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Baby Led Weaning (or starting solids) book review and nutritionist weighs in (with her 7 month old daughter!)

Posted by on Jan 31, 2011 in Blog Posts | 52 comments

Baby-led Weaning is not about weaning in the sense that we think of it. For the British authors, it means the introduction and transition to solids from breast milk or formula.

Basically, the authors (both mothers, one a public health nurse, the other a writer) say that healthy babies do not need to be spoon-fed- ever, and make the case that BLW is the way to go- it makes for less stressful feeding, and makes kids less picky, develop earlier, be happier at the table…

The gist is babies will show they are ready for food by grabbing it and putting it into their mouths.  “All you are doing (and asking them to do) is to miss out on the puree stage.” I won’t go into the details about what to introduce and when (this isn’t a BLW  how-to, more a brief examination) but they advocate having Baby eat what the family is eating, join in with family meals, while continuing to breast or bottle feed. (There is a lot I love about this model, mostly because it is very familiar to what Ellyn Satter has been saying for forty years. In fact many phrases are very similar to those in Child of Mine or on Ellyn’s website.)  In my opinion, many of the benefits attributed to BLW, are more about following the child’s lead with feeding
and maintaining the Division of Responsibility, which by necessity with the little ones, BLW does.

Here are some concerns where they seem to not follow the DOR or model I work in:
• they seem to endorse grazing, as long as it’s healthy (letting the toddler help herself to “healthy” foods anytime as long as she sits down at the table…)
• there seems to be little acknowledgment that temperament can play a big role. (“the third baby became a noticeably “better” eater… less fussy and more adventurous. The parents had discovered BLW…”) I know lots of families, some with three kids all raised the same way with food,  yet one child is especially cautious and more picky than the other two. It is more complex than the book gets at…
• seems to recommend a one-size-fits all in terms of foods to offer and may be falsely reassuring in terms of choking risks.
I worry if the child is on the mother’s lap (as they seem to endorse) that she might not notice right away if the infant is getting into trouble with choking. Children develop at different rates with their oral-motor skills, and parents should tailor foods offered to the child (Child of Mine has an excellent resource on when to offer what kinds of foods based on what your little one can do.) I know my M was not a muncher, but would chomp off huge bites with teething or other crackers and have some trouble. Each child is unique. Hydee too had concerns about offering large chunks of meat and other foods in terms of choking. (see below) Again, BLW may be fine for some children, but not necessarily all. (Note, gagging and choking are different…)

If it’s not BLW, it’s forcing or pressure?

I bristled at the assumption that you can’t follow a child’s cues when bottle feeding. It is easier to get pushy with a bottle vs. breast, but if you are tuned in to your child, you can feed skillfully from a bottle.

They suggest that spoon feeding equals forcing or over-feeding. “Being spoon fed by someone else means the baby is not in control of how much she eats.” They infer that parents who spoon feed all play games, pressure, force,  don’t expose the child to a variety of tastes and have a miserable time with a child who will invariably end up picky. Not true. It is easier to push a spoon-fed baby, but a tuned-in parent lets the baby decide how much to eat, spoon-fed or not. The horror stories about spoon-feeding  in the book could have been addressed by following the baby’s cues and following the DOR, or doing BLW.

I was surprised that the book never mentioned Ellyn Satter or the Division of Responsibility in feeding (which I imagine the authors MUST be aware of and if not, then they haven’t done their research.) Because,  every benefit and success story they mention about BLW  also holds true if you follow the Division of Responsibility and Ellyn’s trust model of feeding, spoon or not.  You can use a spoon and purees and follow a child’s cues with pace, quantity and which foods.  Is it easier to get pushy with a spoon vs BLW? Yes, but it is not a given.

I think of the video of 8 month-old Elsa in Ellyn’s first Feeding with Good Sense video series (hey, another video is coming soon!!!) Elsa sits at the table with her parents, feeding herself all the foods the family eats, very skillfully. Elsa was spoon-fed but would look just like any of the BLW babies described in the book.

Another concern, which also came up in a recent study from Maternal Child and Health journal is that children who are more slow to develop may have nutritional deficiencies, particularly iron. “UK researchers – led by child health specialist Professor Charlotte M Wright from the University of Glasgow, Scotland – recommend combining self-feeding with solid finger food with traditional spoon feeding.”

As for the “anecdotal” evidence that BLW babies develop hand-eye coordination, writing and language sooner because of handling foods? It is perhaps more likely incidental, or an indicator of developmental readiness, not cause and effect, and parents who chose BLW are different in many ways* that could also compound differences.

In a bit of a twist, the one study cited in support of the child choosing what to eat and how wonderfully the children did with it– many of those children were spoon fed by adults, and all the children (even the spoon-fed ones) were willing to try new foods…

It is also curious to me that the book talks a lot about obesity, but doesn’t mention that crossing the division of responsibility with feeding or getting pushy with foods can make a child eat less and weigh less than is healthy for her, which I commonly see in my practice.

The BLW book doesn’t give much guidance for parents once kids are their own little people, once they are past sitting on a lap or high-chair having roasted vegetable sticks  put on their trays…Or that once the baby is past the spoon that parents can still be pushy with enforcing rules about eating this before that, pushing foods etc… It doesn’t review normal eating and growth which is so critical for many parents to trust a very large or very small child with eating…

I just worry that this will be another book that guilts mothers– if you were unable to breast feed for whatever reason, if you spoon-fed, if your child is slow developmentally… There is more than one “right” way to feed a child if you are following the Division of Responsibility with feeding (implied and incorporated in BLW.)

Here’s what FFD’s pediatric nutritionist, Hydee Becker RD says who has read the book and is currently “weaning” her second child.

They do seem to think that anyone who doesn’t use BLW will end up force-feeding in some way.  That is so silly!  I am still spoon feeding R iron fortified rice cereal and some other foods usually daily.  I have to say that what is really happening is I am loading up the spoon and then she quickly takes it from me and jams it in her own mouth.  The reason I am doing some purees is because I really, really think she needs the iron.  I’m not that great about giving her the iron supplement (it stains big time so I just give it to her when she is in the bath…and that is only about twice a week).  Also I don’t have the nerve to give her the big hunks of meat they suggest!  And I have trouble believing the authors when they say that the baby will get the iron they need by getting the juice out of the big hunks of meat.  (As an aside I do think some of the nutrition info is incomplete).  So I put the meat we eat through the food mill.  It is too difficult for her to eat this as a finger food.  Sometimes I spread the milled meat on her toast or I put it on the spoon.  I wait for the tilt of the head or the grab of the spoon or the swatting away of the spoon and I think other parents should too… My conclusion is parents should do what they feel most comfortable with either BLW or conventional feeding practices AND do what is going to work best for their child.  Some babies want to do it themselves.  Others want to be/ need to be spoon fed.  Either/ Or/ or both is just great as long as the DOR is observed! ”

I love the description Hydee gives of following her daughter’s cues…

Here’s what another reader said about BLW: Baby-Led Weaning made our mealtimes enjoyable because our daughter was eating right along with us, and by 9 months, she was pretty much eating what we were eating.  It has also helped me to realize that I don’t need to be worrying about how much my daughter eats.  We had the DOR down without knowing that phrase 🙂

I agree with Hydee. If you want to do BLW, go for it. Get the book, but also get and read Child of Mine for a more complete picture and more concrete help for transitioning into the next phases of feeding.

