I’m blessed to have another twin mom in the Babywise Friendly Blog Network whose babies are just a couple months ahead of mine. This really is the perfect spacing when it comes to getting advice on the nitty-gritty. It’s far enough ahead she’s gotten through whatever difficult stage I’m in but not so far that she doesn’t remember how she got through it.
So as my annoyance with spoon feeding the babies at every meal came to a head, I sought out some advice from Kimberly over at Team Cartwright. She has done Baby-Led Weaning (no spoon feeding) with each of her kids and most recently with her twin girls. I asked her to weigh in on the method for our BFBN blog swap day. Read her post below to find out what Baby Led Weaning is, the advantages and disadvantages over spoon feeding, and how the method plays out with twins.
Then hop on over to The Journey of Parenthood where I’m posting today about the financial side of being a stay at home mom and how to make it work on one income.
Baby Led Weaning With Twins
By Kimberly Cartwright, Team Cartwright
I love baby-led weaning. (BLW) I think there are so many benefits to doing this method of introducing solids. I’ve explained some of my reasons for liking BLW before, but for short I can tell you one of my main ones- it doesn’t require me to spoon feed my babies. Sorry if I sound harsh, but I would rather sit with my family and have us all eat instead of feeding the baby and missing out on family time. I used BLW with my son and was super happy with the method. With my twins I knew I wanted to do the same, and once again I am happy I did.
Feeding second children in general and feeding twins specifically with this method can bring about its own needs and challenges. With two kids you have to keep track of more dietary needs. You need different amounts of food prepared in possibly different ways (for safety). You need to think about more than one set of table manners. But I really think BLW makes this easier. You can make all the what to eat decisions before the meal and be able to eat with everyone. Since you aren’t busy spoon feeding a baby, you are free to keep appropriate table manner learning in progress. A downfall of using BLW with multiple kids- multiple messes. And yes, somehow crazy kid math applies where twice the kids somehow equals three times the mess. To me the mess was an easy price to pay for all the other benefits. Everyone has to make that call for themselves.
Feeding two kids at once can be busy. But usually when you have two kids one is at least a toddler and has been doing this eating thing for a while. You don’t have the same extreme choking worries. You know how your older child reacts to more foods. It is also, I think, easier to understand and accept differences between different age children. It makes sense for an older child to eat more than a little baby. It also makes sense for babies to be more willing to try new foods than a toddler. I think it is clear to expect different tastes in different age children. With twins, I know that I have two different unique people. even if they are identical twins. But that doesn’t mean that my first instinct can’t be to assume they will eat the same amounts of the same foods. I mean, they are both babies. They are identical twins! Why wouldn’t they like the same thing? When you really think about it though there is so much more to food preferences than just age and genetics. Eating is emotional and physical and highly personal. I think the biggest obstacle to overcome when using BLW with twins is assuming your babies will eat the same things in the same amounts. Once you can get past that challenge and remind yourself they will not have identical meals BLW becomes much easier.
Okay, we have talked about the whys of BLW and some of the mental challenges behind the mindset. Now let’s move on to how do you do this with twins? When I started BLW with my girls I kept to most of the basic rules for introducing foods to babies. One thing I was extra careful with was the size and texture of the food I offered. I made sure that the pieces were all either small enough to swallow whole, soft enough to mush with the tongue, or so large they could nibble it but not swallow the whole thing. Why? One baby choking would be scary and bad. Two babies at once is a situation I never want to find myself in. With twins (okay with babies in general but especially twins) I see nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution. Other than that I followed the basic guidelines for when to introduce foods. (Not too much citric or acidic food, offer a lot of vegetables first, no honey, all meats fully cooked, that sort of thing.) I offered both girls the same foods at the same time. (We don’t have a family history of food issues and the girls don’t have any health issues that would require them to eat differently.)
