Fellow Canadian dietitian Jennifer House (over at First Step Nutrition) recently published the Parents’ Guide to Baby-Led Weaning, a new resource for parents eager to learn more about BLW and how to get started with their babies. I was super excited to read this book, so I got my hands on an early copy (and so can you – keep reading to the end!), and here’s what I have to say about it…
Of course, there are lots of BLW books available on the market today explaining the nuts and bolts of infant nutrition and finger feeding, but I’ve found a few concerns with the ones that I’ve read (so far):
- They get outdated, as books do. The original Gill Rapley book, while an excellent resource to get started, is outdated in several ways regarding nutrition, including guidelines around introducing allergen foods, whole grains, etc.
- They explain the theory around BLW, choking prevention, food choices, etc, but don’t give much practical information. After reading most available books I thought great, now I know what shape my foods should be cut, to focus on iron rich foods, signs of readiness for solids… but… what do I actually feed my kid? How do I adapt my existing plate for her? How often do I feed her? When is she ready for more? I need help to troubleshoot when she starts overstuffing her mouth or pocketing food! Heelllllpppppppp!
- They’re centred around international guidelines. While many health authorities are now becoming more consistent with infant nutrition guidelines, some have not updated their recommendations in accordance with more recent research yet. Since most of the BLW books I’ve seen are written or published in the USA or UK, the authors use those country’s guidelines to base their nutrition information. Health Canada has updated it’s infant feeding guidelines within the last couple of years and actually incorporates many aspects of BLW!
- They’re written by physicians. Yes, doctors are great and they’re a wealth of information about your baby’s health. But nutrition experts they are not. Most medical training programs only include one or two courses on nutrition, and since this is not the focus of most physician’s practice, they do not often update themselves on the latest research and guidelines in the same way a dietitian would.
So imagine my happiness on finding a book that ticked all the right boxes:
Updated with the lastest research – check!
Provides practical tips and meal ideas – check!
Written by a Canadian with the most recent guidelines – check!
Written by a DIETITIAN – check!
Winner Winner chicken dinner!
Jennifer introduces parents to BLW with the basics – what it is, why parents choose BLW, how to tell if your baby is ready, and steps to reduce choking risk. She relays her personal experience with both puree feeding and baby-led weaning (as a mom of 3, she’s used both methods!), and her journey in discovering food and feeding preferences along with her babies. She explains the benefits of BLW using both research and anecdotes (her own and her clients’ experiences) to describe how parents and babies alike can benefit from this method of feeding. One point that stood out to me in particular was a client who noted that because baby was going to be eating the same thing she was eating, she started cooking more at home and using lower salt and sugar recipes – as a result, she felt healthier and lost weight as well. What a great added benefit of BLW!
As a family-focused dietitian, Jennifer has a thorough understanding of babys’ unique nutrition needs, and goes into detail explaining the nutrients of most concern (like iron, protein, Vitamin D, healthy fats and omega-3’s) and how to make BLW work nutritionally. She provides several practical tips, lists and resources to help parents choose foods that are high in these nutrients to help optimize what baby is eating and absorbing. She also reviews research into nutrition status of baby led weaners, and why providing high iron sources and nutritionally dense foods is especially important for babies, but BLW babies especially. Importantly, Jennifer also discusses special situations, like ensuring adequate iron and nutrition for vegetarian babies, and what to do when your 6 month-and-older baby just isn’t ready for BLW.
As an educator, Jennifer works with clients to introduce solids and BLW on a regular basis, and hears many concerns and questions which she has highlighted in the book. She debunks common myths about starting solids (“your baby will sleep better if you start solids early!”, “your baby is too big/too small!”, and the big one – “Food before one is just for fun!”) and BLW (“your baby is going to choke!”, “your baby isn’t going to eat enough!”). I found it very helpful to have clear, evidence based answers to these common concerns. Some of the most helpful Q&A’s I found included:
How much should your baby be eating, and when should I be worried?
What tools and equipment do I need to get started?
Can I still give some purees/how do I feed runny things like yogurt?
How do I deal with constipation?
What to do when your doctor/spouse/mother in law/anyone else disagrees with BLW? (a suuuuuuper common concern!!)
On the practical side, unlike most BLW books I’ve seen before, Jennifer offers sample meal plans to help get you started. First, a meal plan for the “palmer grasp”, that is, the baby starting out who grabs food with their full fist. Then, a meal plan for the older baby who has more practice and has developed a “pincer grip”, making them able to pick up smaller items. She also gives lots of practical tips for modifying the family meal to be BLW-appropriate (for lower sodium and sugar, shapes and sizes, giving difficult-to-grasp foods like rice, etc). Not to mention, she’s included 125 recipes – everything from simple how-to’s like how to prepare broccoli or bananas, up to recipes that the whole family can eat like braised pork with winter vegetables, simple chicken curry, salmon burgers, and lentil bolognese.
My favourite part of the Parents’ Guide to Baby-Led Weaning, though, is the research spotlights and Mom’s Words of Wisdom. Throughout the book, Jennifer includes segments explaining recent research related to nutrition, behaviour (like picky eating), and BLW concerns (like choking risk). She also includes several snippets and quotes from fellow parents and clients, highlighting the personal experiences of other new parents (or new-to-BLW parents) who had many of the same concerns that you might have starting out. They explain their hesitations, their concerns, their challenges and obstacles, and their excitement to watch their baby learn and grow with BLW. As much as research and science and professional advice is super helpful, nothing quite connects with parents like the experience of other parents. I found myself nodding in agreement and thinking back to having the same challenges and concerns, and overcoming them to see my daughter grow up to be a little foodie, and how amazing that journey has been!
NOW IT’S YOUR CHANCE TO WIN!!!!!
I’m giving away a free copy of The Parents’ Guide to Baby-Led Weaning!
All you have to do to win is:
- Follow me on Facebook
- Follow me on Instagram
- Subscribe to my e-newsletter
- Comment on the BLW Book Giveaway post on Instagram and Facebook STARTING TODAY!!!
One comment per person per giveaway post counts as an entry (so if you comment on both Facebook and Instagram, that’s 2 entries… aaaaand if you’re paying attention and see the post more than once this week, you can comment AGAIN and earn EVEN MORE entries!). A new subscription to the e-newsletter ALSO counts as an entry!
Contest rules: Entries can be earned between today (Sept 16) and Saturday Sept 22 before 12pm noon EST. You must have a Canadian mailing address. Sorry international readers 😦
I’ll be drawing the winner LIVE on Facebook on Friday, Sept 22 around 12pm EST, so watch for that!