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Baby Led Weaning

How one mom’s power struggle with her puréee-resistant baby led to a whole new food adventure.

Baby Led Weaning

Never did I imagine I would be a mom that bypassed purees to give my child finger foods as her first solid. When I first heard of baby led weaning from a fellow mom who was experimenting with the method on her six-month old, it sounded like a fad – a fad that I certainly was not going to follow. It seemed dangerous, unsuccessful and against the norm. Purees seemed like a natural progression to solids; after all, I never knew a baby who didn’t love purees . . . well, until my baby.

At seven months old, it was time for my exclusively breastfed daughter Emory to try her first helping of pureed food. Staying true to my naturalistic ways, I was ready to become a pureed food chef for my new eater. I researched recipes, pumped and stored breastmilk to add into the puree, and stocked up on fresh, organic produce. I dutifully mashed and blended and mashed some more, but all my efforts were massively rejected by my strong-willed seven month old.

Her first pureed food was avocado. She ate a little but mainly swatted the spoon or ducked and dodged my every attempt to get the spoon in her mouth. I knew that swatting was normal for babies as they adapt to eating solid foods, so I persistently attempted to spoon a serving of homemade goop into her mouth. But after wasting numerous batches of bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas and apple sauce, and months of time watching Emory grimace at the sight of a spoon, I realized spoon-feeding Emory had become a power struggle, and one that I lost...to a seven month old.

Totally discouraged and feeling defeated, I scrambled for advice from every mom friend I had. Which led me back to my friend who suggested Baby Led Weaning. The process won me over; it made sense. Rather than me dictating Emory’s every bite with a spoonful of mash, I could follow her interests to feed herself. Baby led weaning is a method of forgoing baby purees in exchange for finger foods to complement your baby’s diet of breastmilk or formula and allowing your baby to self-feed from the start. It’s intended to create a relaxed and natural introduction to solid foods by trusting your baby’s innate sense of hunger, want, self-awareness and self-limitation.

My puree-making days were done, and I started simply slicing strips of vegetables and fruits for Emory to munch. I had the most success with cucumbers and apples. Then her palate started to bud, and she was able to try whatever we were eating at mealtime.

Although Emory was a selective eater, and still is two years later, baby led weaning calmed the parent-versus-baby power struggle that spoon-feeding had created. Allowing her to have more control over her own consumption made her more willing to eat. That was much better than constantly coaxing our dodging, swatting, spitting baby to gobble down my colorful purees.

The approach to solid food with baby led weaning: The success of baby led weaning is contributed to the relaxed approach it takes to starting solids. Letting your baby pick up, mash, taste and explore the foods you are eat during mealtime is the process, as simple as that. A big concern is the possibility of choking on non-pureed foods at such a young age, but Baby Led Weaning suggests that babies are not able to move food from the front of the mouth to the back until they learn to chew. Baby led weaning is attributed to jumpstarting the development of oral motor skills like chewing and swallowing food.

Helpful hints to the baby-led weaning method: You would want to follow much of the same advice for introducing purees, but there are a few other strategies to get you through this adventure.

  • Talk with your child’s pediatrician before giving your child solid food.
  • Make sure your baby is fully capable of sitting up on his or her own.
  • It will get messy, so be prepared. A drop cloth under the highchair is very helpful.
  • Offer the baby the same food you are eating at meal time.
  • Do not serve small, tiny pieces of food. Large chunks can be easily grasped and more manageable for the baby.
  • Know that it may take a while for you baby to actually eat the food. Baby led weaning is about exploration and learning the process of eating.
  • Relax and enjoy eating along with your child.

Baby led weaning was never a method I planned to use to feed Emory. But thankfully, it got me through a very rocky initial introduction to solids. Knowing the strong-willed personality of my now toddler, I should have known she would never let me force a spoon of goopy vegetables in her mouth. Now my second child is six months old and approaching the solid-food stage, and I am sure he will provide me with a completely different experience. Here goes to my new adventure!

In This Article

    Ara Katz/Seed

    We spoke to Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed, who shared her journey to (and through) motherhood—and gave us the lowdown on how probiotics can benefit mamas and children alike.

    Chances are, you're aware that probiotics can help us digest the food we eat, keep inflammation at bay, synthesize essential vitamins and more. But here's the thing: When it comes to probiotics, there's a lot of misinformation… and because of that, it's hard to know what's actually a probiotic and which is the right one for you.

    That's why we chatted with Ara Katz, who is a mama to son Pax and the co-founder of Seed, a company disrupting the probiotics industry. The entrepreneur told us about her motherhood journey, what led her to start her company and what she wants other parents to know about probiotics.

    Q. What was life like for you before you became a mama?

    I was bi-coastal after co-founding a mobile tech company in New York City with a partner in LA. My life was, for as long as I can remember, consumed by creating and work. I was fairly nomadic, loved to travel, spent many hours reading and practicing yoga, being with friends [and] waking up at the crack of dawn. [I] was fairly sure I would never marry or have children. And then something shifted.

