Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy Of Pediatrics recommend exclusively breastfeeding your infant for the first six months. As you approach this milestone, you’re probably thinking about introducing solids to baby. There are two ‘schools of thought’ regarding the the addition of complementary foods. Feeding milled cereals and puréed foods by spoon is the traditional approach. Another way to offer solids is through Baby Led Weaning (BLW). This style encourages baby to feed herself and skip the spoon, completely. The following is a guide to help you learn about, and decide if, a baby-led approach is right for your family.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
BLW is a theory originated by Gill Rapley, a British health nurse. The word ‘weaning’ is the UK equivalent of Americans saying ‘starting solids’. With BLW, you forgo spoon feeding, a parent initiated method, and trust your baby to nourish herself, a baby initiated approach
When is my baby ready to feed herself?
Spoon feeding is so popular and almost unchallenged in our culture. Many families choose to introduce solids prior to six months. Before this age, babies are not developmentally ready to feed themselves. With BLW, you wait until baby is developmentally ready to eat. When your infant reaches the following milestones, she is ready to start exploring food:
is at least six months of age
has lost the tongue thrust reflex
can sit with little or no assistance
reaches and bring objects to her mouth accurately
shows focused interest in food and your eating
Why choose BLW?
It’s progressive and instinctual! A baby initiated approach to food is an extension of breastfeeding. A healthy, full-term baby can feed herself as soon as she is born. Baby tells you when she is hungry, she nurses at her pace, and knows when she is full. BLW builds on this philosophy and applies it to complementary foods. This style is also easier. Your baby enjoys the foods you cook for the entire family. There is no need to prepare separate recipes for you infant.
How safe is BLW?
‘I am worried my baby will choke on food!’ The BLW philosophy makes sense in theory, but many parents are nervous to try this approach for fear of choking. BLW is as safe, or safer than traditional spoon feeding. As long as your baby is ready to feed herself, as listed above, she can engage in BLW.
What food should baby eat?
For safety, foods should be served in large chunks that baby can easily grasp in hand. These are a good start:
Soft fruits cut in big pieces – bananas, peaches, ripe melon, avocado
My guest on the blog today is Austin Rees. Austin is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and a Certified Babywearing Consultant through the Center for Babywearing Studies. She is the owner of Breast+Skin+Sling, and the co-founder of Sacred Milk. Austin prepares mothers prenatally with the foundations of breastfeeding, skin-to-skin, and babywearing. She facilitates personalized ceremonies to celebrate life’s transitions. Austin also provides one-on-one babywearing consultations in our community. (featured image credit: Kate’s Takes)
It is common today for parents to take a birthing class. Why should parents seek out a breastfeeding and babywearing class before the baby arrives?
An out of hospital birth class is essential to gaining the information on how to facilitate the process of birth and know your choices in birth. Skin-to-skin, and the breast crawl (infant independently moves to the breast to nurse) occurs immediately after birth. Understanding how to facilitate this instinctual experience before the birth is beneficial. I find mothers profit from the knowledge and foundations of how Milk works, the importance of skin-to-skin, along with an understanding of the normal newborn before the baby arrives. With this knowledge I have witnessed mothers step into motherhood trusting their bodies, their babies, and their Milk. I help mothers discover their innate instincts and wisdom so they enter their unique Milk relationship secure, confident, supported, and connected to their baby. Armed with the knowledge of how to initiate a good start is key to avoiding difficulties. I observed working with mothers postpartum that a majority of the issues they experienced could have been prevented if they had the proper information before the baby arrived. Babywearing can also start immediately, and knowing how to comfortably and confidently use a carrier can be a valuable tool.
Babywearing is commonly seen around the city. How would you react if you see someone wearing a baby improperly while at the store?
