So your baby is approaching 6 months old, they’ve been at daycare for a little while now – or maybe they’re going soon – you’ve got the rhythm down, drop-offs go well, they nap there, all is good. You start researching how to introduce solid foods and discover that baby led weaning is the perfect fit for your family – great! But then when you pick your baby up from daycare the next day, and mention starting solids and BLW – they seem hesitant… uh-oh! You hadn’t thought about what happens if daycare isn’t on-board! Don’t worry, that’s what I’m here for – back again with more tips and tricks!
Wait, why do I need daycare to do BLW? Can’t I just feed them the BLW way at home?
Let’s chat about why you may need daycare to do BLW. First of all, it’s completely normal to expect daycare to follow your lead when it comes to things like discipline, feeding, naps, etc. And, truthfully, that would be part of the process of choosing a daycare, so they really should already be doing this. BUT – you also need to consider if their governing body places restrictions on ways to feed, what their comfort level is, etc. You don’t want a provider who is not knowledgeable in BLW to be doing BLW! They need to be aware of how to safely serve foods, how to recognize feeding cues, and be confident in how to respond to a gag vs. a choke. Whether your baby is starting out with finger foods at 6 months, or they began with purees and now at 7-8 months you would like daycare to switch over to finger foods, having daycare on-board with BLW will be necessary.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… “But Edwena, I thought babies only need 1 solid meal to start, why can’t I serve that at home?” The answer is, you can. When babies are first starting out they really only need 1 solid meal per day, and then this gradually increases. So, you can choose to serve that meal at home, if your schedule allows. However, BLW involves a lot of skill, and some babies just need more practice than others in order to continue progressing through the texture timeline. Therefore, some babies will need two meals right from 6 months, or will need a third meal added in earlier than others might, in order to get that extra practice and exposure. It is much easier to get daycare on board prior to beginning solids, just in case it’s necessary for them to eat a meal there. And, of course, depending on your schedule, it may be normal for your baby to be at daycare for all three of their main meals, and then it’s absolutely necessary.
Finally, by about 9 months, all babies, regardless of where they started (whether purees or BLW) should be on finger foods. Delaying the introduction of whole foods past this point is not recommended, and you can read about why in this guest blog post I wrote here. If your daycare is traditional and believes babies should be on purees well past that, maybe even until 12 months of age, having a conversation about introducing whole foods will be important regardless of whether you start with purees or not.
How to have a discussion, not an argument, about BLW
I know you’re passionate about what is best for your baby, all Mamas are! We feel this intense need to protect them and provide them with the absolute best. But before I jump into this section, I want to remind you… what is best for you and your baby is NOT best for everyone else. Your family is unique, your baby is unique, and therefore, not everyone will share your passion for BLW – and that’s okay!
So, your daycare provider might not be open to BLW, they might not know much about it, or, they might be equally as passionate about BLW! It’s a toss up, and the only way to know for sure is to ask 🙂
Therefore, I recommend starting this discussion with a question as opposed to a statement. Avoid saying: “We are thinking of starting solids soon, and have decided on BLW. I just wanted to let you know, no purees allowed.” Try instead broaching the conversation with a curious attitude… “We’re thinking of starting solids soon, and are loving BLW, what are your thoughts on it?” Once you know how they feel about BLW, then you can move on from there. But automatically assuming that they’ll be familiar with it, or comfortable with it, can just be setting yourself up for an argument that isn’t really going to solve anything. The goal is not to convert them into BLW advocates, but to understand their feelings about this feeding technique in order to determine the best way to move forward, which, in reality, may involve some compromise.
What comes after you get curious about their views?
The way I see it, there really are only three ways this could go…
Option 1: They LOVE BLW and are fully on-board!