Moms, what are your experiences?

*”Those participants who used a BLW method reported little use of spoon-feeding and purées and were more likely to have a higher education, higher occupation, be married and have breastfed their infant. BLW was associated with a later introduction of complementary foods, greater participation in meal times and exposure to family foods. Levels of anxiety about weaning and feeding were lower in mothers who adopted a BLW approach.”

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  1. EngineerMom

    Temperament is way more important than whether a baby is spoonfed purees or not. My son is very selective and slow to try new foods, especially combination foods (pizza, for example). At 6 months, I started trying cereal and other purees with him, on the advice of our doctor. He still had a tongue reflex at that age, so it was more about him experiencing a different texture than formula than it was about nutrition. We tried to follow his cues, but he was also in daycare where it was hard to convince his teachers that I really didn’t care if he finished what I packed for his meals – they were always telling me how hard they worked to get him to eat everything.

    Fortunately, I was able to stay home with him shortly after he turned 1. However, he is just a naturally cautious child, prone to lots of observation and practice before he’ll try anything new, whether it’s food or walking (he walked at 16 months) or swimming (he’s just now, at almost 4, showing an interest in swimming) or wearing a new shirt. So the fact that he is selective about his food is not much of a shock.

    My daughter, on the other hand, started reaching for our food at barely 4 months, tolerated purees for about one month, and now at just 8 months is chowing down on everything we put in front of her. She will try things twice before deciding she doesn’t want to eat it, and the only food she’s refused to eat after several exposures is eggs. She is also a much more adventurous baby, willing to be held by non-family (my son didn’t tolerate that for a very long time), very social and engaging, babbling much more than my son did at this age, etc. I don’t worry about her iron intake, since she’s still drinking 24-36 oz of formula every day. Meal time for her is about the social aspect (she love sitting down with everyone, and protests if I try to set her up with some crackers while I finish cooking the meal) and enjoying the process of feeding herself. She’s tried more foods in the last 4 months than my son has in his almost 4 years!

    Children are different. I love that my son is cautious – it’s rare that he gives me those heart-in-the-throat moments, he is very gentle and tender with his baby sister, he is a neat child by nature and helpful around the house. He is obedient unless you come up against his occasional stubborn streak, he plays easily by himself, and does dead-on impressions of everyone from Steve (Blues Clues) to his one-day-a-week preschool teacher.

    My daughter will be much more of a wild child, but I’m sure her energy level will provide some much-needed excitement in our lives! She is my sunny baby – happy and laughing much of the time, so excited to see people she knows, and a little ray of sunshine in the morning.

    I wouldn’t change either of them for the world.

    • katja

      You nailed it! It’s my pet peeve with “picky eating” advice. the two bite rule might work fine with your daughter, and turn your son off completely. Thanks for writing in!!

  2. Marcy

    I am happy to read the comments above and Katja’s posts. I guess in some ways we are doing BLW, but definately not in a strict sense. My daughter just started solids. She is only 4 months old, but was more than ready to start eating. She swallows well, sits well with assistance, and she loves watching me eat…she was following the spoon to my mouth and making chewing motions everytime she would she me eat, and reaching for my food. She is also a big baby, 18 1/2 pounds and 28 inches tall (she is at the top of the growth chart in weight and off the chart in height) and way ahead developmentally. We just started solids a little over a week ago and I found out at the first feeding that she doesn’t care of the consistency of pureed food, she seems to like a much thicker texture. She is also very good at letting me know when she doesn’t want anymore…by either pushing my hand away, pursing her lips, or spitting the food out (at which point we stop). This is the same pattern she follows with her formula, which we feed on demand (trying to schedule feedings for a baby just seems weird to me, they are hungry when they are hungry). She is always held when she gets her bottle. My daughter reaches for the food on my plate and I feel like I shouldn’t let her eat any of it, mainly because she is so young and “pureed” foods are what I am “supposed” to be offering. Maybe I need to change my way of thinking on that. At this point I am only viewing solids as complementary to formula and as an opportunity for her to practice eating and trying new things. I try to make it fun and if she makes a mess I really don’t care….she seems to be enjoying it so much.

    Just to add, I was fortunate to have a Grandmother that was a visionary with eating….I remember my parents trying to get me to eat just 2 more bites of my dinner (I was full and when I was full as a child, just as now, I cannot eat anymore, the thought of eating another bite made me feel sick). My Grandmother told my parents to leave me alone, that if I was full I was full and that forcing me to eat more would only lead to bad eating habits later. Her statement stuck with me, I remember thinking, even thought I was young, that her words were profound. I try to follow that same advice with my daughter. If she pushes the bottle or food away then I stop. Sometimes I will wait a few minutes and offer it again and if she still pushes it away then the feeding is over.

  3. Amy

    I am also a pediatric dietitian and was completely at a loss when my 6 month old adamantly refused to be spoon fed her cereals. The weeks went by and I followed Ellyn’s Division of Responsibility- preparing the foods, offering, giving her the opportunity to play with them, then cleaning up after she continued to refuse. By 7 months, I was nervous (once or twice I caught myself sneaking food in her mouth so she could just get a taste!!! It didn’t help at all, I knew better!) so I read the Baby Led Weaning book and embarked on a new feeding journey.

    I do agree that the nutrition information and normal feeding behaviour information is lacking and overly-critical of spoon feeding, but….

    My daughter took to baby-led weaning, enjoying a variety of steamed vegetables, fruits, bread, rice crackers (at first), but I don’t believe she had a good nutritional intake for the first few months. Her weight gain was slow and iron intake was low. But… sooner than I expected, she began eating very well, and eating large quantities. She especially loved feeding herself purees which were much easier to get down, without having teeth for chewing. Once she realized how satisfying it was to fill her belly with good foods, she would hold the spoon out to me, so I could help her eat more, and faster!

    She is now 20 months old and a superstar eater. She caught up on the growth curve (just after 12 months old). Everyone remarks how much she eats, how much variety, and how well she manages with her hands and spoon. We sit together calmly at the table and enjoy each other’s company. We have set meal and snack times and she sits in a high chair.

    We don’t practice true baby-led weaning, as she sometimes wants a little help, and we definitely practice the Division of Responsibility. The advice I received from BOTH these methods was invaluable!

    Many babies do great with spoon-fed purees, but others do not. I wish all methods of safe, baby-focused, nutritious feeding were more accessible to parents who struggle to “get their kid to eat”.