I am always excited to see another parent or caregiver wearing their baby while I am out. I usually try to make eye contact or say, “It’s great to see you wearing your baby.” If I notice someone wearing their baby and the straps are twisted, or it does not look to the carrier direction guidelines I may observe to see if they are interested in striking up a conversation. When I engage with someone who is wearing I ask how they feel. If they are happy and comfortable, I praise their excitement. If they say this is great, but xyz, I will share some babywearing tips that may help that situation. motherblessing baltimore
On your website it lists you offer facilitating ceremonies for families in the DC/MD/VA area. What are some reasons for someone to reach out to you to create a ceremony for themselves or someone else?
I enjoy designing personalized ceremonies to create a circle of support for someone. I have been facilitating Mother Blessings for pregnant or adopting women for 10 years. In place of a traditional baby shower, a Mother Blessing is a special ceremony designed to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate a woman’s journey into Motherhood. Family, friends, and mothers contact me to create a ceremony and provide a loving place where the honored mother can explore the challenges and joys that lie before her as she approaches childbirth or adoption, and mothering her first or multiple children.
I also facilitate Birth Story Ceremonies; a place where a mother can experience deep listening, and allow the power of sharing her story to heal, celebrate, grieve, release, process and acknowledge her experience, her journey. These are designed to make way for the mother to experience her birth story. We open our heart and commit our undivided attention to her. This allows her to fully express her experience, reflect upon it, and take the steps she needs to move forward. We step aside and create a safe space so she has complete control, and unconditional support.
A Weaning Ceremony is a time we can come together to honor a Mother’s Milk relationship. We make way for the mother to experience her Milk story by opening our heart and committing our undivided attention. This allows her to fully express her experience, reflect upon it, and take the steps she needs to move forward. We step aside and create a safe space so she has complete control, and unconditional support.
I also create customized ceremonies. Recently I designed one for a special woman who was about to undergo radiation for breast cancer. We designed activities that supported releasing fears, created personal power, and we weaved a web of support, pledging our assistance throughout her treatment and beyond.
Sacred Milk is a sister program under the Sacred Living Movement. Can you share what is the Sacred Living Movement, and more about your involvement with Sacred Milk and Sacred Pregnancy? Sacred Milk Baltimore
Photo credit: Kalimana Birth Films
The Sacred Living Movement acknowledges all aspects of our life’s journey need to be honored, and embraced with reverence and respect. The Sacred Living Movement was designed to bring back the age-old tradition of women sitting with one another during a time of transition, witnessing each other’s process and BEING there for one another. We have a local, active Sacred Living Movement Maryland group.
Sara Goff and I created Sacred Milk after attending a Sacred Pregnancy retreat. Sacred Milk is a movement inspiring women to trust their bodies, their baby’s and their Milk. Our mission is to nourish the wholeness of each mother’s journey and shift our culture to see Milk as a holistic practice, rather than simply a feeding choice. In the last century our culture has been saturated by marketing that has conditioned us to see breasts as sexual, and human milk as just a food source. The Journey to Milk program is focused on opening space for women to remember their innate wisdom and then surround themselves with a supportive community. Milk is instinctual, natural, normal, and necessary. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or filled with bliss. Milk is not something that can be fully learned from a book or taught on the internet. Milk cannot be told. Milk must be modeled, supported and nourished in community because it is a way of living not a way of feeding.
I recently co-hosted a Sacred Pregnancy + Sacred Milk 2-day mini retreat for pregnant mothers in our community. It was a gorgeous event full of women showing up and witnessing to each other. In September I will be facilitating a retreat to certify Sacred Pregnancy instructors in Nashville, TN. I am excited for more women to have the option to attend these classes or retreats prenatally.
Austin is such wonderful resource for mothers and families in our area and has such a beautiful way of bringing our community together. If you are looking for breastfeeding or babywearing education in the Baltimore or surrounding area, you can contact Austin here.
Having a new baby can be a very challenging time for some mothers and their families. Mom may be healing from surgery or a difficult birth. Dad or partner may not be able to take any time off work, or maybe he travels a lot. Some families don’t live in the same area as their extended family, so they may have minimal family support. Perhaps they have other young children that need tending to while mom is healing. Maybe they just need help stocking the empty fridge.
