We are huge advocates of baby-led weaning over here at Meaning Full Living – or as we like to call it, baby-led feeding. If you’re thinking about starting your baby on solids, Jess Diamond, RND MPH, is here to answer your most frequently asked questions so that you can make the best choice for you and your family!
Written by: Jessica Diamond, MPH, RDN
We are huge advocates of baby-led weaning over here at Meaning Full Living – or as Jess likes to call it, baby-led feeding. If you’re thinking about starting your baby on solids, Jess Diamond, a pediatric and maternal registered dietitian nutritionist and picky eating specialist, is here to answer your most frequently asked questions so that you can make the best choice for you and your family!
What is baby-led weaning?
In the simplest terms, baby-led weaning is an alternative to traditional spoon-feeding where you give babies age-appropriate, wholesome foods from the beginning. Think finger foods (initially in strips about the size of your pinky finger) that are cooked and therefore safe. (The only foods that don’t need to be cooked are those that are super ripe naturally, such as avocado, watermelon, mango, and banana.) Finger foods like these allow your baby to feed themselves from the start and help them practice eating on their own. Jill Rapley popularized baby-led weaning in her book, Baby-led Weaning, but if you think about it, commercial baby foods have only been around for about 100 years, so before that, everyone relied on baby-led weaning.
What does the research say about baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning has been shown to improve oral motor and speech development, prevent picky eating, promote independent and intuitive eating, and decrease the risk of obesity down the line. There’s also some research that links oral motor development during baby-led weaning to a decreased risk of choking.
Jess, you always teach baby-guided or baby-led feeding instead of baby-led weaning. What’s the difference?
Here’s the thing: the benefits of baby-led weaning really come from letting your baby be autonomous and figure out how to feed themselves. So, what I teach and what we talk about in our Feeding Your Baby Solids Course is baby-guided feeding or baby-led feeding. I like this term better because it puts the emphasis on the benefit of following your baby’s lead, whether you’re giving your baby purees or table food. Babies need to learn how to eat both purees and table foods, so baby-guided or baby-led feeding tells you exactly what to do – let your baby feed themselves!
If you think about it, when we bottle-feed, we get really good at listening to our baby’s cues. But for some reason, when we move to feeding our baby solids, we all of a sudden think it’s our job to get our babies to eat – which it’s not! Instead, it’s our job to raise an independent and intuitive eater.
So, if you’re offering purees, give your baby a pre-loaded spoon that they can learn to maneuver and control. This makes the transition at 12 months (when they no longer need as much milk) so much easier, because they have had months to practice feeding themselves. It’s liberating as a parent to give up that control and so rewarding to watch your kid eat without your help.
What’s the biggest mistake you see when parents are feeding their babies?
The biggest mistake I see is parents pressuring babies to eat a certain volume of food. This instinct is natural: we prepared plenty of food, it’s sitting in front of us, and we want our kids to be healthy. The intent is right on. But pressuring them to consume a certain volume of food actually does the opposite of what we want in the long run. It almost always leads to picky eating and unhealthy power struggles during meal and snack times. As parents and caregivers, we have to remind ourselves that it’s not our job to get our kids to eat. They’re in charge of how little or how much, and giving them this choice leads to independence and non-picky eating, which we all want.
Check out our podcast on Breaking Down Baby-Led Weaning.
If you’re struggling with figuring out how to successfully (and confidently) feed your child in a baby-led way, check out our Feeding Your Baby Solids Course. For $39, you’ll get unlimited access to the course, related resources, and our private Facebook Community for ongoing support. The course is taught in a Cliff Note’s style, which is how we prefer (and have time) to learn as parents. With 14 short video modules that can be viewed over and over again and handouts that include essential information, recipes, and refrigerator guides, we make feeding your baby as simple as possible, so that you can focus on those MeaningFull moments.
You can also check out all of our favorite products here. These will help you contain the mess and stick to the essentials, so that you’re purchasing only the things you actually need.