I am loving having a newborn baby. My husband and I had decided we’d only have 2 kids, and years down the line we could adopt if we decided we’d like more. However, the last 8 weeks with a newborn baby have made me fall so in love with having a newborn and I could see myself doing this stage again! (and again!)
1. Newborns smell amazing.
I love the smell of baby spit up. I truly do. The messiness of a breastfeed baby with spilled milk and spit up is one of my favorite things. I snuggle into my newborn’s neck and just love the scent he brings. There must be hormones released when a new mother smells her baby cause it’s a moment that warms my heart. Sometimes I choose not to shower or wash my shirt just so I can savor in that smell of snuggling with a new baby. But aside from the milk, spit up, and poopy diapers, babies just have a freshness about them that you can’t get anywhere else.
2. Each day they do something new
Babies grow sooo fast! Each day they do something new and you can’t help but realize the miracle in which they are. After 9 months, 2 microscopic cells form a fully living and breathing individual. But each day after they are born, they grow and change even more. The learning that takes place is irreplaceable to watch. It is incredible to watch this little being discover his or her hand or foot, to recognize his or her face in the mirror, or smile back at you!
3. They love to snuggle
These wee little ones have just spent 9 months wrapped in a warm cacoon hearing the rhythm of their moms heartbeat. When they come out, that is the most comforting position to them. Snuggled next to the chest or in someone’s warm arms, feeling the rhythm of movement and the steady beat of the heart. That’s why baby wearing is amazing (for both mom and baby). I love using the moby with a newborn. I love the way it positions baby against the body and the softness of the material and malleability to mom and baby. I have become addicted to babywearing and have a variety of carriers, each one with its own unique features. I highly encourage new moms to try out a variety of carriers to find what works best for you. In many big cities, there are babywearing groups that rent or loan carriers to people to try.
4. They cause you to slow down
Honestly, the dishes aren’t always going to be done or the laundry to be put away. But that’s ok. Babies don’t move fast nor do they need anything other than to be loved and fed. It’s a moment in time that will never be relived with that baby again. They are only newborns for a short period of time and then they bring on whole other challenges, memories and adventures. Our society moves too fast, and most of the time it’s unnecessary. We need to begin to feel productive even when relaxing and spending quality time with our families and friends.
5. They reflect true innocence
A baby comes into the world with no preconceived notions or ideas. Each experience they encounter is new. Some even say that babies and children have a connection to God that adults lose as we grow up. Babies begin their lives nearly as blank slates. The same baby could be raised in 2 different countries, 2 different families or wherever and turn out very differently. We as a culture, as a community, have the responsibility to shape these little people into life breathing, forgiving, selfless adults. It’s a huge responsibility that far too many people take too lightly. Let’s step up to the plate, people! We have a generation to nurture.
Can you even imagine the impact physical touch has on a baby? Research over and over again demonstrates the power of human touch on development. It’s been a dream of mine to become an infant massage instructor because of my strong passion for touch and baby development. As an OT, I find it extremely beneficial for children with various needs. I wrote this as if it’s for babies but I have to admit I still do it on my toddler. Many of these strokes and benefits are great for a child of almost any age.
Massage is beneficial for:
- Muscle relaxation
- Promoting sleep
- Increasing digestion
- Body awareness
- Emotional connection and attachment between caregiver and infant
- Tactile stimulation/can reduce or prevent tactile hypersensitivites
- Visual stimulation/facial attention/eye to eye contact
- Auditory stimulation/Communication (often parents talk and communicate with baby during massage)
- Improved blood circulation
- Pain relief (i.e. teething!)
- Establishing routines
- Relieve Colic
- Improved lymphatics
- Reducing edema
Massage stimulates many of the bodies systems, including, the nervous system, immune system, digestive system, respiratory and circulatory systems.
When to do massage
Really when you do the massage is up to you. However, my recommendation is that it be done as a part of your bedtime routine. After bath before putting on pajamas is a great time. If you don’t do a bath, it’s still a great thing to incorporate into a bedtime routine. There are particular strokes that are intended to be alerting and others to be calming. Obviously if you are doing it before bed, you would want to choose calming strokes. In the morning before getting dressed might be a great time to do some of the alerting strokes.