One issue that comes up with feeding twins is do you prep one plate of food or two. Both work, and I use both methods at different times. Two plates gives you the chance to really see which baby is eating what. You can easily identify quantities and preferences based on what they eat from their individual plate. A drawback is that you have to prep two different plates. This isn’t a huge deal, but I can be lazy and like to use just one plate. Using one plate means you can eliminate a prep step- you only need one plate of food for two kids. This method does mean you need to mentally keep track of who is eating how much of which food. At first this can be hard but it quickly becomes second nature. I started out using two plates. I found though that if one baby seemed super in to a particular food and finished her portion, I would just take food from her sister’s plate to give her. So it didn’t really matter that I was splitting their food. What I now do is just one plate. I know which foods that I let the girls eat as much as they want of. This is basically vegetables, fruits, and most proteins. I tend to do two piles of grains so one baby doesn’t just fill up on that. I also portion out any food we don’t have a ton of- I try to be fair!
Challenges can arise from feeding twins. One is that babies aren’t usually known for their patience, especially when food is involved. BLW means you can feed both babies at the same time. Yes, one baby is usually served first because it is hard to serve two people at the exact same instant, but the time delay is small. Sometimes one baby might have a harder time than the other in terms of actual eating. In my case, one of my girls figured out how to use a straw cup right away. She took to it and had no issues. My other daughter just could not figure it out a first. She was so frustrated! I tried the usual tricks to help her out, but nothing worked. And I know, despite being very young (like nine months), she didn’t like that her sister could use the straws but she couldn’t. It was a rough few meals where she was very mad she couldn’t figure it out. I wish I had some magical answer for how I got her to learn, but as it is with a lot of things with babies, time was all that helped. I think with twins it is even more important to face any eating challenges head on. Avoidance only makes the issue last longer. Yes, there can be some tough meals with an angry baby. But seeing their sibling do what they cannot can be a great motivator. Utilize the positive peer pressure!
As I said earlier, a big mental challenge to BLW twins is the default thought that they will eat the same. Let me tell you, even with identical twins, they won’t. One baby may eat more than another. One will like one food the other hates. Eating is very personal, and there are many factors at play when babies eat. My girls are very different when they are teething. One prefers harder foods to really work her gums on. While teething she doesn’t nurse much. Her sister, on the other hand, really just wants to nurse and isn’t interested in solids. Twins will change preferences just like singleton babies, and often swap what they like. Don’t be afraid to take notes when your babies eat! When my girls started solids I wrote down who ate what and approximate amounts. With little ones it is important to look at the big picture of what they eat, not just one meal. Two babies (and a toddler for me) mean a lot to keep track of. There is nothing wrong with writing things down. As your babies get better at eating you will get better and knowing who is eating what.
I can talk a good game about how you should trust babies to eat what they need in proper amounts. I mean, if you only serve them healthy food their bodies should lead them to eat what they need. I totally think this is true. In theory. In practice I am not comfortable with just leaving it alone. I think an important thing to remember about however you decide to feed your children is that you can change your mind and adjust as you need to. Deciding to use BLW does not mean the rules are set in stone and you can’t customize as you need to. When my babies start learning to eat I don’t worry too much about how much they eat. I know they are nursing too. Breastmilk (or formula) makes up a majority of their nutrition while they are learning to eat. I like the freedom of letting them try food and self feeding without worrying about quantities or nutrients. It is covered in their liquid feedings. As my children get older I use different safety nets. I love making smoothies for my kids. I hide vegetables into everything I can. Every mom has to use her own techniques, but once I have made sure my kids get ‘the healthy stuff’ I relax and let them eat what they will.
My twins are almost a year old now. I have no regrets about doing BLW. During the day it is just me with three kids. And we all eat at the same time. At dinner I can talk to my husband while we all eat. I can pay attention to my son’s table manners and keep up that education while my girls eat too. I won’t say meals are peaceful. We are still jumping up a lot and helping the kids as needed. But overall we can all eat. One adult can help three kids eat and still eat. My children learn to feed themselves young. I feel like they have more control over how much they eat to encourage healthy behaviors. Overall meals don’t feel like as much of a battle or a chore. It is family time we get to enjoy together. That is my goal.
Here are some great references for Baby-Led Weaning. (contains affiliate links)
Kim blogs at TeamCartwright.blogspot.com. She is the mother of a three year old son and almost one year old twin daughters. She has done baby-led weaning with all three of her children.