I try to parent with a mind for what is most natural. I breastfeed, I practice EC (Elimination Communication), we converted to cloth diapers when Kaius was only 8 weeks, we happily co sleep, and I have breastfed full-time since the moment he was born. A few months ago, I started thinking about how I would go about introducing foods into my baby‘s diet. It wasn’t that I felt like I NEEDED to begin solids; it was more the pressure of society’s expectations that a baby would begin to eat between 4-6 months. Everywhere we went, strangers seemed to think that I should start feeding Kaius baby cereal followed by pureed ‘Stage 1’ baby foods. I would politely brush aside their comments choosing to rely upon my mother’s intuition. I felt that Kaius had no need for solids and was perfectly content with our breastfeeding relationship. Selfishly, I hated the idea of Kaius getting nourishment from any source other than my own body. I loved those milky moments of new motherhood and though I knew they would eventually have to involve food as well as milk, I was willing to wait until Kaius let me know that he needed more.
Now that Kaius is nearing 6.5 months and has achieved the following milestones: sitting without support (and pulling himself into a sitting position on his own), has two teeth with a third making it’s presence known, mimics a chewing motion whenever I eat in front of him, grabs food off my plate, no longer pushes a spoon out of his mouth, and has a good start on the “pincer grip”, I have once again started to contemplate the introduction of solids. Over the past two months, I have researched the various guidelines for food introduction, and I have found one frame of thought that agrees with my mothering philosophy: Baby-Led Solids.
The philosophy behind Baby-led Solids is that a baby will get most or all of its nourishment from breast milk alone throughout the first 12 months of his life. When a baby begins to illustrate his desire for food, it is more a desire to play with food and learn through this play how to feed himself. Baby will be able to eat most of the same foods as his parents and can take an active role in the family mealtimes. The Breastfeeding relationship will be preserved by avoiding the accidental overfeeding (and therefore fullness) that can result from spoon feeding.
Basically, we will present Kaius with foods from our own plates that are soft, easy to hold, and pose little choking hazard. He will then experiment with them however he sees fit. If he is hungry, then he will learn to move the food from his tray to his mouth, chew, and swallow. If he is full, then he will not be accidentally forced to eat because there will be no spoon feeding involved. For me, the greatest benefit will be the preservation of our breastfeeding relationship. I’m not sure how I’ll feel in a year or so, but for now, I don’t want to lessen any of those precious nursing moments by even one feeding.