When I was pregnant with my first child, Thanvi, I hardly knew anything. Did whatever I saw, believed and told to do. I never questioned the world around me. It all began when my elder daughter began to question the world. Zero waste home, unschooling and natural birthing were the outcomes of her questions. I attended a talk on ‘liquids to solids’ conducted by Coimbatore Parenting Network (CPN) when I was pregnant with Tamaraa. Tamaraa is my second child. For the very first time, I heard word ‘Baby Led Weaning’.
In Thanvi’s case, I was the mother who was waiting to feed the baby with ragi porridge the day she turned six months old. So that others can feed her and I can rest for a while. But I was totally wrong. Every day I spent all my energy on cooking, feeding, and washing. It would take a solid 5 hours to just feed her 3 meals a day. I was drained. Complained, blamed and expected a lot from my child and husband.
When I started feeding solids, my breastmilk supply started to lower. I didn’t know of the demand-supply rule. My paediatrician suggested formula. Bottles were a big-time trouble to prepare, wash and sterilise. And came along with it a dozen visits to the paediatrician for an ear infection, constipation, weight loss, diarrhoea and fever. By the end of her first birthday, I didn’t have any more breastmilk to give.
The second time around I was very particular on not going through this. My only question to team CPN was, will there be any deficiency for the child if I continue to breastfeed my baby as long as the baby wants to, provided my situations were
- The baby and I won’t take any supplements.
- The baby will not be vaccinated.
- I will be traveling almost every day with my children.
- I don’t want to waste my time spoon feeding all day.
The only answer they told that stuck with me is, ‘the baby, will let you know what it wants’ I trusted these words because that’s the only reason I unschool Thanvi.
Tamaraa was born, she was naturally lotus birthed. In the natural birthing process, there is no separation of the baby and mother even for a second. Constant skin to skin, an environment of no judgment and the feeling of being loved, having my husband beside me throughout the birth process, helped me establish a good relationship with my daughter. When tamaraa was 3 months, I got back to Chennai. We slowly hooked on to our roadschooling journey. Babywearing is of great help, a safety for the child and a boost to my confidence to step out.
This time around I wasn’t looking for any numbers or milestones.
The best practices that helped Tamaraa establish a beautiful connection with food are:
I didn’t have much help. Tamaraa saw how I buy, prepare, cook and eat every day.
We have a low lying dinning table. So she got to observe what elders do. As a family, we ate all our three meals together on the table. Having an elder sister was a great support. She was free to spill and make a mess and not judged. Our eating habits were the biggest help. We eat one or two raw meals and one conservatively cooked meal a day which is absolutely child-friendly. Until now we do not cook anything separate for children.
The places that we travel are all farms, villages and sustainable places. The food we got were extremely delicious, nutritious and child-friendly (no oil, nonspicy and balanced food ).
By 8 months, when she started to stand and hold our low lying dining table. She began to touch the food on our plates. She played with it. As days passed she slowly began to lick, smell and taste food.
I could mention that she was exclusively breastfeed for 12 months but she did have a few bits of fruits, licked all dishes in our menu and sipped few drops of water now and then, so choosing to call it predominantly breastfeed for 1 year. She was breastfeed whenever she demanded.
One piece of information Swati jadesh, Lactation Counselor in Coimbatore said motivated and helped me boost my confidence was -the child only needs a teaspoon of rice for the whole day until her first year.
Meeting Dr. Arun Sharma, Naturopath was another life-changing moment. I attended his nature cure health camp for the sole reason, ‘I have not given medicines to Tamaraa from gestation till now. How can i continue this forever?’ The three main learnings from the camp are,
- Our body knows what to do
- What we eat is what we are.
- Disease is our friend.
A few months later, I met, Arun Thadhaagath, a fruitarian at Alappuzha, Kerala during one of our road schooling trips. He life is an assurance on the power of fruits. I was astonished to see the effect of fruits on his mind, body and soul.
There is when the voice of Anita, my sister, friend, philosopher, an Ayurvedic professional heard loud and strong – ‘ It all starts in the mind’. Only when you are happy from within, the food that you eat, gives you the maximum energy.
Listening to Haripriya Karthick, a certified Parenting Life Coach will help us understand that, force-feeding is like raping a child’s body. Every grain of food that is beyond one’s need is a strain on the body. It’s a loss of energy to assimilate and push out. No wonder force feed children lose weight.
The benefits that I reaped on baby led weaning:
* I have a beautiful relationship with my daughter. A relation without any expectation and judgments.
* I have more time and energy to do what i love to do.
* Baby led weaning is so coherent with my minimalist philosophy. I believe that every object we possess observes our time and energy. No baby cutleries, slipper, bottles, sterilizers, baby chairs, etc at home.
* It’s travel-friendly. All i need is an apron, few cloth diapers, a baby carrier, a saree (for trying thottal on a tree branch or a beam) and some fruits for me to step out. I am instantaneously ready to step out of the house at any moment. I have no inhibition of breastfeeding in public. I have breastfed my child on a bus, train, boat, flight, park, temple, conferences, workshops that I hosted and attended.
* I lost weight. I am back to weight i was in college days. My family is concerned about baby led weaning because i lost a lot of weight. But my weight loss is also a result of my switch to raw food consumption. Though i lost weight my energy high has risen. I am more active than ever before. I wake up super early, exercise a little, fast once in a week. I breastfeed even one the days of fasting.
Benefits that my daughter experiences:
She has grown to be a very confident person. She hardly cries. Her coping mechanism to pain is astonishing. Even though her environment is free of judgments, expectations, hardly any rules, regulations, boundaries, books, toys, gadgets and fear-based learning, the biggest help to her confidence is breastfeeding and baby led weaning.
She sleeps well throughout the night. Wakes for a feed twice or thrice and dozes off on her own in few minutes. She is adaptable to any environment. She drinks and eats anywhere. She gets her cough, cold, constipation, loose stools once in every 5 or 6 months. Those are natural, a cleansing mechanism of the body. I haven’t given her any medications yet. When she is sick, all I give her is more breastmilk and trust her body to do its part. Her natural instincts make her eat/drink less, less active and I have learned the hard way to trust the body. She is 1.5 years now. She loves food. She tastes and enjoys all kind of foods. I am planning to post what, when and how my children eat on my Instagram page in few weeks time. Hope that would be off help to some families.
I have no facts, figures and statistics to show you how good breastmilk and baby led weaning is. Trust your body and the baby. That’s the only key.
We mothers, think, food is the only source of energy and invest all our time and energy into it. There are many more sources of energy for the child. Mother’s calm mind and sunlight are one of the biggest sources of energy. Invest your time and spirit in achieving it. Don’t be bound by numbers, milestones and especially time. Give your child all the time to be herself.
By feeding, we break the connection between the mind and body. Without smelling, feeling, touching, chewing and tasting the food, the body doesn’t secrete the needed enzyme to assimilate the food. The food just enters and exits the system without nourishing the body. Notice the poop of a force feed child, you could see actual food particles present without breaking down. The poop of a child who eats whole plant based foods is easy to excrete, the baby potties as soon as she wakes up, it is soft and well broken down.
Pranayama has helped to gain tremendous energy for my mind, body, and spirit. Try doing pranayama before every feed.