Drumstick Disaster Sunday – a pitfall of baby-led solids

One of the sanity-saving things I do is go to mom and baby drop-in at a local community center.  I need to get out of the house at least once a day or I’m in danger of going batty over the winter and trying to chop my family into little bits…

But I digress….

Mom and baby drop-in…er parent and baby drop-in (we should be living in a society based on sex-equality right?) is organized by community health nurses.  We would engage in some social time and then there would be a talk on something.  Like sleep training, or bonding with your baby, or vaccination.  The absolute best session I’ve gone to however, was “Introducing solid foods” run by the health authority baby dietician.  Yeah.  That’s right.  We have a baby and toddler dietician!  Not only does she do these kinds of community events, but she’s reachable by phone for a complimentary dietary consultation if you’re having problems or concerns about your baby or toddler’s diet.  This is incredibly reassuring to me, not because I’m having problems feeding my son, but because in our modern food culture with all its emphasis on cheap, convenient, poor quality nutrition, the health system has at least launched a bit of a counter response.

She gave us a great talk and lots of handouts from public health on feeding babies.  Then she had us analyze the nutritional labels on prepared baby foods that she’d gotten (donated) from local retailers.  By the end of the session none of us would dare give baby mum-mums to our kids and we were all jazzed up about offering healthy real foods.

She encouraged us to:

  • delay introducing solids until at least 6 months and only when our baby could sit with minimal support and had lost the tongue thrust reflex
  • not focus on solid food intake as breast milk or formula still provides the majority of calories and nutrients until 1 year of age
  • make meal times a social and non-stressful event
  • never force feed
  • skip the mush.  Babies at 6 months can start directly with finger foods as long as they are soft and gummable
  • start with foods that are rich sources of iron (meet, legumes, oatmeal, dark green leafy veg etc…she did not emphasize fortified rice cereal)
  • offer tons of textures and tastes.  Although you should avoid salt and sugar, she encouraged all kinds of spices and interesting tastes.  Bland food be banned!
  • learn the difference between gagging and choking.  To accept gagging as a part of learning to eat and remain calm as our babies figured out how to safely handle food but to learn how to recognize real choking and learn what to do by taking a baby first aid course.

Then I found babyledweaning.com and threw away all that old advice of introducing one mushed food at a time with a gap of 3-4 days between new foods.  It makes perfect sense.  At a point in time when babies are developmentally able to reach out, grab something and shove it into their mouth and gum it to death, why not let them?  I know this is a variation of the “why would nature have gotten it wrong” argument and all the fallacy that argument implies…so some caveats.  No obvious choking hazards.  Never put anything into your baby’s mouth for them.  Never let your baby eat in a semi- or reclined position.  Never let your baby eat without supervision…etc.

So that’s how my little bean’s first meal became apple slices, avocado and homemade southwestern black bean burgers and his second meal became arugula and meatballs.

In our first week of solids he’s also eaten (okay gummed, perhaps not really swallowed) strawberries, spinach, blackberries, roasted carrots and yams, rice, oatmeal, my turkey sandwich (grabbed my hands as I was eating it and pulled it into his mouth, mustard and all), banana, and, yesterday, the ill-fated drumstick.

Babyledweaning.com has a wonderful picture gallery full of images of tiny babies chowing down on the most amazing things and that’s where I got the idea to offer my kid a chicken drumstick.  They were billed as easy to hold.  And it was.  And he loved it.  He ate a lot of it.  At least, when it came out of his mouth large parts of it were missing, never to be seen again.

But it was also easy to drop.

Which is where the dog got involved.

The drum stick was in the dog almost before it hit the floor.

Then it went like this:

TAM (The adequate mother): No!  Drop it!

TAF (The adequate father): don’t let her eat that!  You have to get it from her.

TAM: I’m trying!  Drop it.  No!  Open your mouth (prying jaws open).  Sh*t.  I can’t open it.

TAF: Drop it!  Drop it!

TAM: Sh*t.  Where did it go?

TAF: It has to be in there.

TAM (peering into dog’s now opened mouth) No…did she swallow it?

TAF: She couldn’t have swallowed it whole, could she?

TAM: It’s gone.

(long pause)

TAM: do you think it will go through her?

TAF: I don’t know.

(long pause, during which TAF looks at me and his look says, “I can’t believe this.  We should have fed him mush.  Now my dog is going to die.)

The dog hasn’t died yet.  She seems fine, in fact.  We called our good friend, who happens to be a vet, and he told us that most of the time bones get all jelly-like from sitting in the stomach acid and it will likely either liquefy or get soft enough to pass through her.  But we are on the look-out for vomiting, bleeding (in vomit or stool), lethargy and other signs of bowel perforation or obstruction.