What oils/lotions to use
My number one recommendation is coconut oil, an extra virgin organic version is great (This is what we use. I purchase it at Costco). There are many benefits to using coconut oil and will maybe write a post just on the benefits of coconut oil. Make sure that whatever oil you choose is something edible so that if they get it on their hands (or feet) and then into their mouth that it’s completely safe. At bedtime, I like to add some lavender oil into the coconut oil at bedtime. I apply it to the feet and finish with a little on the chest, both areas which are covered by my children’s pajamas. I never put it on the hands, which could get into the mouth. If you choose another edible oil, just be sure to avoid nut oils due to possible allergies. It may also be helpful to test out whatever oil you choose on a small part of your baby’s skin before applying to the whole body in case your child does have an allergic reaction.
Where do I give the massage
Definitely choose a place where both of you are comfortable and will be for the time of the massage. When I’m doing it before bed, I like to do it on the baby changing table. Another benefit to this is that I give the massages with the baby completely naked. Thus if we have any sort of accident, we don’t have to worry about it getting on anything it shouldn’t. Make sure that the temperature of the room is comfortable and warm, and sometimes it’s also helpful to keep your baby slightly covered with a blanket throughout the massage (cover his legs while massage his arms). This is especially helpful keeping your baby warm after a bath. Make sure to pay attention to sounds and lighting as well. Some calm music might be beneficial. Be sure to avoid fluorescent lighting which can put off a slight flicker.
How do I give the Massage
Now to the fun stuff!
- Hello Baby! I always start with my hands still on the baby’s chest. It’s helpful to ask the baby if you can give them a massage prior to placing your hands on them. It let’s them know what’s going to happen. Listen/read your baby’s body language. If they communicate to you that they don’t want it, respect that. Additionally, remain aware of what your baby is communicating throughout the massage. Never force a stroke if your baby appears uncomfortable. Establish some eye contact, and non-verbally communicate that your baby has your attention. You can talk to your baby and tell them what’s going to happen. I love to use this time, as well as the rest of the massage to speak affirmations, prayers, words of wisdom, etc. over my baby.
- Warm Up. Generally, I’ve applied the coconut oil to my hands and want to distribute it around the body and give a quick warm up. I’ll lightly stroke my hands in an upward motion from the chest up towards the shoulders and down the arms.
- Order of Massage. I typically start with the CHEST and then move to ARMS. Then FACE. (I don’t ever start with the face. Some babies won’t tolerate face till the end. I like to use coconut oil only on the face and thus after I do the face, I add the lavender oil into the coconut oil in my hand for the rest of the body.) I then do LEGS and finish with the BELLY. I rarely do the BACK but you are more than welcome to.
- Massage Strokes. You can do all the strokes or pick just a few. It’s within the freedom of what you and your baby agree upon.
Calming Strokes: strokes that move away from the body (from shoulders/hips to ankles/wrists tend to be calming). Additionally, strokes that go with the direction of hair growth tend to be calming. Provide a firm, consistent, rhythmic pressure and stroke pattern.
- Indian Milking: Form a C shape with your hands. Start near the hips/shoulders and stroke down the extremity towards the feet/hands. Always have a hand in contact with the baby, thus one hand will be supporting at the ankle/wrist while the other is providing the stroke. Once you stroke down, the opposite hand then returns to the hip/shoulders and strokes down the other side of the extremity.
- Back and Forth: With baby lying face down horizontally across your lap, place both hands together at the top of the back. Slide your hands back and forth from the shoulders to the bottom, moving your hands in opposite direction.
- Swooping: With one hand on the buttocks and one at the base of the neck, glide your hand from the neck down towards to buttocks. Provide this same stroke from the buttocks down to the ankles.
- Squeeze and Twist: Place both hands side by side in the shape of a C near the hips/shoulders. Move them towards the hand/foot while twisting hands in the opposite direction.
- Open Hand: Hold the baby’s hand in your hands and use both thumbs simultaneous to massage outwardly to stretch and massage the palms.
- Fingers and toes: Gently squeeze and rolleach finger and toe, moving away from the body.
- Top of the foot: use one thumb after the other to provide pressure on the top of the foot from the ankle towards the toes.
- Ankle/Wrist circles: with your forefinger and thumb on the opposite side of the joint, provide slow rhythmic circles
- Chest Open Book: with thumbs together in the middle of the chest, slowly move up towards chin and then out towards armpits, and then moving down along sides of the body and back to beginning point while maintaining consistent pressure. It is a heart like movement.
