, it is easy to over feed baby (which can lead to obesity problems down the road because you are providing unnecessary calories and encouraging more fat cells to be produced... and constipation!).  With BLW, baby can feed themselves and cue you when they are done more easily.  (Inserting my next PSA here: "FOOD BEFORE ONE IS JUST FOR FUN!!!!" It is suggested that not until btwn 10-12 months should baby start becoming more reliant on solids to be filling.)  Baby will also more than likely be LESS FUSSIER down the road bc she already has learned and mastered the skills needed to eat "big kid food" thanks to the independence and teaching themselves how to be self efficient.  The outcome of this already wonderful and winning equation is that in the end you have a less picky eater! Baby has come to know their foods by not only "eating" but through exploration (vs. eating a bland array of mush that does not represent the distinct colors and aromas/tastes of each individual food).  Additionally, they have been given the opportunity to discover food on their own and in their own way and at their own pace.  (back to the self confidence thing!) This allows for more fun at meal times and less of that "battle" to get kids to eat.  They also learn at a VERY early age how to conduct themselves in an environment where food is involved.  Lastly, it promotes and strengthens the family bond more than you can ever imagine.  Sure, every night won't be a picture perfect "now everyone, let's sit down and eat dinner" kind of night, but with BLW you can cook a BLW- friendly meal or pop some frozen prepared BLW food in the oven leaving you time to cook your own food.  Honestly, at nights we don't eat with the girls, we just sit down and feed them then eat afterwards.  I eat with them during the day (99% of the time I eat cold soggy food, but I'm ok with that! I eat again after they go for nap time as well.)  But all in all, it will definitely strengthen your family unit as a whole.  (you may be surprised how much these mere few minutes out of the many in your day can fix your problems... seeing your little ones explore and grow in front of your eyes can really make you forget all your problems, angers, and resents.)

Ok, now that I have covered the basics about the WHY for BLW, let me go through the HOW... the next question that is most prevalent when it comes to BLW (I was stuck in this phase myself for the longest! my biggest obstacle in this journey through solids adventure) is WHERE AND HOW do I start!?!?!?!?!  This is probably the most easiest question to answer with the answer being the hardest to find.  Where we started (and where I would recommend everyone else start at) is with some avocado slices! 2 main reasons: 1) nutritional benefits (which you can read about here! in addition to other nutrition facts about good foods to start with) 2) it's nice and soft to grip and easy to "bite."  You don't want baby to have something challenging at first.  Something soft and squishy is good so they can really explore their food. (PSA #3: BLW WILL BE MESSY!!!!!)

Make sure that YOU are ready to do BLW with confidence! You don't want to be projecting nervous vibes to baby as they start off.  You want to make sure that you provide a fun and encouraging environment for them to explore in.  Don't worry about the mess, a little homemade cleaner can get that up in a heart beat (and if you have dogs, they will love the new furless puppy even more!).  Also, start off slow.  We didn't upgrade to "real foods" (aka anything outside of the fruit/veg slices world) until about 3 weeks into BLW.  It is ok to be conservative.  It is, after all, called BABY LED weaning.. follow baby and their cues! You will soon learn when they are ready to start eating (by showing interest in your food), enjoy or dislike a food (I got the "bitter face" from Nadi for about 2 week straight and still get it often), are bored with their "meals," or are "all done."  What made us start doing "real meals" was just waking up one day and saying "hey, lets have a pancake breakfast!"  We had the chance, as parents, to watch the girls go from "playing" with their food (working on hand-eye coordination and go from nibbles to bites) to actually taking bites out of it and practicing chewing and swallowing. (PSA #4: you know you're a mom when.... you put your hand under your baby's mouth, wait for the mush to come back out.. usually after a few seconds of gagging, and pop it in your mouth as you hand baby a FRESH piece of the mush you just ate! lol)  For more info on BLW , please enjoy this handout!  (LOL, handout.... remember, like the things we used to get in school? It is kinda like BLW 101.) NOW, for the fun part!!!!!

