Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Montessori Weaning: Months Two to Four

According to the teacher at the Montessori class Henry and I are taking (who, coincidentally, happens to be the mother in my favorite Montessori documentary of all time), the Montessori weaning process begins at two months. "Weaning" at this stage just means introducing the tiniest bit of food.

Here's an overview of the first couple of months (I'll share the later months when Henry gets to that point):
  • First two months: Exclusively breast feed
  • 3rd month: 2-3 drops per day of sweet, fresh, organic juice on a small spoon to stimulate enzymes and to help the child explore taste and texture. Peaches, pears, carrots, watermelon, apples, and cucumbers are good to start with. The same fruit is used for the entire week. Citrus and berries are not used during this time, due to allergy concerns. Throughout the month, the frequency increases to twice daily.
  • 4th month: The child practices holding something in her/her hand, such as non-wheat bread, rice crackers, or salt-free rice cakes. This is offered when the rest of the family is having a meal. The juice drops continue.

My Montessori teacher has followed this process with all three of her children, and she is convinced that it helped all of them develop broad palates. When I took Henry for his two-month appointment with the pediatrician, I explained the Montessori approach to weaning, and my doctor advised me not to start the juice drops until four months.

Now that Henry is three months, I think I'm going to start. It seems to be a good compromise between the Montessori advice (two months) and the pediatrician's advice (four months).

Since I don't have a whole-fruit juicer, I'm going to use my citrus juicer. That should work well enough to get a couple drops. I need to order child-sized spoons, forks, and plates in preparation for this weaning process. In Montessori, we use real items from the very beginning (e.g., real child-sized glasses instead of "sippy cups.").

I need to purchase a Henry-sized table and chair (which he will start using when he's able to sit independently). I was going to get one from IKEA and chop the legs down to size, but my Montessori teacher explained that it's very important for the first table to be heavy, so it provides stability for the yet-to-be-stable child. There's one available from Michael Olaf, but I think I'll explore my options locally first.

The entire Montessori weaning process takes 10-14 months. My original plan was to breast feed for 12 months, so this approach seems to line up well with my thinking.

I'm excited!

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Maura said...


You may want to look at the "Land of Nod" they have a table that "grows" with your child! It's pretty cool.

Good luck!

Allison Campbell said...

Hi Sara,

I've been wanting to see Edison's Day for a while now, but it seems the only way is to buy it for $45 from the site you linked to. Maybe I'd like to own it one day, but
I think I'd like to watch it first. Do you know how someone like me could watch this movie?


Kylie D said...

Wow, start weaning at three months. I haven't heard that before. Our advice has always been exclusively breastfeed until six months. Strange (and confusing) that simple advice can vary so much. Love Edison's Day too - such a classic!

Kelsey said...

Allison - have you checked your local library? Maybe you could request they buy it if they don't have it. Good luck!

lisa said...

My six month old granddaughter is willing to taste a wide variety of foods, and we encourage it. by 6-7 months, there really isn't anything a baby can't eat.

When I raised mine, we started cereal at 6 weeks. My kids are all rather skinny, even as adults.

Abigail said...

A book I would recommend you read before introducing food other than breastmilk to your child would be "Vive le Vegan" by Dreena Burton - the back of the book has a Food Introduction Guide, which was given to her by her naturopath/midwife
I realize you are not vegan, but the list itself *does* include animal products
Dreena has attested in interviews that following this guide with all three of her children has prevented any food allergies/intolerances in them (so far, the oldest is not quite 10 and the youngest is maybe 3). She also states that her children never experienced any digestion problems while she followed this guide (as far as I know, she followed the guide from day 1 of all 3 of her children, so I realize that she wouldn't have a reference guide as to what their health was like off of it!)
I would love to give you a summary of the chart if you are interested - or I could copy it out and email it to you, let me know :)
Sincerely yours,

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Abigail! I would love to take a look at that chart as a reference. Thank you for thinking of me! I actually think Henry may already have allergy issues. The doctor took one look at his poop (which he said was too mucousy and watery, even though it looked like normal yellow baby poop to me) and said that Henry has a sensitivity to the protein in milk. He advised me to stop eating dairy, which I've done, but the poop looks the same. In fact, these past few days, his poop has gotten much, much worse. It's green, smelly, mucousy, with lots of water around the edges. He's also been very congested, and he has a patch of dry skin around his ear. I've also had a lot of gas (sorry if that's TMI!). I realized that I started eating peanut butter every day (in an almond milk and banana smoothie). I'm now wondering if he and I are sensitive to peanuts.

Who knows!

Hi, Allison! Please e-mail me about your question. Looking forward to hearing from you!

lisa said...


as you introduce new stuff to a baby, or add different stuff to your diet, or as they are teething, or get a cold, or figure out how to stuff toys in their mouths.....i.e., almost any change in their life: they poop differently. Not a big deal unless the child is unhappy, loosing weight, or massively rashy. Elimination diets remove vital nutrients from children who weren't particularly designed to be vegan or even vegetarian. Elimination diets drive mothers nuts and remove vital food from them. A varied diet works best: if you don't eat the same thing every day, it isn't likely to bother the baby. "Dairy intolerance" is an odd thing to list from baby poop---breastfed baby poop is very often very odd looking.

Abigail said...