  4. Jess

    Apparently the novella length rant wasn’t enough; I want to add:

    Almost all norms about baby feeding are *cultural*. Breastfeeding norms, first foods and time of first solid feeding are wildly different across the globe. There is some kind of myth that “traditional cultures” or “tribal cultures” all do it the same (e.g. exclusive, extended breastfeeding). I know from looking into the academic literature on this topic (and talking to folks on the ground in Burkina Faso, Mali and Rwanda) that breastfeeding norms are very different even across traditional/tribal cultures. Moreover, the advice on what the first food for a baby should be seems to me to be almost entirely culturally determined, as does the issue of whether it should be pureed/solid/pre-chewed by the Mom and when the solid should be given. I’d also like to point out that there is huge variety in the types of diets that sustain adults: there are hundreds of millions of perfectly healthy vegetarian kids and adults living in India and there are there are tribes that live almost entirely on animal protein (cows blood and seal blubber to name two). The diet that works for a baby, kid or grown up depends a lot on culture and environment. Just to again re-iterate that there is no “ONE AND ONLY RIGHT WAY” when it comes to what and how to eat.

  5. Jess

    IMHO, the reason the baby led weaning book presents an extreme view (“Spoon feeding will ruin your kid! Forever!”) is the same reason most parenting books of any kind present an extreme view (e.g. “If you ever let your baby cry himself to sleep he’ll be ruined! Forever!”, “If you don’t teach your baby to self-soothe, he’ll be ruined! Forever!”, “If you don’t exclusively breastfeed until age five, he’ll be ruined! Forever!”) is because presenting an extreme view plays on Mama guilt and sells books. (Same formula with diet books, self-help books, etc.).

    For some reason, a ‘moderation in all things’ approach never sells books. People want a magic bullet: do this, and you’ll be a “good mother” and your kid will turn out great (or if they don’t, you can tell yourself it wasn’t your fault). The reality is that every kid is different, every parent is different, every family has different ways of figuring out what works for them. There is no ultimate, absolute, best way to parent– there is only the best way to parent your particular child in your particular circumstances. But, judging from these comments, some people really have a deep psychological need to assert that they are doing things THE. ONLY. RIGHT. WAY.

    FWIW, I breast-fed exclusively ’til 5.5 months, at which point my son made his interest in food very apparent. I spoon fed him because he lacked the motor skills to do it himself, though he was clearly interested. First food: avocado. First reaction: “mmmmmm” and rooting cues with eyes on the spoon. We did purees and rice cereal for a bit, by 9 months he was eating what we were eating, some of still put through a baby food mill at the table. He’s now almost four and ate fresh, baked sardines, broccoli and rice for dinner last night and a lamb chop, butternut squash and a generous portion of salad tonight. So apparently spoon feeding him didn’t prevent him from becoming a healthy, adventurous omnivore.

    Also, FWIW, I reviewed the medical and public health literature on the benefits of breast feeding for a project I’m working on as part of my economics PhD. In the developing world, where the alternative is all to often formula prepared with dirty water, watered down formula, early feeding of solids with, again, questionable hygiene, and/or unpasteurized livestock milk, the benefits of exclusive and extended breast feeding are enormous and very tangible–the reduction in infant death from diarrhea alone is staggering. In the US and other rich countries, where the alternative is most often an adequate supply of formula prepared with clean water under hygienic conditions, the benefits of breastfeeding are still there (most especially for preemies) but the effect sizes are much, much smaller than in developing countries. Also, because breastfeeding cannot be randomly assigned, the benefits of breastfeeding are often coincident with the benefits of having a well-educated, higher income mother. For example, the study that said breastfed babies have a higher IQ? The difference in IQ (which was tiny anyway) disappeared once they controlled for mother’s IQ (so breastfeeding your baby will not cause them to be smarter, as one poster above insinuated). The benefits of exclusively breastfeeding over breastfeeding with formula supplementation (again, we’re talking developed countries where the water is clean) are even harder to show in rigorous studies. The most tangible, scientifically proven benefit to extended breastfeeding is *to the mother* in the form of reduced breast cancer risk.

    I say all that as a formula fed baby (on a schedule, no less; I also had cereal at a few weeks old and was on a strict sleeping schedule!) who is about to get a PhD from Berkeley, and, if I do say so myself, turned out to be a reasonably well-adjusted adult. I also say all that as a Mom who breastfed my first child for a year and will breast feed my daughter (now 4 weeks old) at least that long if not longer. Bottom line: formula is not poison, people. Breastfeeding will not make your child beautiful/successful/smart/more organized/a better driver/a Nobel prize winner and formula feeding will not result in them inevitably becoming an obese/dimwitted/emotionally disconnected serial killer. Breastfeeding and formula feeding are just two perfectly normal ways to feed babies. Will there ever be a day when a woman feeding her baby, with formula or with breast milk, is just a normal thing, not some emotionally fraught, political choice that communicates your deepest held beliefs for which people people will instantly judge you!?

    Sorry. End novella length rant. Just had to get that off my chest.

    • katja

      Thanks, this was very helpful. I remember doing research of breastfeeding when I was struggling so mightily, and one of the studies the Academy of Pediatrics kept citing for decreased mortality was a study from brazil, I believe with less then 50 kids, and the child that died fell on his head and died due to trauma, yet the way it was presented was, “breast feeding reduces mortality…” I also found several studies linking trouble breastfeeding with increased post-partum depression. I certainly know that 90% of my turmoil, angst, tears, those first 4 months was because I had so much trouble breastfeeding. I was pumping literally 10 hours a day, and finally realized my zeal to breastfeed was totally interfering with bonding etc. Ah well… I too was bottle fed, with rice at 2 weeks and have fabulous lab values, am of normal weight, and I like to think, pretty smart. I love your last paragraph…

  6. Jennifer

    Thanks for the review Katja. I never did BLW because I felt like it couldn’t anwser all my questions but I love many aspects of it. I did what I thought of as a modified BLW, I’d load the spoon with mush but give it to my daughter to control.

    On the topic of iron here’s an article from kellymom (evidence based breastfeeding site)that argues against feeding iron fortified foods to EXCLUSIVELY breastfeed babies. ie. babies that have been fed formula or mixed fed benefit from iron fortification but that it actually interferes with iron absorption in the exclusively breastfed infant.

    Just wondering if Katja has an opinion on this!:

    Mentioned this idea to a health care nurse when my daughter was starting solids and she looked at me like I was a completely insane, crazy mom! LOL

    • katja

      Hi jennifer,
      I’ll check out the article when things calm down here! I try not to have opinions on iron, supplements, fish oil etc. I am not an expert in it (I barely have enough time to read half of the articles on the stuff I am working in directly!) I leave that up to parents and their health care professionals to decide. 🙂
      Every parent has to do what they feel is right. I am here to offer support and information on this feeding model, my own insights thrown in, and I just don’t want the responsibility of having to learn about all that other stuff and try to tell people what to do 🙂
      Guidelines are general recommendations, and every family should be informed and do what works for them.

  7. Dawn

    This is so timely for me. I have two kids: one 5 years and the other 9 months. My 5yo was excluvely BF until 6 months and then weaned by me so that I could commence a drug regimen for MS. She was (and is) an avid and adventuresome eater. I made a wide variety of purees which she adored and slowly made them more chunky, just what most people would consider the ‘normal’ way of introducing a baby to solids.