- Integration: With both hands on the body, move from the chest down to the toes. Good for the beginning and the end of the massage.
Alerting Strokes: strokes that are fast, irregular or light tend to be alerting or facilitating. Those that move in the opposite direction of hair growth tend to be alerting. Strokes that move toward the body (from ankles/wrists toward shoulders/hips tend to be alerting).
- Small Circles over the back: create small circles moving along both sides of the spine.
- Combing: With your finger tips touching the back and the hand in a sort of raised, spider like position, quickly “comb” the baby’s back from the neck to the buttocks. This stroke should become lighter and lighter, creating a feather like stimulation in the end.
- Swedish Milking: Same as Indian milking, however, move from wrist/ankle towards hip/shoulder.
- Foot Press: provide gentle pressure with the thumbs to the bottom of the foot, moving from the heel towards the toes.
- Rolling: With the baby’s arm or legs between your hands, roll your hands back and forth as you move up and down the extremity.
Strokes Specific for the Belly (when performing belly strokes, you may want to make sure you have additional towels, etc. in case the massage effectively helps clear the bowels.)
- I Love You: Begin by making a vertical I like stroke on the left side of the stomach. Form an L on the baby’s belly moving from the Right upper corner, across the top of the belly and then down the L side of the belly. Stroke in an upside down U stroke moving from the Left to Right. (A side note: these are the baby’s Left and Right, not yours)
- Paddling: With your hands flat, using the outer pinky side of your hand, stroke it down along the belly. Rotate your hands in a rhythmic fashion.
- Sun & Moon: Use one hand to form a rainbow arc across belly, moving from left to right. The other hand forms small circles in a clockwise rotation. Do both movements simultaneously.
- Bubble Search: Walling your finger tips from the left to right at the height of the belly button.
Strokes Specific for the Face
- Down the side of the nose: using either your thumbs or forefingers begin on the bridge of the nose near the eyebrows. With moderate pressure stroke down towards the base of the nose with your fingers simultaneously.
- Smiling face: With thumbs placed together under the nose, simultaneously move thumbs towards the cheek and down towards the chin and back.
- Circles around the jaw: create small circles with your fingertips around the jawline. This should be very gentle.
- Jawline Stroke: begin with fingertips surrounding the ear and simultaneously stroke down along jawline towards the center of jaw.
- Eyebrow Stroke: Move from the middle of the eyebrows, stroking along the brows out towards the sides of the face.
- Ear Rolling: beginning at the top of the ears, roll your fingers along the edge of the ear down towards the ear lobe.
When should I not give a Massage
If your baby has a medical condition, always discuss with your physician prior to giving a massage. Some examples of when to avoid a massage before discussing with a physician would be an acute infection, cardiac or circulatory conditions, orthopedic disorders, or edema related to an injury or heart failure. Open wounds, surgeries, or other skin conditions would require consult prior to giving a massage. Hemophilia, hematoma, and some cancers are also contraindicated for giving a massage. If your child is receiving PT or OT services, it would be helpful to discuss massage techniques that would be beneficial for your child in particular, specifically in regards to hypotonia or hypertonia.
If your baby is upset or distraught, it is best not to give the massage. You want this to be an enjoyable experience for your baby. Sometimes you can talk to your baby and begin with the hands on the chest pressure stroke. If the child calms during this stroke, he may find some calming from continuing the massage. Please read your baby’s cues carefully. It is extremely important to not overwhelm your baby’s sensory and nervous systems.
- Watch out for hair whirls. They can be very disorganizing if stroked over.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after a feeding to provide massage strokes to the belly.
This year, there are so many new babies in my family! My son as born 4 weeks ago and I’m expecting two nephews and a surprise 2nd cousin in the next few months. It’s so much fun to watch our families growing and for our kids to all be close in age (my son and nephew will be nearly exactly a month apart!).
I love to sew and try to create things, even if I’m not the most experienced. I think it’s the fun in seeing something created from just pieces. I’m a HUGE advocate for breastfeeding. I’ll maybe write a post about that one of these times because I’m surprised at how little people actually do know about the benefits. I have found breastfeeding has received a lot of publicity in recent years, especially regarding to cover or not to cover and women’s rights to nurse anywhere they choose. I won’t get into the debate here. It’s a whole other can of worms. However, for me, I have found much more comfort and peace when nursing when I’ve had a cover. My cousin is the only one having her first baby and so I decided to make her a nursing cover (knowing both my sister and sister in law don’t need one).I’m going to share with you how I made it, and trying to give you pointers in what I did wrong and how I would do it differently next time.
