For the first six months of your baby’s life, breast milk was all she needed to grow and be healthy. Now, at about 6 months old, she is likely ready to eat solid foods. Breast milk is still the most important food, but you can now add solid foods during her feedings.
Parents are first educators of baby’s senses. All healthy babies can begin to feed themselves from about six months. They just need to be given the opportunity. (Montessori, M., Children discover)
Solids foods will provide nutrients, flavors and textures. These are all important for her overall growth and development.
Nowadays parents lead from three crucial methods of baby feeding:
- Baby-led weaning
- Traditional food (purée)
In this lesson I will present you a general introduction for each of the methods that I mentioned above.
Let’s start with first one method Baby-led weaning which is approved by Baby Centre Medical Advisory Board. This method of baby feeding is newest method in contemporary societies. It is founded by Gill Rapley in United Kingdom during 2013.
This method conduces in right physical and mental development of the baby in his first stage of the life.
Baby-led weaning method is a way of introducing solid foods that allow babies to feed themselves. In this way babies do not need spoon or purées, but they can sit with the family at mealtimes and joins in when he is ready, feeding himself first with his fingers and later with cutlery.
The studies for childhood development emphasize that the priorities of Baby-led weaning method are:
- Allows babies to explore taste, texture, color and smell
- Encourages independence and confidence
- Helps to develop their hand-eye coordination and chewing skills
- Makes picky eating and mealtime battles less likely.
Parents who have tried BLW are generally passionate about its benefits. They say their babies will eat anything and everything, which helps to take the worry out of starting solids. But although there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence about BLW, not much formal research has been done.
However, one study did find that babies who are allowed to feed themselves from the beginning of weaning are more likely to:
- Join in with family mealtimes
- Eat a wide range of family foods early
Another study found that BLW encourages babies to choose healthier foods, which could protect against obesity in childhood.
Why baby-led weaning estimated as a useful method nowadays
In this case, it is very important to emphases that Baby-led weaning method is based on the way babies develop in their first year. Babies’ immune and digestive systems aren’t ready for other foods until they are about six months old – so the breast milk (or infant formula milk) is all healthy babies need until then.
In the past, when babies were started on solid foods at three or four months, they had to be spoon fed with purées.
At six months, most babies are able to sit upright, pick up pieces of food, take them to their mouth and chew them – in other words, they can feed themselves.
In addition, if you’ve waited until your baby is six months to introduce solid foods you’ve skipped the purée stage, so there’s no need to start that way.
According to the conceptual framework, this method offers opportunities for children to choose:
- when to start their meals;
- What they will eat. Food is chosen among the healthy options offered by their caregivers;
- The rhythm of the meals;
- The amount of food that will be ingested at each meal
Of course, all new parents need to know the charts of first food for their babies, which food can they offer their babies, which food need to avoid, how do they get started? These issues we will discuss in our second lesson.
As recommended by the World Health Organization and several other health authorities across the world, there is no need to introduce solid food to a baby’s diet until after 6 months, and by then the child’s digestive system and their fine motor skills have developed enough to allow them to self-feed. Baby-led weaning takes advantage of the natural development stages of the child.
The parents are not recommended to start the BLW if:
- they have a family history of allergies, digestive problems, or food intolerances
- their baby has special needs and can’t chew very well or has difficulty picking up food and moving it to his mouth
- their baby was born prematurely
Once your baby starts showing an interest in feeding himself, it’s critical to provide many opportunities for him to practice this skill. The key to mastering self-feeding is to let him try, try and try again.
A good way to start is to place a few pieces of food on your baby’s highchair tray. Let him feel it. It may seem as if he is just playing with it, but that’s actually how he learns. Initially, your baby may grasp for the food with a raking motion, using the entire fist to move the food toward his mouth. Eventually, he’ll develop a fine motor skill of grabbing the food with the thumb and forefinger, called the pincer grasp.
Setting aside time at the beginning of the meal for practice is a good idea, since his desire to eat will be stronger and may help in motivating him to bring the food to his mouth himself. If your baby gets frustrated, allow him to finish the meal and eat how he normally would. Just remember to keep trying at other meals throughout the day.
The foods you give your baby to practice self-feeding should be soft and easily mashed. Here are some ideas for first finger foods to try:
- Small pieces of ripe, soft bananas, avocados, peaches or kiwi
- Soft cooked sweet potatoes, peas, or carrots
- Grated or soft cooked apples and pears
- Soft cooked whole grain pasta
- Cubes, strings, or small pieces of cheese
- Shreds or small diced pieces of cooked chicken, fish or turkey
Foods that pose a risk of choking should be avoided. For examples include nuts, whole grapes, hot dogs, raw carrots, raisins, popcorn, and portions of food that are too large.
