Is Baby-Led Weaning Right For Your Child?
Pediatrician looks at best methods to introduce solid food
If you ask about how best to introduce solids to your baby you will get many opinions and theories – and that is because there is more than one way to do it.
In cultures around the world the norms of infant feeding vary. In France the baby may start on broth, in Japan rice porridge and fish, in Argentina puréed vegetables. In the U.S., rice cereal flakes and jars of purees were the starting place for years.
Baby-led weaning came about as an alternative to the long time use of rice cereal and jarred food.
The idea is to let your baby feed herself food that she can pick up at independently at mealtimes with the family. There is a lot of good in this – the baby is part of the family meal, she is not limited to bland purees. The goal is for a toddler who eats a variety of foods – it is meant to combat picky eating. Does it work? The answer is – sometimes.
Many babies that eat a wide variety of foods at 1 year still go on to be "picky" eaters in toddlers. This can do with the toddler wanting to be in charge, or on the go or just that toddlers are growing more slowly than infants and so don't eat as much food.
When I talk to parents about infant feeding I advise a mix of purees and baby-led weaning style feeding. A baby can be fed both ways. I like offering pureed or smashed cooked vegetables as early as 5 months of age.
At this age babies are open to new tastes and it is a time for fun and trying foods like squash, green beans, sweet potatoes and avocado. If your baby loves it, great, then offer tastes 1-2 times per day at family meals. If your baby isn't interested that is OK. It is not for nutrition yet.
Once your baby is a strong independent sitter, usually around 7 months old, then add soft solids that your baby can try to pick up and feed herself. You can still offer purees with meals. Don't worry about feeding soft foods made with some spices or olive oil--flavor is good. Feed your baby soft bits of what you eat – soup, soft noodles, pieces of soft fruits and vegetables. Be creative – hummus, mild guacamole, stew.
Finally, start offering water at meal times. Teach your baby to drink water with meals, nothing sweet is needed – no juice.
Using pureed vegetable and fruits together with baby led weaning is my favorite way to start your baby on solids – but not the only way.
Get to know Vanessa Charette, M.D.
Vanessa Charette, M.D., has been a pediatrician at Cook Children's for 10 years and is located at the Fort Worth (Magnolia) office. Dr. Charette embraces the many components that contribute to health: nutrition, physical activity, emotional/psychological stresses and the environment. As your pediatrician she will spend time with you discussing nutrition, child development and take the time to address any concerns you have about your child's health.
Dr. Charette earned her undergraduate degree at University of California, Los Angeles, and her medical degree at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She completed her residency in pediatrics at San Diego Children's Hospital/UCSD. Dr. Charette is bilingual in English and Spanish and became board certified in 2002. She has served as a board member for Cook Children's Physician Network, Cook Children's Health Plan and as the medical director of the Cook Children's Neighborhood Clinics.
Dr. Charette is married and the mother of two active young boys. Click here to make an appointment with Dr. Charette or call 817-336-4896.