This post is part of my series, “Kickin’ It Old Skool: Why and How We Are Old-Fashioned” or KIOS for short. If you’re new to the series, please read my disclaimer before continuing on. I’m keeping a table of contents to this series here so you can see what I’ve already written about and what more there is to come.
I already wrote about this a bit in Parenting, Part 2 of this series but I have a few more specifics to share here.
When Ellie was exclusively breastfed, we nursed on cue. (Some like to call it “nursing on demand” but that sounds negative to us so we prefer to say, “on cue.”) Basically, I waited for Ellie to tell me that she was hungry and then I fed her. I also watched the clock because I wanted to make sure she was nursing enough. That turned out to never be a problem for us (except for that nursing strike). Ellie and I fairly quickly settled into a routine of nursing every 2ish hours that lasted until she was close to a year old. She nurses much less frequently now although still several times during the day and night. We like to call this, “Baby-Led Eating.” We deliberately decided not to put her on a set schedule for nursing, knowing that breastmilk is easily and quickly digested and that every mother/baby pair is different in terms of how much milk the baby is able to eat during a nursing session.
When it was time for us to start solid foods, we wanted to continue to allow Ellie to be in charge of her own nutrition. So we decided to skip spoon-feeding and go straight to allowing Ellie to feed herself. We didn’t start solid food until Ellie was seven months old. Her first food was sweet potato (not pizza, as the rumor goes).
This style of feeding your baby is sometimes known as “Baby-Led Weaning,” because the weaning process does start as soon as a baby starts eating solid food, even if the completion of weaning is years away.
We LOVE letting Ellie feed herself, both with asking for nursing and solid foods. Here’s why:
1. We know that Ellie is establishing a good relationship with food from the very beginning. She is learning to listen to her stomach and to eat when she’s hungry and to stop eating when she’s no longer hungry.
2. It’s oh so easy. I just put food in front of her and she eats, or doesn’t eat. That’s up to her. What I don’t have to do is take my mealtime to feed her and try to squeeze my own eating in at another time.
3. Nik and I are also forming good habits from the beginning. We have a hard and fast rule in our house that you can only say things to Ellie (in relation to food) that you would say to someone else. So if I was willing to tell Nik to eat three more bites of his broccoli, then it would be OK for me to say that same thing to Ellie. Consequently, I rarely say anything to Ellie about her food and I think that’s for the best. Certainly, it’s a good habit for me to get into now so that if/when the pickiness comes later on, I’ll be already practiced at biting my tongue.
4. At the dinner table, Ellie feeds herself and Nik and I get to eat and talk. It’s wonderful. We don’t always get all the way through our meal before Ellie is finishing and asking for attention but we do usually get a nice meal together without having to worry about what Ellie is going to eat.
5. Ellie, so far, is a great eater. We haven’t had any pickiness issues yet. I realize that they may arrive at any time (so please know that I’m not claiming that we’re perfect!) but from what we’ve read, this style of feeding your baby often eliminates many of them. Toddlers can control very little in their lives but food is one thing that they can control. So if a toddler is already (and has always been) in control of her food, often it doesn’t become an issue. That’s what we’re hoping for with Ellie!
Finally, about actually weaning Ellie, I wrote about that some in this KIOS post. We don’t know how or when Ellie will wean but we plan to do it in a loving, non-traumatic way that results in a happy toddler and a happy mother. I’ll let you know when we actually figure that out! In any event, if it’s not actually baby-led weaning, it will at least be baby and mama doing it together!
If you’d like to learn more about feeding your baby this way, here’s some information that’s been helpful to me:
About nursing on cue
About baby-led weaning (for anyone in the Baltimore area, the Baltimore County Public Library has both the book and the cookbook for Baby-Led Weaning. We’ve checked it out many times!)
About “respecting and encouraging children’s natural hunger for all good things” (a fascinating blog with all kinds of great advice for respecting and feeding your kids)
Here are a few of the posts that I’ve written about Ellie feeding herself.