I’ve had 2-3 nursing covers and liked different features of all of them. Thus, this one combines those features. Many nursing covers have a D-Ring with and adjustable strap. I found it to be unnecessary and honestly the extra fabric for the strap just got messy and in the way. That’s why I found it brilliant that a friend made me one with an elastic strap instead! Love it! One of my covers has fabric on 2 sides, thus making it a little stiffer. This is beneficial for keeping the cover’s shape so you can adjust and see your baby without your cover just collapsing on you.
Supplies you Need:
- 2 different fabrics 3/4 yard each
- 17-18 inch piece of 3/4″-1″ elastic
- 15 inches of boning
(Sew at 1/4″ unless otherwise specified)
1. Cut a piece of both fabric “A” and fabric “B” into 36″x25.” Cut a piece of both fabric A & fabric B that is 20×2 (if you use 3/4″ elastic, you can make this a little thinner instead of 2″).
2. Pin together the 20×2 pieces together with right sides facing each other. Pin your elastic to one of the short ends. Sew along the 3 sides you pinned, leaving one end open to turn it inside out. Your elastic will be sewn in on the one end but able to freely move otherwise.
3. Put a safety pin on the free end of the elastic so that it makes it easier to retrieve once you’ve turned your strap inside out. Turn the strap inside out. Press with an iron.
4. Press 1/2″ hem along the top (one of the long sides) of Fabric A. This will be the outside of your cover so choose the fabric you want visible. Find the middle. Tuck the boning into the hem and pin in place.
5. Retrieve the end of the elastic out of the collar piece and pin both elastic and fabric along hemline at end of boning. Pin other end of collar at other end of boning.
6.Stitch along the edge of the hemline across the entire edge of fabric. Also create vertical stitches at each end of the boning to keep it in place.
7. Press 1/2″ hemline on Fabric B just as you did on Fabric A. Pin together fabric A and Fabric B with right sides together. Stitch along 3 sides (not side with the collar). Once it is stitched together, turn it side out. Snip the corners so that they lay nicely. Iron/press along edges.
8. Stitch along side with collar (as close to the edge as you like- you’ll already have one stitch line visible so it sometimes looks nice to have one really close to the edge to have 2 parallel stitch lines running together).
9. I added a stitch line around the other 3 sides at 1/2″ line to help keep the 2 fabrics smooth and neat. It isn’t necessary but adds a nice touch.
10. You’re done!
I meant to write these directions as I did it but got stuck problem solving and didn’t so if I missed something or wrote something incorrectly, let me know!
When you are getting ready to have your first baby there is so much anticipation about the birth process. You can read and prepare but you really have no clue what it will really be like. Then with your second, you have the previous experience and thus you shape your expectations of the second birth off that first experience (whether it was good or bad) plus the wealth of knowledge that you’ve gained since then too. I had expectations for my second birth. I think we all do. But boy did God decide to show me how little control I have and how He ultimately knows what is best for us.
As I approached my due date, I began praying for specific things regarding our birth and labor experience. Slowly, each prayer I prayed kept getting denied and I’d have to adjust my expectations and trust that God knew what He was doing. There were so many things going against my anticipated plan that I nearly changed from delivering at the hospital birthing center to doing a home birth. But in the end, I trusted that God was still in control of the whole thing.
For some reason, I truly believed I would deliver early. When my 2.5 year old daughter told me God told her it would be on the 16th, I think that date became sort of ingrained in my head. However, that day came and went. As did the next 10 days between that and my due date… And then the 10 days after my due date. God taught me a lot in those 20 days. I prayed for patience and while I got it, it wasn’t in the form that I had anticipated…a nice head cold came my way from week 39-40. Then I subluxed a rib and had excruciating pain in my side limiting my movements. My grandparents came and went, without the arrival of our little baby. My dad came and went. My best friend and step mom came and went…still no baby.
I had literally tried everything to induce labor. Knowing that I would be traveling for a wedding in only a few weeks, I wanted my little newborn to be as strong as possible for the cross country adventure. Even as stupid as some of the natural induction method sounded, I was willing to give it a try…eating lots of pineapple, walking one foot on the curb and one off, coffee potty (google if you’re interested!), spicy food, Chinese food, Labor cookies (google!), red raspberry leaf, evening primrose oil, castor oil, etc. You get the idea.
