My first two kids were introduced to solids using a traditional puree approach. When my third baby was born this past summer, I decided to give Baby-Led Weaning a try.
Baby-Led Weaning originated in the UK. It promotes offering babies long graspable, large coin-shaped, or soft, mushy, and dissolvable finger foods instead of feeding purees with a spoon. The basic premise is that if you wait to start solids until 6 months, babies will be ready to eat finger foods, and the puree stage can be skipped altogether. Babies can eat purees, but with their fingers or utensils, not spoon-fed by the parents.
There has been very little research done in this area, but most of the studies I found had optimistic conclusions, suggesting that Baby-Led Weaning strengthens self-regulation, increases exposure to family foods, and even helps kids be more adventurous eaters later in life.
Related: See 10 Rules for Feeding Your Baby
But the Baby-Led Weaning experience is different for every family. And while some babies embrace it from early on, it does not work for others, especially those who are born prematurely, have oral motor delays or are just not so interested in self-feeding.
Here are the five things I learned about Baby-Led Weaning since my baby started solids:
The most important lesson I learned from feeding my baby and two older kids is that there is no cookie cutter approach that works for everyone. Some babies thrive on purees, others on finger foods and yet some on both. So instead of committing to a certain feeding philosophy, it is best remain flexible in your approach and to follow your intuition and your baby's developmental signs. Whichever approach you choose remember a quote by feeding expert Ellyn Satter: "The goal of feeding your baby is to have him join you at the table...not for you to join him at the high chair." Everything else will fall into place.
Natalia Stasenko MS, RD, CDN is a pediatric dietitian based in London and New York. A mother of three, she is passionate about feeding kids of all ages. Natalia contributed her nutritional expertise to the cookbook Real Baby Food, and when not writing, teaching online feeding classes or consulting, she is in the kitchen cooking and eating with her family. Follow Natalia on Twitter, read more of her stories on www.tribecanutrition.com.
Image: Baby feeding himself via Shutterstock