Reuben's been showing signs of being ready for solid food for a couple months now (he tries to grab whatever's on our plate or in our hand, he can sit up well on his own, he's start to get a hang of the pincer grip, etc.) but I knew I wanted to wait till he was around 8 months old to start. Why you ask, when most people start at 6 months...or even earlier? Well, here's where it can get pretty messy since every mom (and dad) has their own opinion about when to start baby on solids but I'll just give you my (hopefully) nonjudgmental point of view.
I exclusively breastfeed (EBF) my kids for at least 6 months. That's what most pediatricians, the World Health Organization, the Academy of American Pediatrics and other various child developmental experts recommend. For me, that means no cereal at 4 months (to help them "sleep through the night") and no sips of Mama's juice or licks of Daddy's whipped cream. Just good ol' booby milk.
*I say all this although when we were in Maine last year I did let my sister Rachel let Reuben suck a tiny bit of apple juice straight from an apple just picked off the tree and my dad also dipped his finger in orange juice straight from the fruit and let him try it - so I'm not a stickler if its from the actual fruit and not juice laden with added sugar and who knows what - I do draw the line at dairy though.*
In Lily's case I EBF her till she was 7 months old to the day and now with Reuben we made it 2 days shy of 8 months. I do this because we practice baby-led weaning (or baby-self feeding or whatever you want to call it) in our house meaning no mushes, purees or mashed foods are given to our little ones. I believe that my milk is enough for them until they're developmentally and physiologically able to handle whole, solid food on their own. I mean, have you seen my son?! He's a big, healthy boy who's been gaining weight steadily so I know he's doing great on breast milk alone.
They're are several reasons why I wait an additional month or two beyond the recommended 6 month mark, but here are just a few of them:
:: Studies have been shown that a longer period of exclusive breastfeeding can increase a baby's resistance to illness.
:: Delaying solids helps give the baby's digestive system time to fully grow.
:: The risk of food allergies may decrease when you delay solids (not that we have any history of allergies that we are aware of).
:: And on a selfish note, the longer I can elusively nurse my babies, the less solids will replace nursing sessions, and the longer I can delay my period. I sure do like the sound of that.
As for why we have chosen to do baby-led weaning versus the more popular parent-fed, spoon-fed baby food route? Well, its like breastfeeding versus formula feeding. Who wants to take the time to make a bottle at 2 am when you're deliriously tired when you can just whip out a boob and blam! you're done?! (And if you bed-share like we do, at least in part, then all you have to do is roll over, you don't even have to get them out of their crib!) Well that's how baby-led weaning works. No jars of baby food to shop for (or make healthier versions of at home) and then heat up and spoon feed your baby. You just give them some of whatever you're eating and there you go! Also, like breastfeeding versus formula feeding, its cheaper.
So here we are again, about to dive head first into solid food. Metaphorically of course. Although that does sound kind of fun. Maybe a mashed potato mountain or a pool full of peas?
Weird daydreaming aside, Reuben had his first taste of solid food this weekend when we went out for Indian Saturday night. Andrew was holding him in his lap while trying to shovel a spoonful of rice into his own mouth when Reuben helped himself to some rice from Daddy's plate. And he loved it. Of course. So I set him up in the high chair and let him go at a pile of it. Not much actually made it into his mouth as wily as rice is, the little buggers. But he had a blast trying to pick up the grains and smashing them into the tabletop.
Click here for more information on why you should delay solid foods.
Click here for more information on baby-led weaning.