The concept (and video) are known as Baby Led Weaning. The practice is very common in Europe, and I discovered the video at an International Lactation Consultant Conference – I knew I had to spread the word to every parent looking for a better way to introduce solids. The title is a bit misleading – the video is not a how-to-wean from the breast. Instead it challenges the idea of introducing solid food that is not solid by any means and food most of us would not eat under any circumstances.
This is a great strategy, and pairs seamlessly with breastfeeding. For all of us that enjoy traveling light, it makes perfect sense to share your food with your baby. Instead of carrying around jars, spoons and asking the waitress to ,”Please warm this up”, you simply use your baby’s tendency to put everything in her mouth to introduce new flavors and textures, allowing her to choose what she likes and moving seamlessly to a varied diet. Often times we do this at mealtime without realizing it. As parents we instinctively share appropriate foods at mealtimes. Baby Led Weaning gives specific strategies to make a variety of foods easier for your baby to handle.
I had the incorrect perception that infants would choke on harder foods and should only be offered soft options like pasta and ripe pears. From around 6 months of age, babies will not even get food to the back of the mouth to swallow – that explains why most offerings end up on your baby or on the floor! I like the phrasing of the narrator “There will be a mess, but it will be less of a problem if you prepare for it.” As with anytime your baby is eating, she should sitting upright and supervised at all times.
The video gives some tips for cutting the food you offer into shapes that are the right size and shape for her to pick up. For example-toast cut into sticks is much easier for your baby to grab and hold onto than bread. See toast stick picture (right)
To simplify mealtimes, cut all of the veggies you serve into 3 inch stick shapes. Slightly cook the veggies for only a few minutes. You want them only softened, not mushy, or baby will have a hard time holding them. Since babies shouldn’t have salt, leave all seasonings off and let family members add them when they plate their vegetable serving. Here is a screenshot of veggie sticks cooking (left)
Parents can offer babies the entire apple or pear (leaving the skin on to make it less slippery and easier to hold). (apple shot) The infants can nibble off what they can, experience new textures tastes and practice self- control with their food choices.
If you place an assortment of foods on a high-chair tray, allowing the baby to choose what she prefers, while dropping much of it on the floor and into her lap – you are allowing your baby to determine her level of adventure in eating. The narrator suggests that babies that are allowed to choose their own food adventure are less likely to become picky eaters. This may be true to some extent, however, research has shown a portion of strong food preferences is genetic and a baby introduced to solids using this strategy may still have strong food likes and dislikes.