Basically, you’re super lucky and your job here is done. They’re on board, they’ve done it before, and can’t wait to start this journey with your little one. They may even have some tips and tricks for you, since they’ve done it with so many kids and for so long! You feel confident based on their response that they know how to safely serve food, can responsively feed, and know the difference between a gag and a choke. Perfect! The only thing left to do is to make a plan to begin feeding, and discuss if you have any hesitations or concerns before they start.
Option 2: They know about BLW and are hesitant or don’t have a lot of experience
This option is going to require more work on your side of things, but still has the possibility to turn things around in your favour. The next step would be to decide on a time when you can sit down and really go over their knowledge of BLW. What is making them hesitate? And, if they’ve done it in the past for other children, how did those experiences go and what did they look like? Open communication is definitely key here, maintain that level of curiosity from the beginning, and try not to become defensive of the method. The important piece is in understanding where they are coming from, so that you can better educate them on your position, with the end goal of you both coming together to create a plan that everyone is comfortable with.
Option 3: They say no!
This may happen at the beginning of the conversation, after some initial discussions, or even after completing the first 6 steps I’ll be outlining below. That’s why I have also included a seventh step. But before you go there, it’s crucial that you reflect on your experience with this daycare, and be honest with yourself! Do you enjoy this daycare? Do you have a good relationship with them? How are they with your baby? Is your baby comfortable there? Do you feel like they are well cared for and loved there? This may seem basic, but in order for the last step to work, you need to be confident in your choice to keep your child at that daycare. Step 7 works on the assumption that you enjoy sending your child there, and are willing to compromise on this aspect because you are so happy with them in other realms. That’s right, step 7 is all about compromise. So, if you’ve gone through the first 6 steps, and are confident in your decision to keep your child at that daycare, regardless of their views on BLW, move on to step 7.
The 7 Step Plan for Talking to Daycare about BLW
Step 1: Go over their experiences, knowledge, and hesitations, make sure you have the full picture before diving into step two.
This step is all about remaining curious. Let them talk, share their experiences, opinions, etc. Take it all in, and really try to see their point of view, before responding in step 2. This will help to keep the conversation positive and decrease the chances that you will become defensive of your choice, which isn’t necessarily productive to the conversation.
Step 2: Explain the benefits of BLW – not just for your baby, but the benefits for the daycare as well.
Haven’t thought about what those may be? I’ll help you out. I reached out to my friend Adeline, of Maritime Montessori, for her opinion on this topic, and she came through with some wonderful ideas on the benefits for daycare providers, as well as some clean-up tips I’ll share later.
Benefits for the daycare…
- No need to sit down and spoon-feed multiple babies at once; more babies doing BLW, means less time individually feeding each infant.
- Babies develop the ability to independently feed themselves at a faster rate, and therefore makes mealtimes easier, as in less complicated and less time consuming, for the provider.
- No need to use cutlery with BLW (most of the time) which means less cleaning!
And, in case you want to review the benefits of BLW for baby, I’ll link my blog on Figuring Out the Best Approach to Starting Solids, for you to review.
Step 3: Explain why this is important to you.
Every family is unique, and the reason(s) that you have chosen BLW may differ from other families. Be sure to take the time to explain to your provider why this feeding method is so important to you. Why do you feel this is a good fit for your baby? What benefits are you most excited about when it comes to this concept? Being able to explain its importance will allow your provider to connect with you on this, and can help them to see the positives in adopting this method.
Step 4: Discuss what happens if your baby doesn’t take to BLW.
Maybe, your daycare provider would feel more at ease with the concept if they knew that you were willing to adjust should your baby show signs that that is needed. Here’s the truth, not all babies will take to BLW. It simply isn’t for everyone. BUT – that is not to say that not all babies can do Baby Led Feeding. What’s the difference? BLW is strictly offering whole foods, no purees. Baby Led Feeding – my signature approach – is all about feeding responsively, regardless of the form the food takes. This means it works for purees, finger foods, or a mixed approach. So, should your baby not take to BLW, it would be a good idea to discuss responsive feeding, and why you feel it’s important to use this method, whether feeding purees or finger foods. That way, you can feel secure in the fact that even if your baby requires some purees, your provider will serve them in a responsive way, while watching your baby’s cues, and will not be forcing a spoon into your baby’s mouth.
