Now that you have determined your child is developmentally ready to start solids, how do you actually introduce them? Currently, there are two main philosophies around introducing solids to infants. The first approach is the more traditional approach in which a parent spoon-feeds his or her infant pureed baby food. This approach has some advantages in that it is quicker, less messy and offers the parent more control over how much and what the baby actually eats. However, a new approach is quickly becoming popular.
Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is an approach to feeding infants, which allows the baby to be in control of feeding themselves. You offer your baby age appropriate foods that are soft-cooked and then cut or mashed into small manageable pieces. You choose what type of food to offer your baby and your baby chooses which ones to eat. One of the main tenets of BLW is that your baby should be in control of what he is eating. You should never actually feed him by putting food into his mouth. You can fill his tray with soft cooked broccoli spears, mashed banana pieces or a spoon loaded with cereal but he gets to navigate it to his mouth. However, you do not simply load his tray and walk away. Your baby must be supervised at all times. If at all possible, have your baby join you at mealtime in an upright position either on your lap or in a high chair. You can expect your baby, as well as the floor, to get VERY messy. Many BLW parents advised putting a plastic shower curtain on the floor and letting your infant eat in only a diaper (Rapley, 2008). The benefit of the BLW approach is your baby learns control and mastery over feeding himself. He can choose to eat to satiety and learns it is okay to listen to his body about when to stop eating. These opportunities can set up good life long habits around food for your child.
Think carefully about which approach you feel will work best for your family and your family’s temperament. If you are a family who values control and cleanliness, then Baby Led Weaning may not be the best approach for you. Once you decide which approach to feeding feels right for you and your baby, there are a wide variety of choices for first foods.