A mom recently wrote to us: What are your thoughts on Baby-Led Weaning?
In Baby-Led Weaning, parents skip giving infants pureed foods and encourage their babies to self-feed whole foods. While there‘s little research on the merits of this method of infant feeding, there are few studies demonstrating the superiority of ANY particular method of introducing solid (complementary) food to infants over another.
“It is acknowledged that even though a sequence of foods is outlined, that the sequence is a consensus not based on evidence. As a matter of fact, the old sequence is already changing in that meats to provide zinc and iron are encouraged sooner than later especially in breast-fed infants,” says Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on nutrition, Dr. Jatinder Bhatia.
Here are our thoughts specifically about Baby-Led Weaning:
Starting solid foods, whether you start with pureed or finger foods, will always be “baby-led.” If you start with pureed foods, you allow your baby to enjoy the interaction with you until she “tells” you she is no longer interested in the feeding by tongue thrusting the food out or by turning away. At this point, end the feeding.
Whether your baby learns to eat pureed foods from a spoon first or learns to chomp or gnaw on solids and turn it into a puree in her mouth likely doesn’t matter much. We don’t think that pureed foods have more or less nutritional value than whole foods. Nor do we feel that pureed foods are inherently more “babyish” than whole foods. Remember, adults enjoy pureed foods in the form of applesauce, hummus, and oatmeal as much as whole foods such as apples, grilled cheese sandwiches, and Cheerios.
Like all developmental milestones, it’s okay to help a child until she is ready to eat on her own. We put clothing on babies before they are able to dress themselves, but eventually they learn to put on their own shirts. In the same way, feeding babies off a spoon helps them until they are capable of grasping food, and later, their own spoons. Even when babies begin to self-feed, they can tire during a meal and need their parents to help.
Some kids do dislike pureed foods and go right to eating solid table food, but you won’t know unless you have tried.
The bottom line: enjoy feeding your child.
Julie Kardos MD and Naline Lai, MD
©2013 Two Peds in a Pod®
For more about starting solids, please see our prior post on this topic.