Baby Led Weaning
If you are ready to introduce solids, you may be perusing the baby food aisle and wondering where to start. In many parts of the world, babies don't start on jars of canned baby food. Another way to start solid foods is to feed your baby the same food as the rest of your family, instead of the baby food puree we typically think of as baby's first foray into the wide world of food.
This concept is known as Baby Led Weaning. "Weaning" in this case is a bit misleading and owes to the difference in the meaning of the word around the world; Baby Led Weaning does not refer to weaning from the breast, but instead describes a method of introducing solid foods that allows the baby to decide what, when and how much to eat. Baby Led Weaning is very common in Europe, and many professionals feel it is a better way to introduce solids. 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 that pairs well with breastfeeding. If you enjoy traveling light, it makes perfect sense to share your food with your baby. No more jars, spoons or asking the waitress to warm up any food.
Baby Led Weaning uses your baby's tendency to put everything in their mouth. It allows you to introduce new flavors and textures, allowing them to choose what they like. Often times we do this instinctively at mealtime without realizing it.
Many parents have the perception that infants will choke on harder foods and should only be offered soft options like pasta and ripe pears. However, from around 6 months of age, babies will not get much food to the back of the mouth to swallow. You may notice that most offerings end up on your baby or on the floor! Remember that anytime your baby is eating, they should sitting upright and supervised at all times.
To help your baby handle the foods you introduce, cut the food you offer into shapes that are the right size and shape for them to pick up. For example, toast cut into sticks is much easier for your baby to grab and hold onto than bread in any form.
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 softened, not mushy, or baby will have a hard time holding them. Babies shouldn't have salt so leave all seasonings off and let family members add them to their plated food.
To offer fruits, give the entire apple or pear, and consider leaving the skin on to make it less slippery and easier to hold (peeling part of the fruit may to allow your baby to more easily bite the soft parts inside). Your baby can nibble off what they can, experience new textures tastes and practice self-control with their food choices.
Placing an assortment of foods on a high-chair tray allows your baby to choose what they prefer (and maybe dropping what they don't want on the floor!). Offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to expose your baby to many flavors and textures. Even if your baby rejects a certain food the first time you place it on their tray, continue to offer it. They may try it another day and accept it, you never know!