Because even though dogs eat lots of bones in the wild and have “evolved to do this”, that doesn’t mean everything will be fine.  Some dogs/ wolves/ coyotes get bowel obstructions and die.

Even mountain goats sometimes fall to their death.

Species survival only requires that enough survive to reproduce and continue the species.  Not everyone.  Not all the time.

But our dog will be fine.

TAF: You don’t know that.

TAM: No, I don’t.  But we’re watching her and we know what to look for.  If something happens, or she seems unwell, we’ll take her to the vet.  We’ll get her the best help we can find, even if they have to do surgery.  We’ll look after her.  It’s going to be okay.  She’s going to be fine.



  1. desiree · · Reply

    i hope your dog is doing well!!

    i offered both my girls finger food as soon as they were ready, and they loved it. the only advice i have a quibble with is to wait *at least* 6 months. i think the research on the topic points to not earlier than 4 months, not later than 6, for introduction of solids (provided development is normal). and i’m going to be lazy and not cite any of it, which is lame i know, but i’m going to scamper off to bed as soon as i’m done writing this.

    and, this is my first comment, but i found your blog via the SOB and i love it!

    1. Thanks,

      The doggy is just fine. I haven’t read the literature about introduction of solid foods myself. I’m just quoting the Canadian Pediatric Association and our Public Health office which both recommend exclusive BF or formula for 6 months.

      Babes have to be able to sit up and lose their tongue thrust also so some kids won’t be ready right on their half-birthday. Some kids might be able to sit and bring food to their mouth on their own before 6 mo and its probably reasonable to let them try eating/ playing with food then.

      1. desiree · · Reply

        i’m partially biased because my second nearly dove from my arms at 3 months old, into a pizza. i had to stop eating in front of her at about that age too, because she’d have a tantrum when i didn’t share. she had was sitting up unassisted and using a pincer grasp by 4 months, so i started her on solids then. she’s the reason i researched solids before 6 months (because when my first was born, the recommendation was starting at 6 months). the european equivalent of the AAP is the one, if i recall, who first said “not earlier than 4 months, not later than 6,” and i took the liberty of going with their recommendations. i figured if my husband is european, then my kids are half european, and i can pick and choose. 🙂

        i’m glad to hear your dog is fine!

        1. Hehe. I love the image of a 4 month old diving into a pizza!

          Your daughter at 4 months seemed like she was exhibiting all kinds of developmentally ready to eat behaviour. I would have let her play with food too!

          1. desiree · · Reply

            here’s a link, just in case you’re curious about solids recommendations in europe: http://journals.lww.com/jpgn/Fulltext/2010/01000/Introduction_of_Complementary_Feeding_in_5.22.aspx#P25

            it’s from 2 years ago, so pretty recent.

            my daughter is really something else! she still knows exactly what she wants and will still scream when she doesn’t get it, but i’m learning to deal (she’ll be 4 in may). hopefully her determination will serve her well when she’s grown, and she uses her power for good and not evil. 🙂

  2. I just discovered your blog through a friend’s Facebook link to today’s (March 20) post 🙂

    We decided to do BLW as well (I have blogged extensively about our experiences), and it has been a lot of fun for all concerned. We started at five months, since the little guy was showing a lot of signs of interest/readiness for solids. At first he was just tasting and sucking on food, but as he started to figure out how to bite off pieces, there was a lot (and I mean A LOT) of gagging. It was nerve-wracking to us, as parents, but the little guy never seemed to care, and there were never any choking incidents.

    The gagging started to abate at six and a half months, and at seven months he is now fairly competently swallowing soft foods.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find out from our health nurses that the provincial guidelines for introducing solids are basically in line with what we decided to do on our own. The “Baby’s Best Chance” book even suggests meat as a first food!

    We attend those parent/infant drop-in classes too (aren’t they great?!), and I am looking forward to hearing what they have to say at the “healthy feeding relationships” discussion.

  3. I seriously had no idea you could give babies anything but mush when you first start feeding them. Then my first son all but ignored baby food while trying to claw everything off of my plate. So I started pre-chewing stuff and giving it to him. Which was followed by actively looking for and buying stuff that was soft enough for him to eat. It’s been much less stressful with my second now that I’m not so paranoid about solid food. We still hardly ever use babyfood. Though I do use baby food to trick my toddler into eating vegetables. It’s perfect to mix into spaghetti sauce, mac&cheese, and the like.

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