    My 9mo self-weaned (as in completely refused to take it) from the breast at 7 months. She had been having 1 bottle of breast milk per day for most of her life so we just switched to formula when my milk dried up. I tried her on her first solids at 6 months. I made the purees and tried to feed them. She completely refused the spoon. She is extremely strong-willed and independent and did not want to be fed from a spoon. So, I started looking at BLW. I started by giving her variations of what we were eating, veggies and fruits in different shapes but the same ones we had. She probably actually consumed very little for the first couple of months. Although one of her favorite things was (and still is) to suck on a large chunk of meat. It was actually pretty funny at Christmas to see my mother’s reaction to my 8mo sucking on a hunk of turkey. Now that she has mastered the pincer grip I find she is much, much better at actually consuming the food. Her current favorite is blueberries. In addition, she seems to have actually opened up to the idea of a spoon. She has mashed banana in plain yogurt most mornings for breakfast. It’s also very clear when she’s done – she closes her mouth when the spoon comes close. I can also easily tell when she’s done with her bottle – she starts to bite the nipple instead of sucking.

    I look at the whole BLW thing as I approach most things about parenting: do what works for the child and the family. This is different for every family and can be quite different for different children within the same family. Whatever gets everyone fed as much as they need to be and minimizes the conflict.

    • katja

      I couldn’t have said it better. Again, thanks for the details with your little ones, I get feedback all the time that hearing about how other mothers do it is extremely helpful. Their temperaments played a role, which is part of what I thought was lacking in the BLW book. As you show us, it’s not one-size-fits all! You followed their lead, and I am hopeful from the sounds of it that the MS is in remission. Thank you again!

  8. The WellRounded Mama

    Only a moment to comment, so I’ll just weigh in on the iron controversy.

    The reason a lot of babies are anemic or low on iron is that they are not receiving the placental blood at birth nature intended them to have. Doctors clamp and cut the umbilical cord really quickly in most cases, denying the baby the placental and cord blood that is meant to ease their transition ex utero. Babies NEED the bolus of blood to help perfuse their lungs so they can start breathing more easily, and they NEED the iron stores that this blood provides. Research shows this is particularly crucial for premature babies, and that delayed clamping significantly improves outcomes (including iron stores) among preemies.

    Instead of giving all babies iron supplements, the focus should be on preventing the problem in the first place by delaying cord clamping and letting nature’s evolutionary design take care of it. Some babies will still have anemia/low iron issues and could benefit from iron supplements, but most will not.

    Doctors need to focus on the most logical solution, prevention, but despite the research in favor of delayed clamping, most doctors are very resistant to waiting. I’d rather see the emphasis be on preventing the problem in most children than on treating it after they first cause it.

    • katja

      I must have been in a good hospital, bc lots of the OBs were waiting. I remember that being fairly new at the time and them explaning that the babies needed the blood. Hope that gets out there more and more (but as we know, the status quo as in weight loss… is hard to bring down even with mountains of evidence against it.) Does it protect for 9-12 months? I was not aware of that, but have not researched the issue. I’ll have to look into this one more. Thanks for adding this piece of the puzzle!

  9. Kris

    My 10 month old son is very capable of making it clear whether he wants to eat from a spoon or not. He leans forward, mouth wide open and aimed at the spoon when he wants to eat. He keeps his mouth closed and bats the spoon away when he doesn’t (or when I try and give him bites too close together).

    For people asking why purees–for me, it’s all about convenience. I started my son him on solids at six months, with (whole) peas, and home, he generally gets whatever we are eating, sometimes with a spoon if it’s soup or oatmeal.

    But daycare is trickier–he eats the daycare food, but without access to nursing except at lunch, he wants more food, and the little jars of baby food fill that void. My son does takes bottles, but I stopped sending them when he seemed not to want them. My daughter never took them, so it was either me or spoon-feeding.

    • katja

      love this. Again, you are doing what is right for your children and you. Thanks for sharing your experiences that were different for your children!

  10. Trish

    We mostly followed BLW practices, although we tried some spoon-feeding. BLW won out mainly because DS had absolutely no interest in us feeding him; he wanted to do it himself from the get-go. He also just didn’t seem to like cereal or the purees we tried, seemingly the texture disagreed with him. The irony is now at 17 months and a proficient self-feeder, his favorite foods are mostly purees in texture (hummus, guacamole, yogurt… though he likes the latter less now).
    In Child of Mine Ellyn Satter didn’t seem to be in favor of nursing on demand past the age of 12 months, and I wondered about that; we still nurse on demand and DS shows no sign of self-weaning. Mind you, since I work 4 days a week, “nursing on demand” mostly means at night around dinner time and overnight, but on my days off it can be anytime throughout the day.

    • katja

      Love this trish… Working moms is something that had not been specifically addressed yet. Thank you for reminding me 🙂
      Often self-weaning, or the parent being more directive of weaning off the breast means the morning and pm feeds are the last to go. Some kids do great with on demand weaning, but some don’t. Again, I’m not “for” or “against” what works well for each family and child. I have seen a few little ones use breast feeding when tired, hungry, in pain, to deal with tantrums etc… It too can be “misused.” Does that make sense?
      You did great to follow your child’s lead. What about the 5 1/2 month old who grabs food and eats it. According to the BLW book, you should ;et you child eat when he does those things, but not before 6 months… I don’t think there is any great harm if a 5 month old eats solids. I know one little one who fed himself from 5 1/2 months on. Would joyfully scoop food into his mouth from the edge of the high-chair… Again, it;s all about following the baby’s lead 🙂

      • Ashley

        “I have seen a few little ones use breast feeding when tired, hungry, in pain, to deal with tantrums etc… It too can be “misused.” Does that make sense?”

        Not really. How exactly can breastfeeding be “misused?” As any breastfeeding mother can tell you, there’s a big difference between comfort nursing and nursing to get a meal. My on-demand breastfed toddler rarely has a meal from me. She has “snacks” or comfort nurses regularly, as is the biological norm.

        Or, to reiterate, you’re describing the biological norm as a misuse of breastfeeding, and I just have to scratch my head at that.

        • katja

          I think that a toddler can learn to handle upset and emotions in ways that don’t involve nursing. I think they can learn to differentiate when they need a cuddle vs a hug, vs food. I’ve seen (two only) little ones gain weight at an increasing rate who were breastfeeding on demand and often, for every little thing, for behavior control etc. There seemed to be issues around limit-setting in general, and perhaps with other foods as well. I don’t know if they had some sensory issue, oral problems that made them more interested in sucking, or emotional issues… another mother nursed to help her hormonally mediated migraines so she continued for almost five years and the child grew extremely poorly, was also not being introduced to a variety of foods and then had unusual rate of weight gain when she refused to nurse. There are a lot of complex issues, and breastfeeding moms can also use some help figuring out why their child isn’t growing, or is growing too quickly. I guess I don’t want to belabor this point. Breastfeeding is awesome, it’s best, I wish every mom could do it, but I have seen times when even breastfeeding moms have had problems too, and I put “misuse” myself in quotes on purpose because it’s complicated and I struggled to find the right word. I’ll work on that one 🙂

          • Ashley

            Oh, I certainly know that breastfeeding mothers can have challenges and difficulties, and I know many women who don’t want to breastfeed at all and totally respect them for that. However, young kids need to comfort suck. Bottlefeeding kids use pacifiers, breastfed kids nurse or use a paci. Why is a paci better than the breast? Is it because it’s non-caloric? If so, you should know that, unlike formula, breastmilk consumption peaks in early infancy at 25-30oz and never goes beyond that. Regardless of size, all breastfed kids consume the same amount of milk (Breastfeeding Made Simple and Womanly Art of Breastfeeding discuss this in some depth).