Then finally…after 2 false labor starts, I started to feel the same thing again. My contractions weren’t really strong but they were frequent (like the 2 false starts), coming every 1-5 minutes. Joe and I went for a walk and they seemed to slow a little. They’d pick back up when I got in the shower. I was hopeful that it would be labor as I had my induction date scheduled and was really hoping that I’d go into labor before then. But at the same time, the way the contractions were (or weren’t really) progressing made me sort of doubtful.
I finally called my midwife and she suggested waiting another 30 minutes and see how things progressed. When I called back after 30 minutes, not much had changed. We decided we’d head in just to see how things were progressing at least for peace of mind. As we were driving to the hospital, I told Joe that I didn’t think it was the night. My contractions were getting further apart, now 6-7 minutes a part but feeling a little more intense. Walking into the emergency room, I was getting a little depressed. When I went in with my daughter, it was obvious I was in labor (I was 8 cm dilated at that point–of course it was obvious. Read my daughter’s birth story here).
When the midwife performed an exam, I was 4cm. Better than I had been at my appointment just a few days prior but not really what I’d been hoping to hear. She suggested admitting because my first labor went quickly and if things didn’t progress, I could go home. Being GBS positive, if I received 2 doses of antibiotics (which have to be given 4 hours apart), she’d discuss breaking my water if we needed to speed things along. It had been too long since my stress test so they did another one. He wasn’t responding well so they gave me some fluids until his heart rate started responding adequately.
We transferred to the birth center, Joe went to the car to get our stuff, and I was in the room all by myself, swaying on the side of the bed with each contraction, which seemed to be getting more and more intense. Within just a few minutes, my water broke. With my daughter, I had been in the birthing tub when my water broke so I never really had that same experience. The nurse came in and immediately called the midwife saying “light mec.” The midwife came and examined and determined that the amount of meconium in my fluid was to be expected being 10 days over and it wasn’t enough to exclude me from the birth center. Thank goodness!
With the time between my water breaking and delivering my daughter, and everyone anticipating this labor to be uber fast, I called my friend Rachel to let her know she could come down as she was planning to take pictures. She was there in no time and I labored in the shower and the tub for a few hours. I tried to eat a little snack to keep my energy up and be prepared. Bad idea, I threw it up all over the room before I could make it to the toilet.
After awhile, I noticed I was getting a lot of time in between my contractions. It was nice to have a little rest and everyone kept saying “it’s the calm before the storm.”
At 7, it was shift change and the midwives were trying to decide if they needed to have an extra midwife stay on (apparently the first week in March has been a busy time this year). So they did an exam and I was at 7-8cm. So we continued on…Joe providing counter pressure to my back with each contraction. We used a few oils here and there, finding great reprieve with the lavender, peppermint, and wild orange.
I was losing my steam and energy. I sort of had a gut inclination that things weren’t going well. I was still at 7cm and he was still at -2 station (where he’d been for the last 2 weeks when I’d had my membrane sweep in the office). For weeks, I’d been pretty sure he was in the posterior position and I had spent weeks trying to turn him to no avail. Something in my gut made me feel like he wasn’t getting into my pelvis because he was in the posterior position and that’s why labor wasn’t progressing. Between contractions I was walking and walking around in my room. With each contraction, I was performing lunges and squats and other maneuvers to try to get him to turn and engage. My contractions were getting farther and farther apart. I was now getting about 5-15 minutes between contractions. Despite my efforts, I didn’t feel like I was making progress. Sometimes during a contraction I’d bear down trying to make him progress. I could sometimes feel like he was engaging but as soon as the contraction let up, he’d bounce back up. Joe and my midwife were both great at trying to encourage me on. After while, I kept just repeating “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” The breaks between such intense contractions was making it unbearable. I just kept wishing for more contractions because I knew the more I had the more productive it would be.
Eventually my midwife approached the subject of pitocin. She agreed we needed to get the contractions to pick back up and all the natural methods we’d tried just weren’t doing it, and my contractions were continually getting further and further apart. I had been in labor for 12 hours already and was tired! I knew pitocin contractions could be super intense and wasn’t sure I was up for doing that after having labored for 12 hours, when I was already ready to give up. In my head, I kept thinking….this labor was supposed to be faster than my first and I’m now at 12 hours and still have a ways to go….where is this baby???