    Q. What were some pivotal moments that defined your journey to motherhood?

    Ha, that makes it sound like motherhood is a destination when at this very moment, more than ever, it evolves daily. I lost my mom when I was 17 and spent most of my life believing I didn't want to be a mother. I had a lot of wiring about its limitations and constraints—I'm sure relics of grief and the fear of loss.

    My journey started with a physiological wanting to be pregnant and have a baby. There was a kind of visceral sense that my body wanted to know what that was like and a strange curiosity that, at least for that period of time, usurped my ambivalence about motherhood.

    Then I had a miscarriage—a beautiful inflection point in my story. I resigned from my company, chose a coast, committed to be more committed to my (then) boyfriend, now husband, and tried again. I got pregnant shortly after that and found pregnancy to be a profound journey within, a reshaping of my life and the tiniest glimpse of how motherhood would unfold.

    In the 55 months since giving birth (and I like to use months because I have learned in the moments that I am most frustrated as a mom that he has only been on this planet for less than 14 fiscal quarters), I have realized and surrendered to a definition of motherhood that is a process. One of cultivating, creating, recreating, shapeshifting, learning, feeling, healing, hurting and experiencing the most potent form of presence I have ever experienced—and an aching, expansive love I didn't know possible—not just for my son, but for all living things.

    Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

    Becoming a mother is certainly a persistent lens on all of my choices, but it was really my miscarriage that recalibrated my path. My pregnancy rekindled my love of biology and health and led me to my co-founder and the microbiome. My breastfeeding experience incepted our first product focus, and the newfound accountability for a human inspired our brand.

    Q. What inspired you to co-found Seed?

    I met my co-founder, Raja, during my pregnancy with Pax. [I] was immediately awestruck by his ability to both deeply understand science and to methodically break down a product, dietary question or piece of advice in a way that's educational (you actually learn something about your body), actionable (you understand what to do with the information) and foundational (you can build on that knowledge in the future to continue to make better choices).

    As we spent more time, our combined passion for microbes, their potential impact on both human health and the environment, and how to set up a child for a healthy life became increasingly clear. And through birth, seeding (the process by which we get our foundational microbes and the inspiration for the name of our company) Pax and my struggles with breastfeeding, my entrepreneurial spirit was lit to build something with Raja. His deep experience in translating science to product, and mine in consumer, community-building and translating through storytelling, culminated in a shared vision to set a new standard in health through bacteria.

    Q. Probiotics have been trending in recent years, but they're nothing new—can you talk a bit about the importance of probiotics?

    Interest in gut health and probiotics increases month by month. However, despite the quickly growing number of "probiotic" supplements, foods and beverages out there, there's still a lot of consumer confusion—particularly around what they are, how they work and why we should take them. Probiotics have been studied extensively across various life stages, body sites and for many benefits. Digestion is an obvious and immediate one (and the primary reason most people currently take probiotics). But other strains have also been studied for skin health, heart health and gut health (including gut immune function and gut barrier integrity). But this doesn't mean that any and all probiotics can do these things—this is the importance of 'strain specificity.' In other words, ensuring that the specific strains in your probiotic have been studied for the benefit you desire is critical.

    Seed Daily Synbiotic

    Seed

    Seed's Daily Synbiotic is a 24-strain probiotic + prebiotic formulated for whole-body benefits, including gut, skin and heart health.


    Q. How do probiotics play a role in your life?

    I mean, I take them, I develop them and I work with some of the leading scientists from around the world advancing the field—so they play a big role. As for my personal health, I take our Daily Synbiotic daily and my son also takes specific strains for gastrointestinal health and gut immune function. Beyond that, it's the re-orientation around my microbiome that guides many of my choices: how important fiber is, specific compounds like polyphenols found in berries, green tea and other foods, avoiding the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and antibiotics when not needed, exercise, sleep and time in nature [are] all aspects of our daily life that impact our microbiome and our health.

    Q. What are some misconceptions about probiotics that you would like to set straight?

    There's one main myth on from which all the other stem: that probiotics aren't considered a serious science. On the contrary, it's a field of inquiry that demands incredible rigor and extensive research. And when anything and everything from chocolate to ice cream to fermented food and kombucha to mattresses can call itself "probiotic" due to underregulation in the category, that grossly undermines the science and their potential.

    The term 'probiotic' has a globally-accepted scientific definition that was actually co-authored by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid ,for the United Nations/World Health Organization.

    At Seed, we work to reclaim the term for science, through the development of next-generation probiotics that include clinically validated strains and undergo the most rigorous safety, purity and efficacy testing procedures. Because why would you invite billions of unknown microbes into your body without asking "what's in here, is it the correct dosage that was studied, and has that strain in that amount been studied in human clinical trials to do something beneficial for my body"?

    Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what product you plan to launch next?

    We are developing a pipeline of consumer probiotics to target specific ecosystems of the body and life stages, including a synbiotic for children. Our next product will reflect a unique breakthrough in the field of pediatric probiotics, which we are excited to announce soon.

    This article was sponsored by Seed. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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