            As for the kid getting larger and larger, there was undoubtedly something else going on. I don’t have stats to back me up, beyond the general knowledge that breastfed children are more likely to be small, due to the tendency to overfeed with formula. Breastfed infants tend to plateau in weight gain at 9 months, which FF don’t. I know several larger kids who nurse quite a lot for their age (my daughter’s best friend who just turned 2, for example) whose weight gain has slowed down significantly in the past year. My own daughter packed on the pounds the first few weeks and then slowed down dramatically, and is now rather petite (and normal, healthy).

            In infancy non-nutritive sucking (comfort nursing) is necessary for maintaining supply, and it is distinctly uncommon for toddlers to have meals at the breast, meaning that your average toddler exclusively comfort nurses. This is ramped up when thirsty, sick, teething, but it’s still fundamentally comfort. As it is normal/healthy/recommended to nurse until 2 or beyond as long as the mother and child want to, comfort nursing is in fact the biological norm, and not “misuse.”

          • katja

            I don’t think toddlers or preschoolers need to suck (paci or breast) to get over emotional upset or a booboo. I guess if folks want to do it and it works for them then that’s fine.

          • katja

            really? regardless of size all bf babies consume the same amount of milk? I admit I’m skeptical. Will have to put this on my list of things to look into.

          • Bobbini

            “If so, you should know that, unlike formula, breastmilk consumption peaks in early infancy at 25-30oz and never goes beyond that.”

            Again, my n is only 2, but both my formula-fed kids peaked around 32-34 ounces per day at about 4 months and never took more than that. So increasing formula intake is by no means a given, especially once solids are introduced. If that weren’t the case, we’d have been bankrupted, between two kids born 18 months apart.

          • Jennifer

            I find the topic of extended nursing quite vague in Ellyn Satter’s work. (Which probably is a good thing since I nursed my kids a long time and it seems that overall she is against nursing past a year. ;)) I also assume she may be vague about not supporting extended nursing so as not to conflict with AAP and WHO guidelines.

            In regards to:

            “I think that a toddler can learn to handle upset and emotions in ways that don’t involve nursing. I think they can learn to differentiate when they need a cuddle vs a hug, vs food.”

            I think nursing is a good way for a toddler to handle frustrations but not if it is the ONLY way they can handle frustrations. I think the toddler age is the time to branch out and find new ways to soothe and cope but, ideally, with the breast to fall back on when things get really tough.

            The only disappointment I have in Ellyn Satter’s work (well almost the only) is her view on breastfeeding. How her opinion differs from mine is very subtle and hard to explain but I just feel like she doesn’t quite fully understand the depth of the role of breastfeeding. She thinks feeding is so important. That feeding is more than eating, feeding is loving and nuturing. I agree with all this but also think that yes, breastfeeding is feeding, but it is also MORE than feeding.

          • katja

            If that’s the only disappointment with her work, then that’s not too bad! I don’t know her particular views of extended breastfeeding, but agree that it is not a topic thoroughly covered. It seems like you found what worked for you and found things that were helpful in Ellyn’s books.
            I would also offer that her books provide a valuable resource (that I haven’t seen elsewhere) to help the multitudes of parents who bottle-feed (either by choice or after major efforts when BFing didn’t work.) There are more and more resources for breastfeeding moms, LC’s, books, blogs, support groups. This is fantastic, and I’d like it to go further in terms of policies in the public and private sector that support moms who breastfeed. However, when I tearfully called my LC to tell her “I failed” and was giving up on BFing after pumping for 10 hours a day for weeks straight, drinking teas, trying every nipple shield etc. I was offered no help or resources. No more support group to go to, no handouts or videos. I bottle-fed how I was taught when I was babysitting at age 12. I would have loved Child of Mine, or some other resources to help me learn to bottle-feed with the DOR. Someone to teach me what cues my daughter would give when she was full, to teach me that tickling her cheek or jiggling the nipple might make her overeat. I think we need to support all moms, and I have not seen elsewhere any help with bottles.
            I agree, BFing is more than feeding. (I will digress here and not address anything directly in your post…)
            I still feel sad when I see a mom breastfeed bc I was not able to do it and have that experience, but a bottle fed baby can have a loving feeding relationship that is fulfilling too. I also won’t accept the poster that said, “Breastfeeding will make your baby smart and healthy!” where the assumption is that bottle feeding won’t. It is so much more complex, and I simply won’t let moms feel like they are abusing their child because they feed formula. (If you, general reader, (not you jennifer) think formula is child abuse, please don’t write in. I don’t want to engage in that debate…)
            Thanks for writing in, and keep checking in! I like that moms are sharing so many different experiences with feeding, and supporting one another on this site.

  11. Ines Anchondo

    Thank you for this very thorough book review, Katja. Very interesting.

  12. Ashley

    Hi Katja, I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and I love it. I’m a breastfeeding peer counselor and mother of one 19 month old who’s been advocating for the DOR and accordingly did baby-led weaning. I also send several of your articles around to the mothers I talk to. Many of your criticisms of baby-led weaning are evidently due to your relative lack of knowledge about breastfeeding.

    For whatever reason, there is quite the gulf in feeding practices between those who bottle feed and those who breastfeed. I don’t agree with it, but it’s how it is. I believe many of your criticisms of baby-led weaning (which is typically practiced by breastfeeding mothers) are due to your better understanding of bottle feeding practices.

    For example, you say above that baby-led weaning wrongly advocates for feeding toddlers whenever they ask, and as a breastfeeding mother I know this is more compatible with the realities of breastfeeding. Neither you nor Ellyn Satter mention at what age one should be restricting food to family meals and one or two schedule snacks; I always assumed this was for older kids. In an ideal world a child is breastfed on demand until they are weaned; accordingly it makes more sense for a young toddler to be fed snacks on demand. Scheduled solids make more sense for a child used to scheduled feedings, which is typically true of the bottle fed infant. As my daughter gets older, I plan to transition her to more scheduled snacking, but she’s frankly way too young for that now.

    One criticism I have of ideal breastfeeding practice is nursing immediately before solids in the younger months. As we did baby-led weaning (mostly because purees are messier and harder to deal with and I’m lazy), my daughter ate solids at meals with us, regardless of when she had last nursed. This did no damage to our nursing relationship whatsoever, which is the fear that causes that recommendation.

    While it is certainly possible to bottle feed and be in tune with your baby, unfortunately overfeeding is a common problem with bottles. Not sure how or why as I have little experience with them.

