My first baby was such a picky eater. I worry I caused that somehow. So when I heard the idea circulating parenting circles of letting the baby dictate what to eat, I wanted to learn more.
According to the mom pioneering the Adventures in Solids blog, baby-led solid food introduction may be a healthy way to side-step the many eating issues our kids face:
“Babies develop appetite control, and a taste for nutritious food which leads to long term health. Babies who feed themselves gain confidence and learn to trust food. They can be more likely to try new foods because they know they won’t be forced to eat. Research indicates that common childhood problems such as constipation and food pickiness can be averted by allowing your child to be more in control of their first food experiences.”
So I dug into the topic of baby-led solids a bit more…
Baby-led solids is a spinoff of the term “baby-led weaning”, which was coined by Gill Rapley, who wrote the book by the same name.
Much like how you think of the usual way a baby is introduced to solid foods, the baby-led solids approach can also begin around six months of age, and would normally take place sitting in a high chair. The baby eats at the same time as everyone else, joining in the family meal.
The baby-led solids approach depend much less on the spoon. In fact, the baby is in charge of getting the food into his or her mouth, not the parent.
You give them bits of what you’re having for dinner as much as possible, rather than specially prepared purees. It’s finger foods all the way when you’re starting out. You set the pieces of food out on the high chair tray or plate so the baby can get to know the food, and perhaps even manage to eat some on her own!
You have to trust that your baby will eat as much as needed, gradually increasing his intake. Sometimes that may mean he eats nothing in a sitting (gasp!)
You’re not aiming to have your baby eating a certain amount by a certain age. (It’s baby-led, after all.) But as their overall development progresses, so will the textures, shapes and bite sizes they can handle. Leaving it up to them to get the food to the mouth helps make sure they are eating what they are ready to eat. Think of the development of the pincer grasp and readiness to eat small things like peas as coinciding, perhaps!
Well, I don’t know about you, but my interest is piqued! I’m going to explore the baby-led solids approach a bit more. (Here’s a start with Gill Rapley’s Guidelines.) Doesn’t it feel so much better to understand and make an informed decision, rather than learning about a different approach later and thinking, “I wish I knew about that back then!”