It didn’t take much for me to feel comfortable with the idea of having an epidural and getting the pitocin. Before going into labor, my advice to people that wanted to do it natural was to go into the experience totally determined to push through and not let an epidural be an option in your head. I truly feel like God gave me the peace of mind about the decision. I feel he’d been setting up the whole experience thus far to prepare my heart for making that decision.
It was right as we were transferring to L&D that my mom (who had just landed from Sacramento) and my sister (drove down from OC), both showed up. I started crying as I told them we were transferring but feel it was more of grieving moment. Shedding off my expectations of birth and the amazing experience I had envisioned, and giving it up for whatever may come.
Up until this point, I was unable to tolerate a contraction without movement and Joe putting pressure on my back. But the contractions were dulling and I was able to maintain seated on the edge of the bed or in the wheelchair. Yet again, receiving reassurance that I was making the right decision to get the pitocin. And yet again, I threw up when I tried to drink some tea my sister had brought me.
The transfer from the birth center to L&D is when I sort of lost track of time so not sure exactly on all the timing. The anesthesiologist gave me my epidural but after awhile I was still feeling pain in one little slice near my hip. The anesthesiologist came back and gave me 2 more doses. I’ve never had any sort of pain med like that. It was a weird experience, still being able to move my legs a little, feel him moving in my belly, but no longer feeling contractions. Once I was good and numb, they started the pitocin. Slowly over the next few hours, my nurse would increase the pitocin, waiting for my contractions to get back to every 2-3 min. They kept lingering at around 3-5min apart.
My sister wandered over to the monitors and watched the contractions. She kept saying “you have to be able to feel that…that’s a huge contraction.” I had begun to feel a little pressure, so I was thinking that it would be getting close to the time. A few minutes later my nurse walked in and we told her what our conversation had been. She decided to do a quick exam and see if she could see the baby’s head at all. To our surprise….his head was half way out. The next few minutes were craziness! Joe had been asleep, so he scrambled to get awake. The nurses were scrambling for the midwife. When she wasn’t there quickly, they began calling for an OB. But just then the midwife walked in. She was shocked to find his head all the way out. They asked if I could push at all and I did my best but not sure if it did anything to help as he slithered is way out, in the anterior position nonetheless.
16 hours later, our little boy was born! All 8lbs 13 oz of him! (My daughter had said 16 all along and I interpreted to be 2/16 as in February 16. Instead he was born at 2:16). He was immediately placed on my chest but wasn’t really breathing. The nurses and I were all trying to stimulate him to breath but he wasn’t making progress. The midwife immediately cut his cord and they took him to the table for some O2 and suctioning. It was a bummer to not have the delayed cord cutting and for my husband not to be able to do it.
After a few minutes they brought him back to me saying he was breathing better but still not great. I laid him on my chest, talking to him and praying he’d take a few good breaths. After a few coughs, his breathing no longer sounded wet. I put him near the breast and he immediately started nursing….and didn’t stop! It was amazing! My daughter and I struggled with breast feeding for weeks so it was amazing to see him latch on and go for it as if he had done it many times before.
I do feel in some ways I need to grieve the ideal experience I had been hoping and praying to have. I do feel blessed for how things went. An OB friend of mine suggested that the epidural and the pitocin could have what allowed him to turn, by relaxing my hips and creating more consistent and effective contractions. When I read all the possibilities that could occur during birth, things could have been worse. My experience wasn’t a bad one by any means, just different than what I had envisioned. Going through the whole process again in my head does make me sad for the birth I won’t have but grateful for the way it did go.
With my daughter I had lots of labor support. This time, I relied solely on my husband and I’m grateful for all he did. I couldn’t have done it without him.
I knew the day would come when my world as an OT would collide with my world as a mom. From day one I was always looking at my daughter’s development from my OT books and development charts. But that was the explicit worlds colliding. Me (OT) trying to make sure I was doing things the “best” way I could for my daughter. As an OT, I plan activities, and do things explicitly targeting skills to help others develop or remediate skills. But as a a mom….it seems like I just do what’s natural. But in the back side of my mind, I felt like the OT me would just kind of be apart of the mom me. Yesterday I had a realization of one of those moments…..most specifically in regards to our choice to do baby led weaning.
