What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about feeding a baby? Did you think breast vs. bottle? Well, that's an entirely different debate. I am talking about Gerber. You know, those stacks of little jars you find in the 'baby aisle' of the grocery store labeled with that sweet, chubby cheeked child. Gerber was started in 1928 and became known to every person in America by their slogan "shouldn't your baby be a Gerber baby?"
Their website says that they are "your trusted resource to help nurture your child's healthy development from pregnancy to preschool." Their line now consists of far more than just those little jars of pureed food. They have expanded to be a completely prepackaged diet, going so far as to sell water and create menus with their products for parents to follow.
Since when do parents trust everyone but themselves? This company preps the food, packages it and tells you when to feed your baby with it. Where are your decisions coming in? How much research have you done? Are you really going to trust that this massive corporation (owned by Nestlé , by the way) knows better than you do?
One of my first revelations as a parent was that when it came to my baby, I trusted my own judgment implicitly. The jarred foods just did not feel right to me or my husband, never mind the expense! I'll admit the idea actually makes me gag a little. Why would I want to give my baby food from a jar when I could make it fresh myself? I considered getting a product like this to make it easy. But the more I thought about it, the term 'baby food' in general confuses me. Babies are humans too, aren't they? Would you eat pureed or smashed up food at every meal and be happy about it? I didn't think so.
It was around this time I started considering other options and came across the term Baby Led Weaning. BLW is based on the premise that babies instinctively know when they are ready for solid food and are perfectly capable of teaching themselves how to eat, no pureeing required. Supervision is the first rule of BLW. Your baby should also be showing signs that she is ready for solids such as sitting up up unassisted, basic use of the pincer grasp, loss of the tongue thrust reflex, and interest in food. The idea is that babies are learning to chew before learning to swallow and are less likely to choke on their food. All babies will gag on their food, as their gag reflex is much further forward in their mouths than an adult but that does not mean that they are choking. It also promotes hand-eye coordination and goes hand in hand with baby's natural development.
As long as you are trained in CPR and the Heimlich (which you should know anyway) and baby is being supervised at all times, finger foods are offered to explore. Harder vegetables are steamed to make them easier to 'gum' and babies, who are instinctively exploring the world with their mouths, learn what food is and are free to figure it out themselves. They learn about texture, smell, taste and color on their own terms, without being pressured. If you are shocked by this, consider history. How did babies eat before What To Expect the First Year? Before food processors and blenders? Before Gerber? During Roman times?
Iris had her 6 month birthday yesterday and Marius and I decided to celebrate with offering her some sweet potato. Rice cereal is not an option for us, as I believe it has little to no nutritional value and lacks flavor. We will instead be making our own oatmeal, which has far more texture, flavor and nutrition. She has been showing signs of readiness for a while, but we wanted to wait until she was around 6 months old, as per the recommendation of the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics.
As you can see, we even tried putting a bit of sweet potato on our fingers to show her the flavor, tried putting a bit into her mouth to give her the idea but she was not pleased. It turned into smashed potatoes and ended in a bout of crying. Obviously, she is not ready or had some serious personal problems with sweet taters! We will try again in a week, maybe with a small bowl of cooled oatmeal or a steamed broccoli floret. Until then, mama milk is still the favorite in this house!