Lisa - a vegan/vegetarian diet is a very healthy way to live and is perfectly safe for babies, and it doesn't drive me nuts! There is a LOT of misinformation around, which (if traced) comes from the animal agriculture industry. If you (or anyone) would like to email me your concerns, I would love to address them! My email is khalida.ed@gmail.com
I have been vegan for years (lost count, in all honesty), and I have many friends who are raising their children vegan. Their babies are healthy with no deficiencies of any kind (in regards to vitamins/nutrients, etc). Elimination diet is the wrong word to use (in my opinion) to describe a vegan lifestyle. Saying that puts an immediate negative connotation on the lifestyle, which shouldn't exist. Every parent should talk to a doctor/naturopath/physician when discussing your new child's diet - whether vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, lactose-free, or a regular diet that includes all available foods.
If you are not comfortable emailing me (I know I can come off VERY harsh over email/comments), I will post a few common misconceptions about raising your child vegan:

1) If you feed your infant a vegan diet, they will become mentally retarded:
False. There is another version of this statement that says if you feed an infant soy, that result will happen. What actually happens is not related to a vegan diet at all. The issue arises from not getting your child enough DHA (a nutrient required in a child's first 2 years in order to make sure their brain develops properly and fully). If you are breastfeeding, this will not be an issue. If (for whatever reason) you do not breastfeed, you must ensure your child receives DHA, which ONLY comes from mammalian milk (human, cow, goat). It does not exist in soy milk, soy formulas, or any plant-based milk (almond, hemp, etc). In cases where breastfeeding is not an option, you MUST speak to your physician about obtaining DHA for your child.

2) Vegan diets are not suitable for children:
False. A well-balanced vegan diet is suitable for ANYONE, children included. This statement arose from a handful of cases in the late 90s where children had died from malnutrition, and it was made public that the parents were vegan. If you go and read the court records, it will show that the judge felt a vegan diet is NOT unsafe, but that any parent not consulting a physician/naturopath/doctor about their child's diet (regardless of if it is a vegan one or not) when your child is clearly malnourished is child-abuse. The media ran rampant with these cases and stated that vegan diets will kill children.
There were also a few cases in Europe where parents were deemed unfit because they fed their children raw diets. The physicians and naturopaths that I talked to told me that feeding a child a raw diet must be done with extreme care, because raw food fills you up faster, and children have smaller stomachs than us, so getting them the proper amount of nutrition can be tricky when they fill up so fast.

I realize I will seem more than a little zealous in this post, and for that I do sincerely apologize. I have found that being armed with information is the best way to dispel misleading, harmful rumours about diets that are safe and healthy when done correctly. All diets have the potential to be unhealthy for children. If you feed your child only chicken and potatoes for weeks on end, that is surely just as unsafe as if you feed your child a vegan diet without making sure all of their nutritional needs are met.

*steps off of soapbox*

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely yours,

Our Little Beehive said...

Ikea sells wooden kids' tables that are very economical. You could cut the legs down and use strapping (1x2's) to attach a few bricks to the underside to weigh it down, if needed.

Jennifer said...

I've been coming back to this post over and over and the juice thing at such a young age still seems so weird to me. I am surprised your ped. recommended doing it at 4 months when the AAP and WHO recommend nothing but breastmilk until 6 months. If you are nursing your baby gets the flavors of the things you eat through your milk so it's not like a breastfed baby isn't already being exposed to lots of flavors. Also, one of the reasons to consider waiting is that feeding only breastmilk until 6 months could maximize the immunity benefit of breastfeeding by preserving the lining of the gut. Anyway, following along with interest but wanted to throw out another point of view!

Lisa said...

Ummm. If we are going by anecdotes, I know several people who have been consistently ill until moving from vegan to either paleo or omnivorous diets. I find it dangerous to push a vegan diet on children, who are frequently subject to food jags and various grain intolerences, just as I find it problematic to use such a large amount of soy as is found in most vegan diets.

In addition, the overanalysis of baby poop as indicator of difficulty with food tolerance is...interesting. Someone has too much time on their hands.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer- I too have been coming back to this post. It just seems so strange to me. Especially because the other parenting views Sara has don't seem to line up with weaning at such an early age, or weaning at all. I figured she would be going the child-led weaning route.

Sara if you read this- Why not wait until 6 months? that's what both the WHO and AAP recommend. And why wean completely by 12 months?

lisa said...

The AAP now recommends 4 months. And quite a few people don't want to be nursing forever, or even longer than a year. Reread the post: 2-3 drops of juice is not really weaning anyway. It's letting the baby taste food.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Anonymous: At this point, I probably will wait until six months to introduce solids because Henry still seems to have some kind of food sensitivity to my breast milk, and I don't want to introduce any other variables until we can get it sorted out. Otherwise, I would have followed the Montessori plan. I actually believe that the Montessori approach is the ultimate in "following the child." Henry is showing great interest in watching me eat, and he loves to put things in his mouth. Now seems like the ideal time to start introducing him to food (except for his sensitivity to food in my breast milk problem). The Montessori approach is not forced weaning; it's simply tapping into the child's natural interest, curiosity, and drive for independence. Personally, I'm looking forward to Henry's increased independence (although I'm trying to savor this stage as much as possible), and I look forward to continuing to build our close relationship in other ways beyond suckling. Montessorians believe that healthy attachment depends on healthy separation. The idea is that attachment without separation can easily become co-dependence.

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