Ditch The Baby Food
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Baby-led weaning is gathering speed as a new parenting trend, but as with many parenting decisions, it's a trend that has a solid backing and plenty of benefits.
Ditch the purees
A rite of passage approaches as your baby turns 6 months old. It's time to bust out the rice cereal, add breast milk, formula or water to turn it into a puddle-y mess and spoon it into your bewildered baby's face, right?
Well, some parents don't necessarily believe that this is the way to go. "Pureed foods are gross," shares Aubrey, mom of two, who did baby-led weaning with her kids, and plans to do the same with the girl she's currently expecting. "I won't eat them — surely my baby doesn't want that! Baby only needs milk until they are around 12 months, so anything extra is for play and learning. It's important that my kids get the textures of foods not just the taste."
Jenn, mom of one, agrees. "It's so much easier to feed your baby what you are eating, and it helps Baby experiment with flavors and textures," she says. "Our daughter eats so much better when she's feeding herself rather than me feeding her."
The basics of baby-led weaning
Handing your infant a chunk of apple sounds crazy, doesn't it? But that's the basic idea behind baby-led weaning. You usually start solid food when your child can sit up well in a high chair and is showing interest in food. This can be anywhere between 6 months to 1 year old. And instead of chopping foods up into small bites, you give your child large pieces that she can gnaw and suck on, and basically play with. She will also use her teeth to shave off small bits of food — in fact, she shouldn't be able to bite off choke-able pieces until she's biologically ready to handle eating them.
For veggies, softening them via steaming is your best bet, but boiling can work too. A broccoli "tree," a slice of bell pepper, a chunk of sweet potato — these are all great choices for starters. Other moms choose naturally soft foods, like avocado or banana.
Yes, you can expect messes with baby-led weaning, and that's part of the learning experience. Being able to play with and bring the food to her mouth teaches a child how to self-feed, which is, of course, vital. Experimenting with the texture provides valuable clues for your little one as well. "I discovered it when my oldest refused to eat 'baby food,'" Crystal from Missouri tells us. "Caleb wasn't interested in food until after he was 1 year old and I think one of his first foods was a slice of pizza. Conor has wanted food from around 8 months. He gagged on a lot still but never choked on anything. He got a plate of a little of everything at Thanksgiving (he would have been 11 months old) and was a happy camper! Both boys will eat just about anything."
And it definitely frees you up to actually eat your own food, too. This is what Heather, mom of two, loves about it. "I think it's ideal primarily because you start your child on foods they will never have to wean off of," she explains. "Purees seem like just another thing you have to wean from. Also, how awesome is it to eat with your baby as opposed to feeding them?"