This week on the Mommy Labor Nurse Podcast I had a chance to chat with the founders of Feeding Littles! Feeding Littles is a platform that’s dedicated to helping parents learn how to confidently feed their babies, toddlers, and older kids. They offer online courses and resources to share their knowledge as feeding experts with families around the world.
What started as a private practice, has grown to a wider audience and reach, especially on their Instagram page where at the time of publishing they have over 1.3 million followers! I’ve been following them for a while, and getting to chat with them on the podcast was such a cool opportunity!
The focus of this episode is on starting solids because I know that starting solids is a very overwhelming task for so many mamas out there.
Breastfeeding and formula feeding your child are of course overwhelming for many in their own way, but for some reason, once you start thinking about actually feeding your baby food, it’s like the stress begins all over again!
Inside the episode, you’ll hear us dive into some FAQs related to starting solids, and just generally get to know Meghan and Judy and all the magic that happens over at Feeding Littles!
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How did Feeding Littles start?
After we did some introductions and Judy helped weigh in on a little challenge I’m facing with Ryland right now, we dove into our conversation. It made sense to start by hearing how Feeding Littles got started, and Meghan did a great job shedding light on their interesting story!
After losing her job just weeks away from her due date, Meghan actually began teaching small groups about baby-led weaning at the place where she went for lactation support after birth!
She said that at the time, no one had heard of baby-led weaning and it was even seen as kind of “weird”. What started as her instructing small groups eventually grew into a Facebook group where these families would support each other as their little ones grew.
Within that group, the families began to hit the challenges of feeding a toddler next and asked Meghan to create a resource to help. You’ll hear about how this all led a friend of hers to connect her with Judy, and the two of them started the business that is now Feeding Littles!
She explains that it took them many years to figure out how to find their audience, and grow a community, but they did it! They first launched a toddler course and an infant course after that.
How Feeding Littles is always growing and evolving
In her words,
“So it’s been an evolution the whole time. But it’s really cool too. Because we also talk about so much more than just about starting solids or picky eating, we talk a lot about bigger issues surrounding food and bodies, and you know, intuitive eating. And that’s actually what I was trained in originally.
That’s like what so much of my passion and Judy’s passion is so much in connecting to your family through food and having those positive mealtime experiences. So we try to really help our audience see, like the bigger picture and not obsessing about every little bite and every plate, but more about what experiences are we creating for our family? And what are we teaching our kids about food and their bodies?”
Where should families even start when it comes to starting solids?
Next, we dive into the main topic of this episode, which is starting solids! I decided to open up with a broad question on where families should even start when it comes to solid foods. Like I said in the intro, I know this is overwhelming for a lot of moms!
Here’s some of what Judy had to say,
“The first thing we really want to do is make certain baby is ready. And easy things would be just as simple as what does their sitting look like? What is their attention span? Are they paying attention? Like if they’re sitting on your lap when you’re eating?
Are they looking at your food while you’re attempting to put it into your mouth? Are they attempting to grab it and kind of doing the open mouth, following the trajectory into your mouth with that food, those are all beautiful signs of readiness of what’s going to happen.”
Sitting as a sign of readiness to start solid foods
She continues elaborating on why sitting is such an important sign of readiness when it comes to starting solids,
“Sitting is a big one. And it’s not just because oh, we want them sitting in the high chair, sitting has a lot to do with the stability of the core, the jaw, and the upper quadrant, as you know, from their ears to their shoulders. And if that stability and strength aren’t there, the food is going to go in their mouth and come right back out.”
Once you have a clear answer to whether baby is physically and mentally ready or not, then you can start thinking about WHAT to feed them.
What is baby led weaning? What foods should parents start with?
Meghan starts out by defining baby-led weaning for us, and perhaps more important talk about what it’s not! She explains that to a lot of people here in the US it sounds like it means letting your baby decide when to stop breastfeeding.
But really, the term weaning in the rest of the world means how to start solid foods. So, in her words, you can think of it as “baby-led starting solid foods”.
For the heart of how they recommend doing this from the very beginning, let’s turn to the episode:
“Essentially, you offer your baby stick-shaped, or like finger-shaped pieces of food. Because at six months of age, your baby has a great grasp – what’s known as the palmar grasp – where they can hold on to something very tight, but they can’t accurately open their palm to release that food into their mouth. And they don’t have what’s known as a pincer grasp, which is that kind of end of the thumb to end of the forefinger grasp you need to pick up a small piece of food.
So logically you think, okay, they’re little…I should give them tiny, tiny, tiny pieces of food, but they can’t pick it up. So it doesn’t help it actually makes the baby very frustrated.
We recommend foods that are soft and fork tender that your baby can easily put in a little tiny fist or you can hand it to your baby and put it in their fist as well. Some things that are soft and fork tender that are the most popular foods to start with are banana, avocado and cooked sweet potato, those are kind of the most popular first feeding foods!”
When you tune in you will hear more details related to this!
What about choking and gagging?
So of course this is a loaded question, but we were able to dive into some of what you should know surrounding choking and gagging when it comes to starting solids with your baby. I love that Judy said first and foremost all adults should be knowledgeable in the Heimlich and know how to do it on adults, children, toddlers, and infants!
Then she talks all about the gag reflex. She says that all people have (or at least should have!) a gag reflex. This reflex is there to protect your airway. Judy explains that when babies are little, they put their hands in their mouth constantly and this is actually so important because they are pushing that gag reflex further and further back.
This helps them learn that:
“Things do go in my mouth, and I do something with my my tongue and my teeth and my cheeks and all of that works together with my lips to be able to swallow food. And it’s important for a baby to know how to do that.”
This part of the episode is FULL of so much information from Judy and Meghan about how your child develops the ability to chew and swallow their food, and the way that their development is designed to literally help prevent choking.
Meghan gives more details on how to introduce those first finger foods and points to the research on why we shouldn’t wait to give finger foods, and there is no research that supports sticking to purees. And ultimately how that all ties into why parents can feel less worried about choking.
One important note that I wanted to make sure to put into these show notes is that gagging is an essential part of babies learning to chew, chew, swallow – but it is something that should improve relatively quickly over time. If gagging persists regularly for weeks or months, it can indicate a developmental feeding issue which you’ll hear them discuss more in the conversation.
Wrapping up the episode
At the end of the episode, we talk a little bit about how the journey to independent eating takes time! We were joking that it’s a lot like swim lessons! Your little one won’t just get it overnight, it’s an ongoing process that takes years.
It’s also important to always remember that there can and should be flexibility in your approach! There is no one, rigid way to do things.
This episode is such a wonderful jumping-off point for families that will be starting their journey soon, and I hope that you’ll check out Feeding Littles to support you throughout the entire journey!
About Meghan and Judy
Judy Delaware OTR/L, CLC is an Occupational Therapist and Feeding Specialist who has been providing home-based feeding therapy for infants and toddlers for almost 20 years in her private practice. She helps her clients with medical and developmental challenges that affect feeding in the Boulder, Colorado area. A mother of two, Judy has over 39 years of experience combining practical parenting with a sensory, oral-motor, and developmental expertise.
Megan McNamee, MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in maternal/child nutrition, food sensitivities, and eating disorder prevention. With a Master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition, Megan is passionate about helping families raise intuitive eaters who love all types of foods and know how to eat for their bodies. Megan has worked in private practice since 2006.