Jean Piaget emphases in his theory of socialization that after your baby masters self-feeding with his hands, the next step is offering utensils. Most children become very proficient with self-feeding with spoons and forks between 18-24 months, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait until then to start exposing him to utensils.
Just as your baby needed a lot of practice eating with his hands, he will also need many opportunities to attempt eating with utensils. A good way to begin encouraging this transition is to give him his own baby or toddler-friendly spoon or fork. With practice, your baby will learn the motions and see the sequence of events that get the food into his mouth via the utensil.
Thicker foods like oatmeal or mashed sweet potatoes are good practice foods since they will more easily stick to the utensil. It will be messy for a while but just try to remember that the more practice he has, the more efficient he will become.
Once your baby has gotten the hang of dipping the utensil into the food and bringing it to his mouth, consider giving him his own small bowl. Allow him to feed himself from his bowl while still feeding him from yours.
Once the baby tries to demonstrate that he is getting most of the contents of his bowl into his mouth, you can slowly give him more in his bowl while having less in yours, until he is eating most of the meal himself.
Remember, it is a learning process and it will take some time before your baby is nearly and proficiently feeding himself. In the meantime, have fun and be prepared to get messy!
Some tips in this stage of feeding:
- Help your baby be successful with eating
- Make sure baby is sitting up during meal times – in a highchair is best.
- Include your baby in the family mealtime routine. Feed your baby while other family members are eating.
- Stay with your baby when she is eating. Talk quietly and encourage her while she eats. Let your baby take the lead with eating: • Let your baby open his mouth before you feed him.
- Let your baby touch her food – in the dish, on the spoon, or on the tray.
- Allow her to feed herself with her fingers as soon as she shows interest.
- Feed your baby at his pace. Do not try to get him to go faster or slower than he wants.
- Stop feeding when your baby shows that she has had enough. Do not force your baby to finish her food. A baby will eat when she is hungry and stop when she is full. Remember a baby’s appetite can change from day to day.
- Be patient when offering new foods. It may take 15-20 tries of a new food before your baby likes it.
- Have fun! Signs of hunger
- Excited and smacks lips when placed in high chair
- Opens mouth when offered food
- Leans forward and reaches for the food Signs of fullness
- Shuts mouth when offered food
- Turns or pushes the food away
- Cries to get out of high chair
Puréed or well-mashed food is an obvious bridge between liquid and solid foods. It’s easy for parents to see how much their baby is eating if you spoon-feed him. By six months, babies can take food off a spoon using their upper lip, rather than sucking the food off. By eight months, babies can chew and swallow foods with lumps.
With the establishment of six months as the recommended age, worldwide, for the introduction of complementary foods (WHO/UNICEF, 2003), interest in ‘baby-led weaning’ (BLW) – an approach in which the infant feeds himself from the outset with graspable pieces of food (Rapley, 2013) – has grown, with evidence accruing that pureed foods and spoon feeding may not be essential elements of the move away from full milk feeding and that the feeding method may have an impact on food preferences. In a study by Townsend and Pitchford (2012), infants fed using a baby-led approach showed a greater preference for non-sugary carbohydrates in the toddler years (20–78 months) than spoon-fed infants. What has not been explored is why this may be – specifically, whether there is something in the nature of the difference between the two feeding methods as experienced by the infant that may explain it. There is a general assumption that the giving of pureed food to infants by spoon is evidence based but it is difficult to find justification for this view. Rather, it seems that it has simply become common practice in industrialized societies (Rapley, 2016a, 2016b). And yet neither the consistency of the food nor the means by which it finds its way to the infant’s mouth has been considered as a confounding variable, even in the most recent studies relating to the introduction of solid foods. Indeed, the report by Chambers et al. (2016) of a roundtable discussion looking at ‘Ways of introducing vegetables during complementary feeding’ (p. 272, my emphasis) refers only to possible © 2016 combinations of vegetables and the need for variety, with no mention of the potential impact of the feeding method.
- Rapley G, Murkett T. Baby‑led weaning: helping your baby to love good food. Reino Unido: Vermilion; 2008.
- World Health Organization. Infant and young feeding: model chapter for medical students and allied health professionals.Geneva: WHO; 2009.
- World Health Organization. Commission on ending childhood obesity. Geneva: WHO; 2016.
- Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group CONTACT Gill Rapley [email protected] EARLY CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND CARE 2018, VOL. 188, NO. 8, 1109–1123 https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2016.1250080