Vegan Baby Led Weaning

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So, it’s been a while since we started Emma on solid foods, but I noticed that here and there I still get questions about how we did it and if I have any tips on getting started with baby led weaning.

What is Baby Led Weaning?

In a nutshell, baby-led weaning means skipping spoon-feeding purees and letting babies feed themselves finger foods right from the start—at about age 6 months. The benefits can be great, says registered dietician Clancy Cash Harrison, author of Feeding Baby. For starters, it helps fine-tune motor development: “Baby-led weaning supports the development of hand-eye coordination, chewing skills, dexterity, and healthy eating habits,” she says. “It also offers babies an opportunity to explore the taste, texture, aroma, and color of a variety of foods.” (Source: https://www.parents.com/baby/feeding/solid-foods/dos-and-donts-of-baby-led-weaning/)

When did I start?

We started Emma on solids when she was 5 1/2 months old. She showed all the readiness signs and that’s why we started her 1/2 month earlier than recommended.

Readiness signs

  • Can she hold her head up while sitting? Yup.
  • Does she open her mouth when food comes her way? Definitely yup.
  • Is she between 4 and six months old? Yup.
  • Has she stopped the reflex of thrusting out her tongue (swallowing food instead of pushing it out)? Yes.
  • Is she reaching for food? Yes Yes.

So once Emma checked all these boxes I knew she was ready to get messy with solid foods.

Choking hazard

I think it is normal for mothers feel scared of your baby chocking on food when first starting with baby led weaning. That’s why I think it’s important to be informed about which foods can be a chocking hazard as well as knowing how to cook or prepare certain foods to not make them a chocking hazard. In addition I also think it helps to know and be prepared on what to do when your baby does in fact chokes on something one day. At least it helped me to feel more secure when giving her solids. Additionally you can also find some great resources on baby led weaning on different Instagram pages. Here are some of them to follow: @baby_led_eating, @babyfoodideas, @babyledweanteam, @whatpoppyeats, @vegan.kids.nutrition, @plantbasedjuniors

Foods to avoid

As I mentioned above there are certainly some foods that can be a higher risk of choking since some foods could block a Childs airway. For this reason, I have not given Emma any whole cherry tomatoes, whole cherries and whole grapes because they are slippery and round, raw fruits or veggies like carrots or apples because they are too hard to chew without any teeth in the beginning of starting BLW. But since then she learned a lot and has gained confidence in chewing on bigger pieces of food so I do give her now things like cherry tomatoes, grapes and cherries. But I always think do what you feel most comfortable with mama and what you think your baby can handle! You know best. 🙂

Vegan Baby Led Weaning

Remember, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that vegetarian and vegan diets are “appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”

So since I have been vegan for over 3 years and Ali for 2 years it was clear to us that Emma will be eating a vegan diet as well. The most important thing when feeding your baby a vegan diet is that she receives all the nutrients. The most important ones when introducing solid foods are Iron and Zinc as these are not provided in full amounts in breastmilk (if you breastfeed).

Supplementation

Vitamin D: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all vegan& breastfed babies receive a daily Vitamin D supplement, while fully formula-fed babies can typically meet their needs from formula.

I have been giving Emma Vitamin D 400 IU everyday since she was born as it is crucial for bone formation.

B12: Vegans need a Vitamin B12 supplement or a consistent intake of foods fortified with vitamin B12 to meet their needs. Nursing mothers should be getting at least 30 mcg/day to make sure it transfers to baby via breast milk. Formula-fed babies will receive all of their vitamin B12 needs from formula.

I have not started giving Emma any B12 supplementation as I’m still breastfeeding her on demand and I myself take Prenatals and a B12 vitamin which will get to her through my breast milk.

DHA: This is an important Omega 3 fat that your baby needs for brain and eye development.

I have not given Emma any DHA supplementation but you certainly can as it won’t harm. I just make sure to give her plenty of Omega 3 foods such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, edamame or hemp seeds.

Breastfeeding with Baby Led Weaning

The World Health Organizations recommends babies to be exclusively breastfed (or receive formula) for a minimum of at least six months, as this will meet all of their nutrition needs.

