5 reasons baby led weaning wins every time

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Making your own baby food at home is a hot trend, but it may be an unnecessary step when you start introducing solids with infants. It was once recommended to start infants on solids around four to six months of age. This age window may not have allowed for physical and developmental readiness milestones to be reached. For example, if solids were started at about four and a half months of age, the infant’s gastrointestinal tract may not have been ready to receive this food form so pureed foods were given.

Current recommendations now suggest that an infant start solid foods or complementary feedings, in addition to formula or breastmilk feedings, at a more developmentally appropriate six months of age. Baby led weaning, a method which skips a puree-only phase and allows baby to self-feed foods of the family, may make the feeding process less stressful. Here are five reasons not to register for that pastel blender just yet.

No short order cooking just for baby

When using a baby-led approach, baby eats what the family eats for meals with nutrition and texture in mind. There doesn’t have to be a meal for baby and a different meal for adults. If you’re making steak with green beans and pasta salad, baby can try it all as long as it’s served in a safe shape (cut like a finger) and texture (can be easily mashed with your fingers or lips).

You can skip the special equipment to make purees

Foods like applesauce or Greek yogurt are a normal pureed texture and can be offered by loading the spoon for baby to self-feed. If you’re feeding foods of the family, it’s unlikely that a family eats pureed steak and green beans. This means you don’t need special equipment for making typically solid foods into purees.

Your family can eat better together

When your little one begins solids and shares meals with the family, it’s a great opportunity to plan more and balanced family meals. Planning meals with your little one’s nutritional needs in mind can help get balanced meals on the table for everyone. Babies need foods high in iron, energy, vitamin C (for iron absorption), and texture variety. A slice of steak with a soft texture along with the sliced tomatoes and avocado from your side salad will get dinner on the table for everyone.

A self-feeding approach can support self-regulation

Emerging research suggests that allowing a baby to self-feed may promote better internal cues into childhood. Responsive feeding is recommended by many organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics. Honoring baby’s signs of hunger (opening mouth, bobbing for the breast/bottle, sometimes crying, etc) and fullness (pursing lips, turning head, spitting out food, etc) is being responsive. This method can be used in spoon-feeding as well as long as the feeder is paying attention to baby’s cues. With self-feeding, the baby is honoring their own cues with the food provided. While some believe choking is a potential problem with this feeding method, studies have found no difference in the incidence of choking between spoon-feeding and a baby-led approach. No matter the method, parents must take safety precautions in feeding.

The approach may help reduce picky eating

Picky eating is a challenge that most parents face from time to time. It’s a normal part of development for children. Sometimes picky eating can be more extreme causing the child to be limited with types of foods and textures they accept. A baby-led feeding approach that doesn’t focus on purees may allow baby to advance textures and flavor acceptance more quickly. With a greater experience of textures and flavors, you may just be creating an adventurous little eater!

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