    Lastly I really have to call into question the concern about iron levels in young toddlers. It seems to me that it is universally believed that all breastfed infants are iron deficient by 6 months, which I find absurd. It doesn’t make evolutionary sense. How are the normal levels determined? Are they based off of behavior, growth, or comparison to babies taking iron-fortified formula? Moreover the near universal recommendation that babies take an iron supplement concerns me. Some people (like myself) are extremely intolerant to iron supplements; it is possible to overdose on iron with just mild supplementation. I wonder how many babies are getting very ill each year, and I’m talking nausea, fatigue, light headedness (my symptoms) because of this ill-advised recommendation.

    • Heidi

      “For example, you say above that baby-led weaning wrongly advocates for feeding toddlers whenever they ask, and as a breastfeeding mother I know this is more compatible with the realities of breastfeeding. Neither you nor Ellyn Satter mention at what age one should be restricting food to family meals and one or two schedule snacks; I always assumed this was for older kids. In an ideal world a child is breastfed on demand until they are weaned; accordingly it makes more sense for a young toddler to be fed snacks on demand.”

      This is an excellent point, Ashley. At six months, a breastfed baby is fed on demand, at least in an ideal world, which I believe is most compatible with the idea of listening to hunger cues and responding to them, so it makes sense that they would also be offered snacks, etc. when they say they’re hungry.

      Truth be told, I still offer my son food when he’s hungry, and he’s four and a half years old – we do not have set snack times. If I know dinner is coming up, I make it a smaller snack and let him know that he will have dinner in X amount of time. It has always felt to me that acknowledging his hunger, and responding to it, is the best way of encouraging him to continue listening to his body’s hunger cues. After all, as an adult, if I’m hungry, I eat – why should I treat my child any differently?

      He self-regulates beautifully, generally asking for a snack at just the point between meals when I’d offer him one anyway.

      • Ashley

        For the most part, solids are on a bit of a schedule. My 19 month old will sit down at all 3 meals with us, and be offered what we’re having. If she asks for something else specifically, I’ll give it to her. If she’s done and wants to play, she can leave. She rarely has a morning snack as we don’t do breakfast until at least 8:30. She has a snack after she gets up from her nap, and often if dinner is running late she’ll want another one. Sometimes she has enough for a meal at that point and then nibbles at dinner, whatever. I expect this to be a bit more structured as she gets older, but I’m not going to refuse my 1.5 year old food when she asks. Just too young for it.

        And, so far, eating in general has been wildly successful. We didn’t push solids, so she didn’t really start eating meals until 9 months (introduced at 5). She has a wide palate, will eat anything we give her if she’s in the mood, and is quite healthy overall. Oh, and still breastfed on demand 🙂

    • Bobbini

      “While it is certainly possible to bottle feed and be in tune with your baby, unfortunately overfeeding is a common problem with bottles. Not sure how or why as I have little experience with them.”

      As someone who bottle-fed two kids, I’ll weigh in.

      While it’s certainly easy to “push” food with a bottle, it’s by no means a foregone conclusion. Just as breastfed babies are nursed on demand, my kids were offered formula from a bottle based on their hunger cues. During their early years, I probably poured hundreds of dollars worth of formula down the drain, because my kiddos didn’t want to finish the bottle. It didn’t matter. If they were done, they were done.

      Bottle feeding at our house was done with the baby or toddler in-arms or in a sling. Formula was never served in anything but a bottle, and the bottle was used exclusively with formula–other drinks were introduced in sippy cups. In fact, thanks to the sling, there was no temptation for us to prop the bottle.

      So it’s actually quite easy to bottle-feed a child according to his/her hunger cues, follow the division of responsibility and not overfeed. One can even incorporate baby-led weaning practices. (One of my favorite pictures of my son is him gnawing on a well-picked duck drumstick at his first Thanksgiving.) We also did spoon feeding for many months, which neither kid accepted past a certain point.

      The take-away for me from all this is that paying attention to your child is more critical than the shape or source of the food he/she eats.

      • katja

        love this. Thank you! Does make you wonder if resources are slim and formula is expensive about how tempting it would be not to waste the formula… There are ways, other than trying to get the kid to finish it that can ameliorate waste, Thanks again!
        “The take-away for me from all this is that paying attention to your child is more critical than the shape or source of the food he/she eats.”

      • Ashley

        Thanks for this. I’m lucky in that almost all of my friends and family breastfeed, so I don’t really know what bottlefeeding looks like beyond the basics. Going into parenting I believed that breast vs. bottle didn’t really matter as they were just a way to feed a kid. As my daughter got older and I met more people, saw different doctors, I noticed that there was a set of behaviors common to breastfeeding, and a set common to bottle feeding. It’s nice to know that that’s just cultural and not inherent.

        • katja

          I noticed that there was a set of behaviors common to breastfeeding, and a set common to bottle feeding. It’s nice to know that that’s just cultural and not inherent

          I’m not sure what you are referring to?

          • Ashley

            Breastfeeding: on demand, usually every 2 hours. First solids are mashed up banana, avocado, or other fruit or baby led weaning. Infant cereals are almost never used. Solids usually aren’t started until 6 months or later (I started at 5 and that was early for most of my cohort)

            Bottlefeeding: scheduled feeds, usually every 3 or 4 hours. Pacifier use. Solids introduced at 4 months, sometimes earlier, almost always infant cereal. At 12 months weaning from formula to cows milk, so that a significant portion of the diet is still liquid (as opposed to ideally breastfed kids who nurse through the second year). Purees last longer, more concern about how much the child is eating, overfeeding is common.

            I use ideal breastfeeding to denote habits normal to breastfeeding infants, as opposed to common US practices which transfer many of the bottlefeeding standards to breastfeeding. If you can think of a better term (average and normal would make most think of common US practice, which is based on formula standards) I’d love to use it.

          • katja

            well, we maybe see different mommas. I see both breast and bottle fed mashing their own foods, I see both buying prepared foods, I have clients who have breastfed who agonized over every ounce of weight gain, who pushed and pressured who would call me while chasing their 18 month old around the house trying to get them to eat more… I guess I’ve seen it all, but I am sure you are right that there are likely to be some basic differences. Moms who breastfeed for 2 years I imagine tend to stay at home more, tend to be more educated, have access to more financial and possibly interpersonal resources, be able to afford avocados and more variety of foods etc. It is nice that WIC now offers more variety of foods. it’s all pretty complicated.
            We need to do a better job educating and supporting all moms, as I see so many struggling and stressed about feeding/growth/weight/picky eating etc. I’m seeing lots of interference with feeding in terms of portions/amounts/nutrition fears across the board. I think breastfeeding, and BLW are nice in that they do emphasize trusting the child to decide how much to eat, but the trust, the DOR is the key. In two studies, 85% and 90% of parents respectively push their kindergarten aged kids to eat more, don’t believe them when they say they are full. (the “two more bites” line…) We can teach all moms to respect the DOR…

        • Amanda

          Breastfeeding: on demand, usually every 2 hours. First solids are mashed up banana, avocado, or other fruit or baby led weaning. Infant cereals are almost never used. Solids usually aren’t started until 6 months or later (I started at 5 and that was early for most of my cohort)

          Bottlefeeding: scheduled feeds, usually every 3 or 4 hours. Pacifier use. Solids introduced at 4 months, sometimes earlier, almost always infant cereal. At 12 months weaning from formula to cows milk, so that a significant portion of the diet is still liquid (as opposed to ideally breastfed kids who nurse through the second year). Purees last longer, more concern about how much the child is eating, overfeeding is common.

