Parenting has enough unavoidable stresses on its own, without the ones we as a sociey have created. If we uncover the myths and choose to ignore them, we can focues our energies on the more important things. Suddenly, parenting becomes far more fun and far more conflict free.
Parents spend so much time worrying about when the right time to wean is, questioning their baby’s development and fretting that they are not getting enough nutrients. They prepare elaborate baby food and then get frustrated when their baby refuses to eat any of it.
But guess what? Weaning is a socially constructed (unnecessary) concept. You do not have to spend your time worrying about their food intake and when to wean. Believe me when I tell you that when they are ready, they WILL let you know. Your own food will begin to mysteriously disappear from your plate, little hands will grasp and grab at what you are eating. It will likely be a slow process, at the beginning they may only explore the food with their hands, bringing it to their mouths for tentative sucks and chews.
They may eat a lot to begin with, and then as the novelty wears off, their food intake may drastically reduce.
They may be ready at five months or it could be as late as a year. One tribe I read of do not offer solid foods until the child’s second birthday, and up until that point their nutrition comes solely from breast milk. They will not starve!
This is the perfect opportunity for us as parents to learn trust and patience. To have the respect for our child and their unique individual needs, to follow their lead and honour their body’s signals.
So how do they get their nourishment and sustenance during this time, a time when their bodies and brains are developing at an incredible rate? Simply, as nature intended – from feeding on cue. During the first year, milk, ideally breast milk, provided on the baby’s signal and never scheduled or restricted, is more than enough to provide everything they need. Solid foods are for exploring during this time, and there is no need to rush their introduction.
If we are ever tempted to force feed or coerce our baby into eating “Just one more spoonful” we should pause and consider our actions and their consequences. During this early time of development our babies are learning the eating habits that will mold their attitude to food for life. By overriding their body’s signal that it is full, and stretching the stomach by encouraging them to eat more than they need, we are setting them up to struggle with regulating their portions in the long run. And on top of that we are sending a powerful message that their instincts are unimportant in comparison to our wishes. The message that they do not know what is best for themselves, because we know better. We want to raise children who are self aware, who can make choices for themselves without having to look to someone else for the answer. We want our children to be able to trust themselves and follow their instincts, and in letting them lead the way during this important time, we can help them to develop those skills.
Weaning on to solids is a myth we don’t need to waste our time stressing about. Let your baby see you eat, sit them on your lap so they can observe and be involved, and soon enough those little fingers will stretch out and grab a morsel. Enjoy the baby stage and let them lead the way!
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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net