Have you ever tried to feed a baby a spoonful of green goo that comes from a nicely sealed jar, only to have that green goo returned all over your face as the baby spits it out in refusal?
I don’t know about you, but green goo isn’t super enticing to me, so I’d imagine it’s not for a baby either! And yet, in our culture, we’ve learned to open up a jar and feed our baby the contents no matter how unappetizing they may be. (Some of those selections don’t even smell like food!) But what if I told you there was a better way? Did you know that you can actually teach your baby to start eating REAL food by teaching baby-led weaning?
Purees were introduced as a way to feed babies when they were really little. It seems logical to give babies blended up foods so they don’t choke and can more easily digest it. But in the last ten years, baby-led weaning has been gaining popularity. But what exactly is it? It’s not so much about weaning nurslings off the breast (or formula), but rather, it’s a way to transition them into eating solid foods.
It’s Much More Convenient
When you teach your baby how to eat food by himself, you save money on buying specially prepared foods. You also won’t have to prepare a separate meal for him and this saves time.
You can simply offer whatever your family is eating at the table. (Of course, you’ll want to make sure that you are making healthy choices for your family’s meals so your baby can have nutritional value.) No more packing special jars of mashed up mush for your baby when you’re on the road! Your baby can just eat what you do.
Baby-Led Weaning Helps Your Baby Develop Good Eating Habits
Have you ever dealt with a picky toddler who has settled on a total of three things for his entire repertoire of food? Baby-led weaning may help combat food pickiness! Before I knew better, when I was raising my first child, I fed him the same thing every day starting at six months of age. Rice cereal, three meals a day. (It turns out that now, at sixteen, he can’t handle rice – very interesting!)
I thought I was doing the right thing, but he was never really introduced to an array of foods. He just so happens to be my most picky eater! Out of all seven of my kids, he is the least interested in trying new foods and still doesn’t like more than a handful of foods. If only I had known about baby-led weaning back then. Click here if you need some help if you do find yourself with a picky eater.
In addition to having a varied diet, baby-led weaning will also teach your baby to know his limits and regulate himself. He’ll know when he’s hungry and when he’s full. He can stop eating when he’s not interested anymore. This is a skill that will carry with him for life. You won’t have to be force-feeding him, shoving food down his throat until he’s done.
Your Baby Will Actually Learn
Did you know that the exercise of picking up food between the thumb and forefinger is a baby’s way of learning pre-writing skills? The muscles and motions he uses to pick up tiny pieces of food will actually help him to develop fine motor skills. By using his hands to feed himself, he will develop hand-eye coordination as he learns to bring food pieces to his mouth.
He’ll also learn to recognize shapes, colors, textures, smells, flavors, and his own personal likes and dislikes. More is going on than meets the eye when your baby is feeding himself his own meal. He’s learning all kinds of new things!
Your Baby Can Join In At Family Mealtimes
In our house, the baby is the star of the show. He sits in his highchair pulled up to the table and smiles and giggles as the kids give him attention! What he’s eating is always the big question. And it seems like the kids are all fascinated every time he tries a new food!
Baby-led weaning allows your baby to be a part of the family meal table and interact and feel like he’s a part of everything that’s going on. He becomes a contributing member of the family table.
Ready To Start Baby-Led Weaning? Here Are Some Helpful Tips:
- Wait until your baby is ready. Your baby will begin to give you clues when he or she is ready to start eating solid foods. He or she should be able to sit upright in a high chair and full support his neck. One indication that your baby is ready to start eating solid foods will be an interest in what you are eating. You might notice your baby starting to reach for food when you are eating. You’ll know it’s now time.
- Don’t stop nursing or giving formula. Baby-led weaning isn’t so much about not nursing or giving formula as it is allowing your baby to start eating solid foods. Your baby needs to continue receiving the benefits of breastmilk or formula. You are just starting to move in the direction of food being his or her main source of nutrition. Remember you can keep breastfeeding even as your baby gets older and starts eating more solid foods.
- Supervise your baby. Never leave your baby unattended. You’ll need to be there to make sure your baby isn’t having trouble with swallowing or choking. It’s always a good idea to be present in case your baby needs help.
- Give a variety. When your baby is little he or she is more open to trying new foods. This is a great time to introduce variety. Make sure and offer a variety of flavors, colors and textures. You’ll be setting your baby up for a much better foundation of healthy eating in the future.
- Prepare the food. Cut the food into small pieces to avoid choking. Also, cutting in little pieces adds interest and the ability for your baby to pick up the pieces.
- Expect a mess. Let’s just face it. Feeding babies is messy. And since your baby is learning, you shouldn’t be surprised by a mess! Purchase a nice bib and a get a rug to put under your baby’s high chair. That way you can easily toss it in the wash for cleaning and your floor will be spared.
- Socialize with your baby. Talk to your baby and include him or her in the meal. Your baby wants to feel like a part of the family as well. So make sure and make him or her feel a part of the family dinner table!
It’s Worth It!
Your baby will go through many changes as he grows up. Teaching him to eat is the first of many. Be patient and offer lots of love and reassurance. You’ll be happy you took the time to set a good foundation right now! In the end, your effort will be worth it!
Do you have experience with baby-led weaning? Share some tips and tricks and let me know how you did it!