Introducing solids to your little one can be both exciting and thrilling. It is a fun experience to be exploring new tastes and textures with your baby. But to be frank, it can also be stressful, especially if the process is not going well. Eating solids is a skill that needs to be learned and like everything else, it takes time. While many parents choose to introduce solids the ‘traditional’ way, which is in the form of purees, there is an alternate approach that parents can consider that’s called baby-led weaning.
What is baby-led weaning?
It is an approach that’s popular in the U.K. and gaining traction in the U.S. where 6 months old or older babies jump straight to eating finger foods as soon as solid foods are introduced, skipping purees and mashed up foods. As the name suggests, baby-led weaning encourages your little one to be in charge in feeding themselves right from the start. Hence why this approach only works for a baby who’s at least 6 months old and capable of self-feeding.
Pros of baby-led weaning
- Gives your baby control over what they eat. This teaches your baby to self-regulate hunger as they will decide themselves to stop when they’re full. With spoon-feeding, parents tend to sneak in a couple more spoonful even if the baby is full which may leads your baby to becoming overweight.
- Encourages your baby to become familiar with various textures and flavours. Self-feeding teaches them to explore textures on their own which makes them to likely have more varied and healthy food preferences in the long run. Studies have shown that babies who eat a variety of food (including the common allergens: peanut products and fish) may actually be less likely to have food allergies in the future. But always consult with your baby’s doctor the best way to introduce peanuts and fish to your baby.
- Promotes oral and fine motor skills development. For a baby who might be unsure of the new taste or texture, baby-led weaning may give them full control to manipulate the food in their mouth – to swallow or not. It also encourages the development of manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination skills.
Cons of baby-led weaning
But of course, there is no feeding approach is perfect. Though there are many reasons to consider baby-led weaning, there are also disadvantages, including:
- Need to pay attention to iron intake. Breastfed babies get enough iron from the breast milk until baby is 4 months old but levels may decrease which is why your doctor will likely to advise to add a liquid iron supplement to the mix until your baby starts to eat iron-rich solids. However, it may be hard for your baby to chew on many iron-rich foods such as beef, thus, giving your baby pureed meat, green veggies, and fortified cereals would help to supply iron.
- Potential safety concerns resulting to negative eating experience. Giving your baby certain foods before they have developed the needed oral motor skills to eat it could result to gagging, vomiting, and possibly choking. And these reflexes would make your baby feels uncomfortable. Learning to eat solids requires practice (and patience for parents!). Your baby should experience a fun mealtime experience so that they want to keep doing it and exploring new food!
Though baby-led weaning may work and be helpful in most families, it is okay if it doesn’t work in yours. You can try other alternatives or talk to your baby’s doctor about it! The sooner your baby’s mealtime experience is enhanced, the better it is!
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