Many families are finding comfort and support through postpartum doulas. While a birth doula supports families emotionally and physically during labor and delivery, a postpartum doula supports families after their baby arrives. Postpartum doulas support Baltimore families in a variety of ways. Their tasks may vary depending on the family’s needs, but ultimately the doula will help ease the family’s transition with baby, and help keep their home afloat while they recover from birth and bond with their growing family.
Postpartum doulas help families with light housekeeping, meal prep, sibling care, overnight support, errand running, and more. Just imagine…
crawling into a bed with freshly changed sheets to nurse and nap with your new baby.
waking up from your nap to a warm, nutritious lunch and a clean kitchen.
a walked and fed dog.
a happy toddler who is fed and playing happily.
a stocked fridge and picked-up dry-cleaning hanging in the closet.
that nursery furniture you never got around to putting together is now assembled and in its perfect place.
nursing your baby and out of nowhere appears a glass of lemon water and a healthy snack.
being frustrated with breastfeeding and receiving accurate information and troubleshooting tips, as well as a referral to the best IBCLCs in the area, who we have personally vetted.
having help learning how to use that nifty new baby carrier.
having clean and folded laundry for your entire family.
having a nap or taking a hot soak in the tub while your doula lovingly takes care of your sweet new baby and children.
We can do all of that. We can take care of you.
By offering non-judgmental support, families feel safe asking questions related to breastfeeding, baby care, and postpartum wellness. Mothers and families feel secure knowing they can take the deserved time to rest and bond with baby while their doula keeps their home running smoothly. Our postpartum doulas support Baltimore families with passion, compassion, and expertise.
Today’s guest blog post comes to your from Paige Barocca of Baltimore Birth Services. Paige serves the families in our community as a birth doula and a babywearing advocate.
I’ve been an avid babywearer since the birth of my son in 2012. Like choosing the breastfeed, babywearing was just something that I knew I would do from the start. There were many reasons why I knew I would be wearing my baby. After wearing one baby into toddlerhood and starting all over again with my baby girl, I have come to realize that being a babywearing mama has taught me some unexpected lessons. First, I want to share three of my initial intentions when wrapping that first baby to my chest.
Babywearing deepens the bond between parent and baby.
Wearing your baby can be as calming and blissful as a good swaddle, with the added benefit of being snug right up to your chest. Sometimes I would even wear my baby skin to skin, under a robe or open sweater. To your baby, nothing beats that familiar smell and unmatchable warmth of a mother. Recreating the close quarters of a womb and combining that with human touch (dads too!) really is the perfect recipe to keeping that baby calm. This is especially helpful for breastfeeding moms, babies love the smell of mama’s milk, and what better way to encourage breastfeeding than resting near the source? Not to mention that fathers who may be wanting to connect with their newborns (and give mom a break!) can also do so through babywearing between feeding and during naps.
Babywearing meets your baby’s needs while allowing you to meet yours.
While your baby is cozy in the nest you made them on your chest, your hands can be free. I certainly don’t recommend doing housework immediately postpartum, but eating a meal (that someone else prepared you) is a lot easier with two hands! I’ve found this to be particularly helpful the second time around, while chasing around big brother. Speaking of toddlers, I can’t think of a better way to keep a busy babe happy and out of trouble in a grocery store- my son stayed strapped on my back every trip until the next was born! From doing your nails to walking the dogs, wearing your baby can give you that freedom that many new mothers feel they have lost.
Babywearing brings baby to the action.
Newborns sleep a lot, and usually at odd times! Getting in the habit of putting them down or tucking them away removes them from social situations. More so, if you have a baby that likes to be held, and very few don’t, you may find yourself removed from social situations as your arms become an immovable bed for your sleeping beauty. When you wear your baby, your baby goes with you, typically undisturbed by movement or change in environment. If your baby is awake, being worn can give baby a chance to see people interact at eye level, providing more social perks than being on the ground with a bunch of toys. I have worn my baby to busy restaurants, parties, meetings, you name it and we’ve been there.
