The first thing that parents should know about weaning under the direction of a baby is that the name can be confusing.
“The name is so misleading,” says Dr. Jean Moorjani, a pediatrician at Orlando Health’s Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, Florida.
Weaning, she explained, usually refers to having a baby from breast milk or formula. But when people say the phrase baby led teats, they mean giving solid food to a baby to eat on its own rather than feeding them puree with a spoon.
“If I were to give this another name, I’d call it baby food,” Moorjani said. “And I think it’s fantastic.”
“If you think about the traditional way of feeding babies – how I fed my kids – I put them in a high chair and they had a bowl of pureed food and I would spoon it up and do the cute little plane or choo – choo train and feed them,” she continued. “Baby-led is kind of the opposite of that. It really lets the baby take charge of what they eat.”
That’s right: This method is as simple as placing age-appropriate food in front of the baby and letting him or her do it.
While there hasn’t been much research on weaning babies (or, ahem, feeding), teaching a baby to eat on their own can have many benefits, experts and advocates say.
“If someone feeds you, you just eat the food and you stop when they stop, but if the baby is feeding it, they know when they’re full,” Moorjani said. “They recognize, okay, I’m not hungry anymore, and they stop eating. So they learn satiety better.”
Using their fingers and hands to pick up food and put it in their mouth can also improve their motor skills, and eating solid foods instead of puree introduces them to more flavors and textures, she said.
“It can be a general type of sensory experience,” says Dr. Lauren Crosby, a pediatrician in Los Angeles.
Crosby added that some studies have shown that introducing babies to a wide variety of foods early can also reduce their chances of developing food allergies later in life.
But first, it’s not for everyone
While baby weaning can be a popular choice these days, doctors want parents to know that it’s definitely not a requirement.
“If you have a baby that’s just digging in it and scooping food into it, fine, but if you have one that looks at the broccoli and throws it on the floor, you’re going to say, ‘Hmmm, no, me’ I’m not comfortable with this,” Crosby said. “So it also depends on the parent’s anxiety level and how much the baby likes being in it.”
It’s also fine to give it a try, and if it doesn’t work, go back to spoon feeding. After all, babies have been eating puree successfully for a very, very long time. Or some parents may find that a combination of both spoon feeding and baby controlled weaning works best.
“If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it,” Crosby said. “Your child is going to eat that food eventually, so I don’t want people to think this is the only way to feed the baby.”
How to start baby led pacifiers?
While it’s important to remember that breast milk or formula will continue to be a baby’s main source of nutrition until they are one year old, the American Academy of Pediatrics says parents can start introducing solid foods when a baby is about six months old. . although every baby is different.
Signs that a baby is ready for solid foods include good head and neck control, being able to sit independently, and showing an interest in the foods adults are eating around them. Babies with developmental delays or underlying neurological disorders may need to follow a more traditional feeding method, both doctors said.
Once your baby is ready, the AAP recommends introducing a new food every three to five days and watching for allergic reactions in the meantime. The food is up to the parents, but it has to be a single ingredient food (i.e. a strawberry – not a strawberry shortcake).
Start with a small amount of food first and understand that your baby may not be interested right away – and that’s okay. Eventually, they will become more comfortable eating, or at least playing with, solid foods.
Babies Guided Weaning Feeds
There are many options for what a baby can eat, but there are some important rules to follow.
“The most important thing is that food is cut into small pieces and if you hold it in your hand you can crush it,” Moorjani said.
Soft foods like banana and avocado are popular first foods for babies. But any fruit or vegetable that you can steam until soft will also work: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, apples or pears, for example. Babies can also eat soft cheeses and breads, pureed meats, eggs, oatmeal, tofu, rice and more.
“You can even do soft, flaky fish,” Moorjani said. “A lot of people don’t think of giving fish as an option, but most fish, when you cook it, are actually softer than chicken or beef.”
There are also foods that parents should not feed their babies: whole grapes or cherries, hot dogs, raw vegetables, large dollops of peanut butter, popcorn, and nuts.
Experts say it’s important to expose children to a wide variety of food textures and flavors, and many babies and toddlers need to be exposed to food multiple times before accepting it.
Things to watch out for
Some parents may worry about choking when their baby starts eating solid foods. But experts say there’s no evidence that self-feeding babies have more choking incidents than those fed mash.
That said, there are some things to be aware of.
First of all, every parent should take a CPR course before starting baby LED weaning (or even if they don’t), Crosby said. Parents should also keep an eye on their babies all the time they eat.
“You can’t do the dishes if they have giant chunks of food,” Crosby said. “Don’t let them eat if they’re crawling or running around or in the car in the back seat.”
There is also one major drawback to baby-controlled weaning: the mess. It’s no surprise that placing a tray of food on a 6-month-old usually ends up with most of the food on their faces, in their hair, or on the floor. While some parents feel the benefits of baby-led weaning outweigh the drawbacks, Crosby said it’s not for everyone.
“It’s not something where there’s enough data to say, ‘Yeah, do it, it’s better,'” she said. “It’s a bit mixed. I think you should do what you feel comfortable with.”