          (Sorry to put the reply here, there was no reply tag after the actual comment!)
          Ashley, you make a lot of untrue assumptions here, assumptions that I guess are based on the people you have met and interacted with. Just to balance your perception some: I hail from the overeducated, green, liberal hamlet of Boston; I have two kids and am very active in many local family and parent groups, etc. Out of the 50 or so moms with infants and young toddlers I interact with regularly, I can think of very few who are/were formula feeders–I am still struggling with “figuring out” how to supplement with formula in a large part because of that–and I literally know NO ONE who has undertaken “baby-led weaning” as described here. I’d also say the vast majority of moms I know introduced rice cereal mixed with breastmilk as a first food before moving on to avocado, peas, sweet potatoes, etc. I see pacifiers more often than not, especially considering the data on how they may contribute to the reduction of SIDS. (My own kids would never take them, though!) Many people do stop breastfeeding at around 12 months, so many breastfed babies switch to cow’s milk at that time (my son still won’t touch it unless it’s chocolate!) When solids are introduced is kind of all over the map, from what I’ve seen.

          As a random aside, I’d say that more than half of the moms I speak of also wear their babies and use cloth diapers. I’d say the same about making homemade baby food instead of buying it.

          I’m really not sure why you believe that purees last longer with bottlefed children, or that overfeeding is common, so I can’t speak to those issues. I wonder, though; if your breastfeeding peer educator work is for an organization like WIC, and you therefore tend to interact primarily with people of a specific socioeconomic status? (Not that there is anything wrong with that at all, but people who use WIC generally have other challenges they must address that can bring about different behaviors…jobs that make it impossible to breastfeed, caregivers who are less willing to accommodate special requests, etc.)

          Just some thoughts. I feel badly that you seem to have a picture in your head of breastfeeding mothers being informed and therefore adhering to the same behavior as you, while bottle-feeding mothers behave differently from you and thus must not be informed. The issues are more complicated than that, and each family (and each child in each family, for that matter!) has its own set of needs.

          • katja

            thanks for this Amanda, this is my experience with my moms group and many of my clients and workshop attendees, but I don’t see the most diverse population directly, though I do workshops for WIC educators…
            If you’d like some ideas of supplementing with formula, give me an email from the contact list… I’m happy to shoot off a quick email no charge (I usually do this if the issue is fairly straight-forward.
            I actually lost sleep about this thread last night. I am not a lactation expert, and I did not breastfeed beyond the first several weeks in spite of what felt like herculean effort. These issues for some reason take on a certain tone that troubles me. We are all moms doing our best, and we all need support. Thanks for your input and letting us know how it is where you are .:)

          • Ashley

            I’m basing my observations off of people I know and the literature I read. If all of that’s wrong, glad to know.

            I personally have never seen a bottle fed baby overfed, but the literature does show pretty conclusively that it’s a common practice. How that works, or why, I’m not sure.

            As for purees vs. BLW in bottlefed vs. breastfed infants, there is a significant difference in advice from the sources geared towards one of the other. For example, What to Expect and the AAP manual on how to raise your child suggest rice cereal and other purees as ideal first foods. Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding Made Simple promote BLW. WIC gives oodles of purees, but not so much finger foods for babies.

            I don’t have a single negative view towards mothers who make different choices. At no point did I say that my choices were more informed and other choices less so, nor did I ever suggest it. I simply made an observation that is true for my area and experience, but might not reflect the larger population.

            Additionally, I know plenty of breastfeeding mothers who push food and otherwise don’t follow the DOR. And of the relatively few formula feeding mothers I know, I’ve never seen them push food on their kids. Admittedly I know many more breastfeeding moms than FF ones.

  13. sarah

    Thank you for this review! My 2nd child is nearly 6 months old and we have already started a few solids (before 6 mos:::gasp:::::), which is earlier than I had originally anticipated, mostly b/c he seemed “ready.” I wanted to try BLW but like you, had a few concerns about going whole hog (so to speak) with it! We went ahead and started with just a couple of purees like banana and sweet potato. Each time we spoon feed him, I wonder if we are somehow going to screw him up (even though our 1st child, a 3 yr old, has gone from being a good eater to a GREAT eater, thanks to the DOR we’ve recently implemented!). It’s reassuring, once again, to hear that balance is best.

    • katja

      So glad you’re finding what works for you! We do need to do what we are comfortable with. BLW seems different to me only for a few months, that 6-8 or 9 month period. I guess my point is do what feels comfortable while not pushing spoon feeding and following the DOR… I think if you follow his cues, you will not screw him up either way, but I hear you! I worry too 🙂

  14. Amanda

    I find it strange that the book would demonize spoon-feeding…a loving caregiver offering soft food on a spoon seems like a natural transition from (and accompaniment to) a loving caregiver offering nourishment from a breast or a bottle. I agree, the assumption that all parents/caregivers “push” with a spoon is probably behind that sort of thinking. Offering is not pushing.

    As you said, what works depends on the individual baby/family. My 9-month-old is all about finger foods now, but she has no teeth, so I do have to limit what I can safely offer her. I would not feel comfortable offering her a large chunk of meat or anything that had not been well-cooked, and a fearful or stressed-out mother is not going to make for an enjoyable or pleasant eating experience!

    The assumptions behind statements like the one about being unable to adequately follow your child’s cues when bottle-feeding disturb me, as well–assumptions that everyone has not just the physical ability but the emotional support and work/life situation to be able to breastfeed. That’s just not true, and it’s a bit classist to assume it is. I am a giant breastfeeding proponent, I think everyone *should* breastfeed. But, although I successfully nursed my son until he self-weaned at 27 months old, my supply cut out when my daughter was about 7 months old, and nothing I did would restore it to where it needed to be. (Consults with LC’s, fenugreek, pumping around the clock, nothing.) If someone like me; a middle-class mom who is home with her children and has access to plenty of healthcare and emotional-type resources; encounters a situation where she has to supplement, it can certainly happen to anyone. Painting bottle-feeding as inherently pushy and “not-tuned-in-to-your-child” is damaging. Why not offer tools–suggestions as to how bottle-feeding parents can be MORE tuned-in–instead of dismissing the entire action as inherently inferior?