So, here’s a little about why OT me supports the Mom me decision to do baby led weaning with my daughter
What is baby led weaning?
In basic terms, baby led weaning is allowing your baby to eat foods at their own pace, skipping the purees. Giving your baby bite sized pieces, they pick up these pieces and eat them as they wish. Nobody spoon feeds the baby or pressures the baby to eat a particular amount. The baby eats when they are ready. For more info, check out Baby Led Weaning.
Pureed Spoon Feeding Baby led Weaning
So here is what OT me likes about baby lead weaning.
1. It promotes fine motor skills.
With spoon feeding, the parent/caregiver is in control of bringing the spoon to the baby’s mouth. The baby is a passive recipient of this food interaction. With baby led weaning, the baby picks up the food and in doing so develops many fine motor skills, such as the pincer grasp, in hand manipulation, grading, etc.
2. It promotes eye-hand coordination
When the baby sees a piece of food they want, they are motivated to reach out, pick up this piece of food, and bring it to his or her mouth. These are the larger movements, gross motor movements, required for the task. However, it’s not just the movements itself, it’s the coordination of the eye-hand-and mouth, developing depth perception. These skills are necessary for most tasks we do from day to day.
3. It’s a sensory experience
Yes, with any feeding method, meal times with babies are messy. But one thing any person who does baby led weaning knows, baby led weaning is extremely messy. The baby mashes food, mushes it in between his or her fingers, plays with it. They are exploring their food not with just the mouth but with their fingers, eyes, smell. It’s a true learning experience.
4. It promotes self-regulation
A baby that is given the opportunity to eat but is never has food placed in his or her mouth, learns to regulate their food intake. When they experience hunger, when this hunger is satisfied they stop. When someone else spoon feeds a baby, they are unaware of these bodily sensations the baby is feeling and in a sense override these feelings. By allowing the baby to be in control, they develop the ability to sense their body’s cues to respond in accordance with these cues. Self regulation is a task necessary for many interactions in life but in regards to food, we see so many people who have neglected their bodies’ cues. Could this be a contributing factor to our nations overeating/obesity epidemic?
5. It promotes oral motor skills
Manipulating a bolus within the mouth requires different skills depending on the texture of the bolus. When a baby swallows milk, the milk doesn’t require mastication or true manipulation. Yes, the baby has to manipulate it within the mouth in order to orchestrate a swallow. Purees are similar to this. They don’t require mastication. A baby is essentially able to “drink” purees. With baby led weaning, the baby is required to manipulate the food around in the mouth, masticate this food, and then swallow. Beginning with soft foods, such as avocado, steamed carrot, or banana. Allows a baby to experience and develop these skills as they begin the experience of eating foods. For a baby that learns to “swallow” purees, he/she has to relearn that a “piece” of food can’t just be swallowed. Lots of people ask my if I’m worried that my daughter will choke on her food. Honestly, I feel like in a lot of ways, feeding her foods which she can manipulate, without learning to just swallow food, she’ll eventually choke less because she won’t try to swallow chunks of food which are too big for her to swallow. Allowing her to munch on foods, allow her tongue to explore movements and patterns necessary to move foods around, as well as develop jaw strength and sensory awareness of food.
6. It promotes family meal times, social interaction, and creates an enjoyable occupation for the whole family
With parents not worrying about how much food the baby is eating, or spending the whole meal spoon feeding the baby, the parents and whole family can enjoy meal times together. The baby watches the parents (and other siblings) eating, interacting, and having a positive experience and will begin to imitate these skills (both for feeding and social interaction).
A few notes:
- If your child has special needs or isn’t developing typically, I would recommend you use this approach cautiously or seek the help of a feeding therapist (speech or OT).
- Baby led weaning experts will suggest giving regular table foods. I tended to be a bit more cautious and gave my daughter foods I knew were soft enough that she could use her tongue to mash against the roof of her mouth. I’d recommend this over just giving typical table foods.
- Allowing you child to munch on long hard objects (i.e. a stick of carrot or celery) is beneficial for oral motor skills. Just be sure you are sure the child can’t bite off a piece.
- Not that I should have to say this but I feel obligated, make sure you supervise your child during feeding AT ALL TIMES! As well, as your child should be in a well supported chair (that means hips, back and FEET are all supported with 90 degree angles at joints).