Ever wonder if pureed baby food is the only way to introduce solid foods? Has your baby grabbed a carrot off your plate and started chomping away? Did you struggle with spoon feeding, or wish that your baby could be more of a part of family meals?
If so, you might be interested in learning about Baby Led Solids (known in the U.K., where “weaning” means starting solids, not stopping breastfeeding, as Baby Led Weaning).
We thought we’d answer some commonly asked questions about this increasingly popular method of introducing solid foods.
What is it? Baby Led Solids is a way of starting babies on solid foods by self-feeding. You can skip the purées and make the transition to solid food by following your baby’s cues.
How do you do it? It’s as simple as having your baby sit with the family at mealtimes, giving your baby suitably sized pieces, and letting him or her eat (or play) away! It’s up to your baby how much she eats.
Why do people choose this method over spoon feeding pureed foods? In Baby-Led Weaning, authors Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett list explain that when babies aren’t spoon fed they can follow their instincts, learn to feed themselves by watching and imitating adults and siblings, and develop independence and confidence as eaters. They point out that spoon feeding pureed foods is a very new phenomenon for human babies which started as a means of introducing solid foods very early – by two or three months in the 1960′s. Since we now know that most babies naturally develop to start solids at around six months, there’s no need to feed this way.
A 2011 study found that “weaning style impacts on food preferences and health in early childhood. Our results suggest that infants weaned through the baby-led approach learn to regulate their food intake in a manner, which leads to a lower BMI [body mass index] and a preference for healthy foods like carbohydrates.”
Finally, most parents appreciate the humor factor. Is there anything cuter than a babies’ face covered with blueberries? Okay, we know it’s messier this way, but the pictures you get are worth the extra cleanup, right?
How can you know when a child is ready? Rapley and Murkett list several signs of readiness which usually occur around age six months (sometimes later). These include sitting up with little or no support, reaching out to grab things and put them in mouths quickly and accurately, and gnawing on toys and making chewing movements. But, they say, “the very best sign that a baby is ready is when she starts to put food into her mouth herself – which she can only do if she’s given the opportunity.”
Won’t they choke? Rapley and Murkett write that allowing a (sitting up) baby to feed himself actually makes choking less likely, because it gives babies control over – and knowledge of – what is going into their mouths. They also discuss babies’ gagging reflex, which is triggered far closer to the front of the mouth than it is in adults.
Ar there babies for whom this method is not recommended? Baby Led Solids may not be right for babies with medical problems, developmental delays, or physical impairments. Babies born preterm may not be ready until they reach their adjusted age of readiness for solids.
We’ve compiled these into the list below, and hope you’ll find something useful for your own picky eater.
Involve kids in the process. You suggested involving kids in raising their own food, shopping, meal selection, and meal preparation. All great ways to get kids excited and invested in their food!
Make eating fun. From singing, to creating characters, to exaggerating your enjoyment of food, to presenting food in fun shapes and bento boxes, you said that you try to make eating fun.
Offer choices. You said that you offer several choices to your picky eaters, from among foods you feel good about serving.
Re-introduce rejected foods. As we jokingly pointed out in a cartoon last month, it can take several tries before a toddler discovers that she loves a new food.
Try different serving methods. You said that you’ve tried offering foods in different ways, including Baby Led Solids and using silly utensils like toothpicks!
Hide rejected foods in accepted ones. Some of you said that you make super nutritious smoothies or purees which contain foods that your kids wouldn’t otherwise eat.
Know your roles. You said, “ I only take responsibility for what is offered and leave what is consumed up to the kiddo.”