    • katja

      Offering is not pushing. Thanks for this. I agree…
      The assumptions behind statements like the one about being unable to adequately follow your child’s cues when bottle-feeding disturb me, as well–assumptions that everyone has not just the physical ability but the emotional support and work/life situation to be able to breastfeed. That’s just not true, and it’s a bit classist to assume it is. I am a giant breastfeeding proponent, I think everyone *should* breastfeed. But, although I successfully nursed my son until he self-weaned at 27 months old, my supply cut out when my daughter was about 7 months old, and nothing I did would restore it… I agree…
      Why not offer tools–suggestions as to how bottle-feeding parents can be MORE tuned-in–instead of dismissing the entire action as inherently inferior?
      I agree. As I said, it is EASIER to push with the bottle, but not a necessity. We need to teach parents to follow cues. Ellyn’s new videos has great segments showing parents who are pushy with the bottle. I think parents need to see it or specifically be helped as much with bottle as breast feeding. If someone is struggling with breast feeding, there are wonderful supports (for many) like LCs (I had a great one!) But we don’t teach or support moms who are bottle-feeding for whatever reason. I have observed moms bottle-feeding and helped and they need help too. Bottle-fed parents can be taught what cues to look for and when to stop. I know when I was taught as a sitter how to bottle feed, I was specifically taught all the tips to get the baby to eat more by the parents. Jiggle the nipple, feed while sleeping, pull the nipple in and out of the mouth , all to stimulate suckling. We can teach folks NOT to do those things too…

  15. Kate

    Third time trying to comment (this is getting frustrating!)

    1) Can you please link me to your thoughtful review on why spoonfeeding is beneficial? I really just seems like the thing you do because everybody does it (and everybody does it because food manufacturers invented it). BLW is what they do in places that haven’t gotten that profit-driving message yet. A lot of this review just seems like defensive justification why people did it. Where do you finally allow your child to choose what and how much to eat if you start with spoonfeeding? I guess I’m confused because I’ve just always taught my daughter that nothing goes in her mouth without her putting it there.

    2) Why the bugaboo about iron? I know it’s an important nutrient, but why am I getting slammed with information about it everywhere? Even in this review, somebody says she was concerned about her daughter getting enough iron. I’m all for it if it’s needed, but my daughter never had a vitamin or fortified foods and has had fantastic numbers when tested.

    3) What’s with the worry about them not eating enough? Breastmilk (or formula) should still be the primary nutrient source. If kids aren’t interested in solids, they just breastfeed or take more formula.

    • katja

      Kate, so sorry you had trouble. I will keep an eye out. The good news is you got two comments in 🙂 I agree that just because everyone does something doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be critical, and plenty of folks get into trouble with spoon-feeding because it is easier to get pushy. BLW helps with the getting pushy part, but so does DOR… Many folks do purees or mash up foods because it’s what their parents did, not just because of food manufacturers (yes, they do push, and no one really needs stage 2 or 3 jarred baby foods…) my mother after the war was fed mashed up table foods from a spoon partly. She was also teething on stale bread crusts and chicken bones. She gave one to my daughter who promptly gnawed off a spiky chunk of bone… Many cultures also pre-chew foods and feed them to their children, which is a puree of sorts, but I don’t advocate doing that… This is complex, and I suppose I’m saying that there is not just one right way of doing things. The feeder has to be comfortable and informed and tuned in to the baby who can take a lead role BLW or with spoon feeding…
      Even with spoonfeeding she is from the start in charge of how much and if she eats. The baby can be in control. Maybe you’ve not seen that happen before, but it can.
      2) I agree on some level about the iron bugaboo. I’m not an expert on the topic, but in the study of BMW babies, only 2% of the kids were having meat. It could be an issue. I DO know, that the public health folks here are seeing an alarming rise of clinically relevant anemia in infants and young toddlers, to the point of needing blood transfusions. It IS a real concern, again perhaps more for certain populations than others. i think we need to be thoughtful and critical though, so I appreciate that much of the vitamin recommendations are guesswork, and for a parent who is well-nourished and breasfeeding and offering a variety of foods, I wouldn’t panic.
      3) I don’t think I worried about not eating enough if you read my analysis. I think most parents worry WAY to much about getting certain amounts of solids in. We probably agree here. Solids in the first 3 months or so is about learning and experiencing and having opportunities, not about getting a certain amount in. But, children need the opportunity, and I have seen breastfed babies who were not fed in developmentally appropriate ways. (Breastfed with little intro to solids…)
      It’s complex, but it can be fun, rewarding and kids can thrive BLW or with a spoon. I guess I would also wonder where the review on spoon-feeding with the DOR being harmful is?
      Thanks for your comments!

  16. Kate

    I guess I just don’t see the point of spoon feeding at all. I have yet to see any argument that it actually helps with anything. It just seems to be something you do because everybody does it.

    Also…why the weird bugaboo about iron (even several times in this review)? Iron supplements for breastfed babies, iron fortified formula, iron fortified cereals…and all without any actual evidence that a particular child has a deficiency. People were pushing me on this issue from all angles. Then we had her tested and she had fantastic levels. I just don’t understand why this seems to be the big argument against BLW that I see all the time.

    • katja

      see above for some comments. I’m sorry you were pushed on iron. I know clinicians see the horror stories, the true outliers, but it certainly is up to the parents about supplements etc. Sounds like your little one is doing great! I’ll have to do more research on iron deficiency… I know my daughter should be taking Vitamin D supplement in the winter in the north here, and we do about 3 times a week remember, but she eats a fantastic variety of foods, and I guess I don’t worry too much about it. My Mom after the war had almost no calcium food sources until she was 6 and her teeth and bone density is fantastic at age 70, so there is a lot we don’t know about vitamins and minerals, genetic interplay, food balance, activity etc…

    • Heidi

      I tend to agree with this, Kate. We did a combination of BLW and spoon-feeding with my son (mostly because it wasn’t worth it to me to make BLW-friendly foods to take to daycare with him three days a week, and my MIL, who had him one day a week, wanted to spoon-feed). Frankly, BLW worked brilliantly for us and I don’t think most BLW parents are anti-spoons. What I loved about BLW was that it encouraged my son to explore textures and flavors from the very beginning in a way that I really don’t feel purees do. It was SO much easier on me to just feed him what we ate.

      • katja

        thanks Heidi for sharing what worked for you. Way to follow his cues and do what worked for your situation. I don’t know how most BLW parents feel about spoons, but the book definitely came off as very anti-spoon to me. Why waste time being “anti” anything? We should be pro best feeding in every circumstance for that family… Love that BLW worked for you! By 8, 9 months, even the spoon-fed baby is mostly doing it him or herself and is in essence BL. Right? Not? I love hearing from moms 🙂

  17. Limor

    I think that looking at each child as an individual is key when it comes to any parenting choice/method, not just feeding. I know so many moms who have one picky eater and one kid who will literally eat anything. I also agree with you that spoon feeding doesn’t have to equal force feeding. My DD, who was never picky, just didn’t like to feed herself. She didn’t like the way the food felt in her hands when she touched it, but she loved being spoon fed. When she didn’t want any more she would simply not open her mouth, or turn her head away. That’s when we stopped the feeding.

    It’s so important to be tuned in to our children’s cues. One method might work for one child, but it doesn’t always translate across the board to all, or even most children.

    • katja

      This is a lovely post. Your point of respecting the child is critical. Many children are hyper-sensitive about mess on their hands, but you provided her with a loving, respectful way of being introduced to taste and texture and participating in family meals. Also great examples of how you can read the cues of a spoon-fed baby. If you’re having to play games to get a child to eat a bite, or turn on the TV or distract in other ways, something is not right!


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