Now for the juicy part. What are the life lessons that await any future babywearers? Spoiler Alert! Here are my surprise extras that I gained just for being a mama with a wrap.
Babywearing gave me confidence!
Babywearing is not totally difficult, you can choose to strap a baby in a backpack and call it a day. I really never loved the fit of a backpack on my petite body, or a sling on one shoulder, so my go-to style has always been a wrap. Choosing to wrap was easy, learning to wrap was tougher, and being confident in my skills, as well as my maternal instincts, took time! It was a while before I would use my wrap in a parking lot, or wrap without a mirror. As with every skill, I began to take pride in myself and this special talent that I could share with my babies.
Babywearing builds a village!
I have met so many wonderful friends through my love of babywearing and the style of parenting it represents. When wrapping, I often have strangers encouraging me, asking if I need any assistance. More than once I’ve had someone literally ask if they could just stand and watch me do it. (Again, talk about confidence boosting!) I’m often met with questions from new mothers about how I do it and where can they learn? Just today at the park I sparked a conversation with another mom as she asked, “How do you get her down from there?” I’ve become a teacher and supporter of my community simply by going outside with my baby! Babywearing has opened to doors to so many new adventures and introduced me to a number of beautiful people who now remain a big part of my life.
Babywearing does not look the same on everyone!
When I first set out to babywear, I went out and bought some fabric and sewed it all together. I came to realize there is a whole community of babywearers who do things all sorts of ways. This can be intimidating because some serious wrappers will spend oodles of money on one hand-woven, “dear-in-search-of”. Yes, that is a term! Although they are beautiful, and I have a few moderately priced wraps, the wrap I tend to reach for the most is an Ikea sheet that I chopped in half. The response I get when I wear my sheet is just as grand (if not more!) then when I wear my Girasol Amitola Azafaran weft. Furthermore, there are so many different carriers! There are slings, and buckles, and mei tais, oh my! There are as many ways to wear your baby as there are reasons to wear them. Just like everything else in parenting, no single one is better than the rest, you just have to pick what works best for you!
Nurture. Compassion. Intention. All of these are vital components when connecting with another form of life. Infant massage is one of the best ways to start introducing this lesson to our young ones. It’s such a fabulous way to initiate bonding between parent and infant. What I love about infant massage is that it benefits all parents and babies, including those with special needs. Infant massage is a remarkable resource for birth parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, single parents, and other caregivers being a part of an infant’s development.
As an infant massage instructor, one of the biggest impacts I have seen has truly been from witnessing fathers eagerly participate. Before dads attend the class, many struggle with confidence when tending to their newborns. They want to feel nurturing, and supportive, but often feel a lack of connection since babies are so dependent on their mothers, particularly early on.
A father’s relationship with baby differs from mom’s in some ways, but they can build a nurturing relationship through different means. By learning touch, infant massage not only gives dads an esteem boost, but supports an established connection and enhances bonding. Touch is one of the most amazing forms of nonverbal communication, and is a valuable tool for the entire family to use. It’s such a pleasure to see the smiles and confidence grow in my students with each class, and the moms gleam with joy knowing their little one is connecting with dad.
Some of the benefits to the infant include:
helping with constipation and gas
My infant massage classes are laid back and informal to help you feel confident, and to prepare you with supportive techniques and encouragement. This 4-week series covers different topics each week and all of the supplies are included. Classes are currently being taught at Indigo Physio in Baltimore City. I also offer families private classes in the comfort of your own home. I encourage both parents or a parent and a caregiver, who has an active role in the infant’s care, to attend the series. In my experience, the whole family not only benefits, but also enjoys the class and time together.
If you are interested in learning more about Jessie and her services, she can be reached at 410.493.0196 or you can email her at jab.massage at gmail dot com.