FOOD: Well we finally did it! We upgraded from just plain old veggie and fruit slices to actual foods.  I have been doing some reading and research, and while our ped (along with most others) recommend waiting 3-5 days between offering different foods, we are loosely following that rule (mostly since there are NO allergies ANYWHERE in either of our families).  Until recently, most "experts" advised to give certain foods at certain ages, but recently it has been shown that it is actually BETTER to give most foods early (except for honey of course, and shellfish) because it can actually PREVENT food allergies. (Please see the last page of the handout above for more info) So here is a list of things we have had up until the day we "upgraded" to "real food:" avocado, banana, potato, yuka, sweet potato, pears, celery (raw), plum, and rice porridge.  After all this we went on to enjoy breast milk (BM) pancakes, french toast sticks, scrambled eggs, and homemade whole wheat bread.  Here are some recipes for what we have and will be enjoying this week:

Things we have made (or plan to make in the near future):

  • Breast Milk Pancakes: -1 cup whole wheat flour (next time we will be adding 1 tablespoon wheat germ and 1 teaspoon brewers yeast to the flour) -6-8 oz breast milk -1 teaspoon flax seed meal
  • French Toast Sticks:  this one is pretty basic..... whole wheat bread "sticks" dipped in egg with a dash of cinnamon; basic stuff
  • Scrambled Eggs  -no brainer here..... just plain WHOLE egg (or yolk if you want to separate it... but it's been recommended to give it whole.. and you don't have to wait a year either!)
  • Scrambled Tofu -Haven't tried this one yet but it's on the menu for this week!  I will of course report back as soon as I have!                   -mix 2 tablespoons of mashed tofu with a whole egg (you can use just the yolk, but the white will help bind everything together.  Optional to add a dash (1/4 teaspoon) of  low sodium soy sauce;  mix together and "fry" in butter or olive oil (I am trying to use only coconut oil with the girls so I will let you all know what I decide on the spot ;)
  • Tofu Fingers -Haven't tried this one yet but it's on the menu for this week!  I will of course report back as soon as I have!                   -slice 1 package of tofu and dip into melted butter, milk, or water ( I will be using water for the first time to see how it works out... too much of a risk to waste the BM!) -Cover with a mixture of homemade breadcrumbs, wheat germ, parm cheese, oregano, and garlic powder.  (yes!!! give babies seasonings! just no salt! it's good to get them used to the taste of "Grown up food!"                                             -Bake at 350 for 15-20 (flip them once)
  • Spinach-y Bean Burgers  -this one was on the menu for the week, but we decided to do a little family dinner dining out to celebrate our anniversary and the girls 7 mo birthday, so I will make sure to update on any adjustments we made to make this our "own"  http://www.babyledweaning.com/recipes/lunchdinner/minimoos-favourite-spinach-y-beanburgers-2/

Things that I have learned to keep in my pantry for baby: wheat germ, brewers yeast, and flax seed meal.  I started to sprinkle in some brewers yeast in my blender while grinding my rice.  (Here is my recipe for homemade porridge! Yes, I know I sound contradicting feeding with a spoon AND rice "cereal,' but I never said we didn't want to enjoy some spoon feeding time.. (the girls take the spoon in their hands and we help guide them; while  BLW philosophy does point out that our hands are natural feeding tools, the use of a spoon is going to be inevitable at some point in time. Also, it I noticed that with the porridge that it made the girls sleep longer during nap time when I fed it for breakfast.  Rice will not have negative effects (health, etc) if given in moderation.  (yes, it is brown rice; yes I am aware of the "negative harm" brown rice can cause... with all food you are going to have to pick and choose your battles, and here we choose keep for the brown rice. For more info please see my other weaning post!) Here is why I like to add a little of each to foods asap:

  • Wheat germ: Two tablespoons of raw wheat germ have about 1.5 grams of unsaturated fat, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of protein, 2 grams dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugars, no cholesterol and about 60 calories. This is plenty of protein and fiber. (and some vitamin B, healthy fatty acids, minerals, and vitamin E)
  • Brewers yeast: contains B vitamins , B1,B2, B3, B5,B9,in ideal quantities and also it is an important source of minerals , Chromium, Zinc , Selenium,Iron and amino-acids; It plays an important role in stimulating growth processes , helping to strengthen bones babies- because of the rich content of B vitamins , it contributes to both their physical and mental development; it also helps keep skin healthy and poopies regular
  • Flax seed: contains Omega-3 oils (aka "alpha-linolenic acid" or ALA), Lignans, and  Fiber, both soluble and insoluble; no more then 3 teaspoons a day is recommended and remember it IS a NATURAL LAXATIVE!!! (so go easy! you can't OD on it, but you CAN have some bad after effects with it!)