I have been breastfeeding Emma since she was born and have continued to do so even now at 11 months while giving her around 3 solid food meals (+ snacks) a day. But since she eats more solid foods now than she used to, my milk supply has definitely gone down as she no longer demands my breast that much. I am not worried about that though since that just means she is getting her main calories, nutrients and energy from the solid foods now.

How to deal with the mess

It’s true the only downside of Baby Led Weaning is the mess that your baby creates. LOL

A tip would be to place a cleaning friendly mat underneath that catches everything that your baby lets fall and which you then can easily clean. Another tip is to get yourself a bib that catches the food that doesn’t reach your baby’s mouth. I really like the Mushie bibs, they have worked the best for us, we also tried the long sleeve bib but that didn’t work for us. After each meal, we immediately bring her to the kitchen sink where we wash her hands and face with water. The mess gets definitely easier to clean the older your baby gets since they learn to actually eat the food rather than just play with it. Haha but I guess for now just enjoy the messy ride.

How much does my baby need to eat?

As long as as your baby is still drinking breastmilk or formula, you don’t have to worry about her not eating enough. Each baby is different and learns to eat in a different pace. Emma really liked food from the beginning on, so she’s always been a pretty good eater but I also know of baby’s that needed longer to get into food, which is absolutely normal as well. As long as they’re growing and getting their milk everything should be fine. Of course check with your pediatrician if you feel like something is not alright. 🙂

What about water?

So, I read that we should give Emma water to drink when she starts eating solids and that’s what we did. At first it was only a little but now she’s started to drink a lot more, especially coconut water she loves and she will slurp that down in seconds. Haha.

Allergies

If you have been following me for a while you’ll know that Emma suffers from eczema on top of that she is also allergic to a couple of nuts (hazelnut, almond, cashew and pistachio). This of course made BLW a bit harder for us since we decided to avoid nuts all together (and if you’re vegan you know how hard that is!) Her eczema made her also very prone to getting skin rashes to food that she wasn’t particular allergic to but would just make her eczema flare up when those foods were touching her skin. So far these foods are avocado, strawberries and garlic. Since these foods didn’t pop up on her allergy panel we only found out by giving her these foods and then seeing her skin reaction right afterwards.

So where am I going with this? I definitely recommend doing an allergy test with your babe especially if you or your partner or anyone in your family is also allergic (I am not allergic to nuts neither is Ali but my mom is!) OR if you baby is also suffering from eczema or other skin issues. We did the skin prick allergy test, because we would receive the results back on that same doctors visit. The other option would be a blood test but you don’t receive those results back for up to 2 weeks. Also our Allergist told us that her allergies can still change or she can outgrow them so we will definitely do another test with her in a year to see where we stand. For in the meantime he also gave us an Epipen just to be prepared for worst case scenario.

Emma’s eczema has drastically improved since we started with BLW and since she started to show flare up signs. And although it is hard to have to see your baby go through some flare ups because of a certain food that didn’t work with her skin, I definitely still think that BLW is possible and doable even with eczema prone skin. 🙂 Here is a pictures of a flare up she got when she tried avocado for the first time. This was the first and last time we gave her an avocado and she hasn’t had such a flare up since then. The second picture is her today. Her eczema on her face is almost completely gone thanks to a consistent cream regime and just knowing which foods work and don’t work for her.

Emma’s favorite foods

Emma already has some favorite foods, here they are listed in no particular order. Let me know which foods your baby loves so that I can try them with Emma!

  • Berries (Raspberries & Blackberries)
  • Spaghetti
  • Nectarines
  • Olives
  • Bread
  • Vegan Cheese
  • Plain Cold Tofu
  • White Rice
  • Yumi puffs
  • Pancakes
  • Coconut Water

The only food she actually does not like is banana. She doesn’t mind them in smoothies but she won’t eat it if she sees the banana. Haha weirdo!

Anyway I hope these tips & my experience with BLW helped you in some kind of way. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any other questions concerning BLW, I will try my best to help. 🙂

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