Step 5: Discuss the difference between gagging and choking.
Now, in order to do this properly, and in a way that leaves your provider feeling confident in this, make sure you have done the research yourself first. I’ve got a blog post and podcast covering this topic, feel free to start there. But ideally, you will have completed my Baby Led Feeding course, as it contains numerous videos of gags so that you can see the difference, and truly understand why gagging is actually a good thing. Once you have done that, start discussing this topic with your provider. Direct them to my post and podcast, and if they are really unsure, or are open to further education, direct them to my course. Having them take the course, learn about setting up the mealtime environment, knowing how to serve different foods, etc. are all good things. If they’re open to this, you know you’re heading in the right direction to finding a common ground on this! That’s not to say that if they aren’t willing to take the course you won’t find common ground, it just may take more discussions to get there.
Step 6: Offer them tips for how to make clean up easier!
I told you my friend Adeline came through with some wonderful tips for making clean-up after serving meals in a BLW way easy, so here they are:
- Use full bibs, the Bibado bib is a great choice – these allow for maximum coverage and easy clean-up. Much easier to clean a bib, then a squirming, energetic baby!
- Place newspaper on the floor, beneath the high chair, for any food that drops or gets thrown. This can be easily picked up and composted, as opposed to adding one more thing to wash after each meal.
- A Montessori tip (if your daycare is open to these concepts), is to use a weaning table and chair once the babies are able to fully sit unassisted, this allows for the provider to sit on the floor in front of the table, with all babies seated at the table. This way the provider can easily offer food, and be a participant at mealtime, without having to move from high chair to high chair.
These tips are so important to share for two reasons. One, daycare providers do A LOT of cleaning in a day, especially now in this COVID-19 world that we’re living in. Anything that will make this part of their day easier, so they can enjoy the fun parts of being a daycare provider, is fantastic. And, two, it shows that you have put thought into this, this is important, and you want to make this work, but you’re keeping them in mind too.
Once you’ve gone through these steps, you need to let them have some time to think about it, do their own research, and get back to you. Hopefully, if they’re in agreement, the next steps are to move forward with a plan as to when to begin, foods to introduce, etc. However, if they’re not in agreement, then it’s time to move onto step 7!
Step 7: Compromise, and adopt a Baby Led Feeding approach instead.
Here’s where my signature BLF approach comes in. This is all about feeding responsively, as discussed above, and it allows for the inclusion of BOTH whole foods and purees. If your daycare is not into BLW, no matter how many times you talk about the benefits, cut your losses, and check out this approach. By moving forward with a mixed approach, that keeps in mind feeding in a responsive way while watching your baby’s hunger and fullness cues, your daycare will be able to feed purees – like they want – while you feed finger foods at home – like you want. AKA your baby can have the best of both worlds.
If you want to learn more about BLF and how to adopt a responsive feeding technique, check out my Baby Led Feeding online course. I discuss the pros and cons of purees, and BLW, go over how a mixed approach can look, and give you all of the cues to look for so that you’re feeding in a responsive way that develops your baby’s independent feeding skills. Which is a main point of BLW in the first place – but I show you how it is possible while spoon feeding too!
I hope this gave you some peace of mind to know that even if your daycare is not a BLW fan like you are, you can still work with them to come up with a solution that will allow both of you to feel confident, and comfortable, moving forward in this new feeding journey.
*Please note that I do receive a small commission from any products purchased from my Amazon shops and linked in this blog post. But, this comes to no additional cost to you, and I only add items to my Amazon shops that I FULLY support and stand behind! These small commissions help me keep my website alive and kicking so I can continue to provide you with valuable feeding info.