In adult food news, I poached some salmon to shake things up a little bit with the traditional baked fish.  IT. WAS. AWESOME!!!! (now if only the girls wouldn't have woken up in the middle of dinner so I could have enjoyed it HOT!)  I will post this recipe in the YUM section when I have a chance to perfect it a few more times. (It was tasty, but I need to tweek the seasoning... it just wasn't as flavorful as I would prefer) We thus far have not followed our weekly menu, but it only serves as a guideline so it's still ok! (Just means more options for next week without having to put too much thought into it! ;) )

OKIE DOKIE!!! Before I wrap up the BLW and food info I want to leave you all with one more great article about things parents wish they would have known about starting baby on solid foods!  Now that the food stuff is out of the way.....

We have started EC (elimination communication) in our house so everything is about the pee and poop now! The biggest key here (and with any new skill you are teaching you LO no matter how old) is to remember not to FORCE anything on them.  Just follow their lead and see where it goes.  You have to remember to go at THEIR pace, not yours! It, in a way, worked out well that Nadi is the only one interested in the potty.  MiMi just straight legs and fusses when on it. (She has pooped once on there, but SCREAMED BLOODY MURDER the WHOLE time!!!! :/)  I know its not time for her yet however, we are actually a little late with starting EC.  The earlier you start, the better! I have read about parents starting as young as a few days old. Now please realize this before you start getting all worked up EC IS NOT POTTY TRAINING!!!!! EC is all about "training" your child to associate their elimination behaviors with something other then a diaper (which is the norm).  Again, good old US society is one of the few around the world to practice diapering, let along for SUCH A LONG TIME! Many cultures throughout the world keep babies clean and dry without diapers.  EC is all about learning your baby's cues and signals and learning to communicate with one another.  You do not force your baby to go to the potty, you are just reading them and anticipating their need to go and teaching them that you are there to help them stay dry and clean.  Once you make baby aware of their elimination actions, and associating a noise, sign, song, or toy with the action, they will learn to control their elimination actions better and rely on you and your strengthened bond to continue to follow through with EC.  Because it  require more getting to know your baby, it kind of works for me to do one at a time (to feel it out) bc that gives me opportunity to focus on learning each of them as an individual (rather than a whole entity... the girls are TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE and I like to try to treat them as such as much as possible! I hate when people compare the girls. They are two different people and it is important to treat them accordingly.  Also, feeling out the best way for each girl one at a time, I feel that it will decrease the amount of stress on me and reduce any negative energy/frustrations I give off.

So far we have just gone diaperless and had one hit and a few misses.  It is ok for the misses, they are going to happen, you just want to make sure they become aware of their actions.  (nothing a little water with vinegar and baking soda mix can't cure!) I will be sure to update you all as the time goes on. We have only been playing around with this and are still working on becoming more consistent with trying!  Even if you are a working mom, you can still EC! Full or part time is up to you! You can focus on waking and sleeping time potties as well as enforcing on the weekend! (your childcare provider may love that its one less diaper to change too! ;) ) all is not lost by not being a SAHM so NEVER feel bad for not being with your baby all the time!!!!! Just be sure to savor the times that you do have together and make the best of it!!!

In addition to EC, we are starting to do more baby sign language with the girls! We have been doing basic signs with them since they were just a few weeks old and for the first time I got a response from Nadi! (She was double winning monday with peeing once AND signing milk!) I will make sure to include more info about this topic later as well... just wanted to plant these seeds since they are now part of our lives!

I want to leave you with some more resources about EC as I wrap up this super informative post! Be sure to follow us for directly emailed posts and like our facebook page for extra pictures, info, and updates!

NY TIMES Article about going diaperless

The network for going diaper free

My fave site that I look at the most (has a GREAT eBook that I am working through right now...)

IMG_6797Happy eating!!!!