Imagine you have just turned 6 months old. You’ve been watching your Mummy and Daddy eating lots of different foods with interesting colours and you can’t wait to try them. But when it comes to your turn you are given a spoonful of orange coloured mush! You didn’t get to look at it, smell it, pick it up, check it for safety or see how it felt on your face or in your hair. Your immediate reaction is to spit it out.
What if you could let your baby have the same food as you, let them explore it and have fun while you all enjoy a family mealtime together?
What is Baby-Led Weaning? Six month-old babies are beginning to sit up, reach out and chew – the perfect time to introduce tasty, nutritionally packed finger foods – from sticks of cucumber to pieces of roast chicken, sweet potatoes to slices of apple. Babies are naturally programmed to explore food using all their five senses. Allowing them to stay in control – choosing what to eat – how much – and how quickly – not only stimulates their natural curiosity and their appetite, but the all-important ‘feeling full’ signals.
A recent study from the University of Nottingham confirms that allowing babies to feed themselves whole food at the weaning stage can give them a head start in life. They are more likely to develop a taste for healthy food, be less fussy and have a reduced risk of obesity.
As a Mum to two children under 5 years and a Nutritionist I am concerned that 1 in 4 children starting primary school are over-weight. I would like to see every baby given the opportunity to self feed because I truly believe this will give them the best possible dietary start. I have had the privilege of teaching over 250 parents to use Baby-Led Weaning with their children. Here are some of their comments:
“Baby-Led Weaning our son Harry, was by far the best parenting decision we made”
“I would urge any parent of multiples to discover the joy of Baby-Led Weaning. We did this with our twin boys who were premature but still able to master the skill and continue to eat really well at the age of 4 years”
“Why would you do this any other way, surely it is common sense to let a baby feed themselves if they are fully able to”
Ditch the purees and give your children healthy, whole foods at 6 months.
Before you start you need to know a couple of important things.
• Your baby must be ready – are they able to sit up, hold their head up and hold a spoon?
• Food must be prepared so it will stick to a spoon (i.e. porridge) or in a stick shape (i.e. a finger of cucumber) as your baby will only be able to use their fist initially.
• Check your baby’s mouth before lying them down after food as they are able to use their tongue to dislodge any food in their cheeks or roof of mouth.
• Avoid salt, sugar and honey.
• Be prepared for gagging, babies at this age have a very sensitive gag reflex in order to protect against choking.
• Let your baby have fun and do not worry how little food they actually take down for the first few weeks.
• Have mess control in place!
To make it easy, I have a written a Step by Step Guide to Baby Led Weaning which will be available at the Baby and Toddler Show, Bluewater on 25-27th April.