Baby Led Weaning: Is This the Newest Parenting Trend?

January 29, 2014  |  

When you’re pregnant, you sort of trust your baby to tell you what he needs; we take cravings mean there might be something missing in your diet. But once baby gets here, all the feeding decisions are up to you, right? Not quite, says a new post on the New York Times’ parenting blog Motherlode. Mom Julia Scirroto went to workshop that taught when your little one is ready for solids, let him do the feeding. It’s called baby-led weaning and the debate over it is driving British parents crazy.

For those of us on this side of the pond, baby-led feeding means you stop breastfeeding once your baby starts rejecting the breast. Makes sense, right? But the British take it a little further. Says Scirroto,

“Here in Britain, the term commonly means letting babies feed themselves from their very first mouthful of solid food at six months. No runny rice cereal, no applesauce, no airplane spoon games. Instead they start exclusively on easy-to-grab finger foods like steamed carrot sticks, hunks of banana, and even skinless chicken drumsticks, then progress at their own pace to more complex dishes. They share in family mealtimes and in the process, the theory goes, become more adventurous eaters comfortable with a variety of tastes and textures while acquiring a natural feel for portion control.”

And here we were all thinking babies should eat baby food, the mushy stuff that comes in jars or our of the blender. But Scirroto’s research found that purees were recommended decades ago at four months, an age when babies aren’t able to sit up, grab objects or really direct objects into their mouths. Then, it made logical sense to give babies the soupy mess. When the World Health Organization revised the guidelines to have infants start solids at six months, people kept feeding them mush even though their babies could now put food in their mouths themselves. And no, they won’t choke (infants are most in danger when parents just put chunks of food in their mouths).

Scirotto found baby-led weaning to be a godsend:

“First up were baby-fist-size spears of carrot and bell pepper, and within a few weeks she was happily munching on apple slices baked with cinnamon, juicy peaches, cheddar, toast and watermelon. At seven months, she was stripping ripe pears down to the core like a hyena with a side of ribs — all without any teeth. The best part was, I could go hands-free at mealtimes, so I was able to enjoy my lunch and dinner while she worked on hers.”

To her credit, Scirotto’s not telling every family to just throw out the spoons. And her story is a pretty convincing case for letting the baby do all the work. Who doesn’t want to be able to have their hands to themselves while they eat? Still, if your baby just happens to be a picky eater, you might have a hard time with feeding no matter what. Nor is letting your baby put the food of her choice in her mouth the only way to raise an adventurous eater. And if you’re eating in public, baby led weaning makes things harder for everyone. What happens when baby reaches the throwing phase?

Of course, what matters most is your baby gets the nutrients she needs. Whether that happens by a fork or by her fingers is up to mommy and daddy to decide.

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