Baby-Led Weaning and the Vegan Baby

I’ve been getting loads of mama questions regarding what we feed our baby while living and traveling on our sailboat. As Rocky approached the six-month mark, I thought a lot about what he would eat. I have been a big believer in baby-led weaning–BLW from this point on–and have practiced this with his older brothers as well. The main difference this time around is that now I am vegan. Being on a boat and traveling around means that we have to accept a certain amount of flexibility and “go with the flow” when it comes to food. I didn’t really plan out what he would be eating–or when–and instead took it day by day, feeding him what we found that was local and fresh.

6 months on nothing but plant-made breast milk
6 whole months of nothing but Momma’s milk

I used to think that vegans in general were a little strange, but hey, to each his own. Vegan kids, however, now that was just plain weird and wrong! Now that I am much better informed on the subject, I know that raising vegan children is perfectly doable, as long as they are eating a whole food diet and getting all their nutrients. Which my children have always done. We really CAN get everything we need from plants, and if done correctly then children need very few if any supplements. For the past year, River and Van have continued eating dairy and eggs, and even snuck the occasional pepperoni onto a pizza. I have, however, been closely paying attention to everything else they eat, and we are at the point where, if we cut out the animal products, they would still be getting all the right nutrients, and then some. The animal products they eat are sort of like their junk food at this point, and they get all their important nutrients from fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains.

Fruit baby…always with fruit in hand
Or a carrot…
A big piece of apple was the first thing he ever got to “gum” at around 5.5 months

For now, my plan with Rocky is to keep him vegan, but try not to be too strict about it. If someone gives him cheese, I’m not going to freak out. His older brothers eat a mostly vegan diet at home, with the same caveat–if they are out and want a grilled cheese, yogurt, or eggs, they can have it. And we eat out a lot. At home I will make them vegan grilled cheeses, but I’m not going to worry too much about what they eat outside of our home. I can only control so much, and trying to control all of it will just drive everyone a little crazy.

Learning early about eating out as a vegan…french fries save any meal!
French fries and champagne, that is!

For now I am focused on BLW with Rocky and introducing the greatest variety fruits and vegetables as possible. At one week shy of 6 months I began letting him gum some larger fruits and veggies. Once he officially hit the 6 month mark we started letting him gradually eat what we were eating. Since I let him feed himself, he wasn’t actually ingesting much food for the first month. By 7 months he started swallowing more and these days–at 8 months–he is eating mostly everything we do.

Watermelon
Papaya
Post-papaya tubby…this kid eats a ton of fruit and needs lots of tubs to wash him down. Luckily we have a water maker on board!

This is what he ate today:

Breakfast– oatmeal with homemade cashew cream, apples, banana, pear, cinnamon, hemp seeds, flax and chia. Side of fresh papaya

AM Snack– super fruit smoothie (almond milk, pitaya, bananas, strawberries, hemp seeds)

Peanut butter bites from the jar (I cheated and fed him this with a spoon, otherwise he might get too much at once)

Lunch– black eyed peas and rice

PM Snack– homemade pesto with locally grown basil and moringa on baguette

Dinner– He doesn’t eat as much dinner yet, since his bedtime is so early. Tonight he had an olive and a little eggplant hummus on pita. He definitely does most of his eating earlier in the day. I’m thinking I need to change this so he stops nursing so much all night!!

Pitaya smoothies…this is his face when I take the smoothie away to take a picture
Pesto baby…I put sauces on french bread since he can’t really chew pasta yet
Oatmeal with seeds every morning…
back off, Bro!
Cucumbers and smoothie…and WD40. Boat life.
Smoothie life!

If you haven’t heard of BLW, the most important aspects (to me) are:

  • wait until 6 months of age, when your baby can sit unassisted and is showing considerable interest in food. If this happens at 5.5 months, go ahead and introduce some fruits or veggies that they can “gum”, but not actually eat. There is considerable research out there supporting the claim that delaying solids until 6 months can greatly boost immune-supporting bacteria in the baby’s gut
  • The best early foods to let them gnaw on are cucumbers, apples, carrots, bell peppers, and bananas. (Although I had to take the bananas out of the equation when he started to actually get a few little pieces off!)
  • Once they are ready to actually eat, you start with soft fruits and steamed veggies in large sizes that the baby can grasp. No purées for a BLW baby! They eat at the table, with the rest of the family, and at their own pace.
  • A baby gets ALL the necessary nutrition from breast milk or formula until 12 months…Any food introduced is bonus, and is purely for the baby’s enjoyment and education. BLW allows the baby to encounter various food textures and sizes from the beginning, and to have some control over how much he eats.
  • This method also allows the baby to be a part of the family meal time…which is what he or she is dying to do! I practiced BLW with my first baby largely intuitively, and only read about it with my second. It just makes sense.
  • This is not to say that I don’t buy the peter rabbit purées every time we’re at Starbucks, but for the most part, Rocky is participating in the meal as we do, and eating the parts that are appropriate for him.
  • After fruits and veggies I introduced legumes, grains, and nut butters. I hear a lot of criticism for allowing children too much fruit, as if it will train them to have a sweet tooth. On the contrary, my experience has been that–especially after the sweetness of breast milk–fruit is the perfect first food for a baby. Why feed them bland rice cereal that offers no nutritional value and teaches them food is boring? Let them experience the sweet, colorful beauty of food. My boys all love their veggies too and have never refused certain foods. I really attribute this to the large variety they ate early on, and learning that food is a wonderful enjoyable thing. Of course they go through phases like any child, and if they don’t want something I don’t force it. I do keep offering it, however. They’ve never been forced to eat something, they just naturally learned to enjoys variety of flavors. I can’t say for certain why this is, but I CAN say for certain that they never ate mushy rice cereal 😉 😉

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