One of the biggest challenges of raising a child it to make sure he or she learns to eat healthy. During the first few months, breastfeeding has got that covered. The real challenge begins when you start introducing solid foods to your baby at around six months.
You know the drill: Mom prepares baby food and then offers it to her child. Usually, babies start with bland, watery food and they make their way to explore different tastes and textures. It takes a bit of patience to let baby eat the food at first, but it pays off eventually.
Apart from spoon-feeding your baby with soup, mashed fruits, and veggies, or cereals, there's another way to introduce solids to your child: baby-led weaning, also known as baby-led eating and child-led feeding. It’s not to be confused with weaning baby off breast milk. Baby-led weaning is described as allowing babies to feed themselves using their hands. No, they're not having soup or pureed food or using soft spoons, but rather fist-size chunks of foods that they can handle on their own.
To give you an idea how baby-lead weaning looks like, new mom and breastfeeding advocate Paula Peralejo Fernandez shared photos of her 7-month-old son Pablo going at it, a la boodle fight, with cousin Philip, her sister Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio's son.
On her Instagram posts, Paula shared what was on the menu for the kiddos: steamed sayote and kamote, mangoes, papaya with calamansi, bananas, roasted carrots in garlic, butter, tarragon, and roasted squash in olive oil, thyme, steamed Broccoli with lemon zest, and red rice dipped in tinola soup.
1. It introduces baby to real food. Mashed carrots don’t look like real carrots, nor do potatoes and other fruits and veggies. Baby-lead weaning “shows babies how food actually looks like,” Paula wrote. Although cut into large pieces, it allows baby to see and figure out how to eat it, hold it, feel it when it's mashed, and so forth.
2. It helps hone baby's motor skills. Paula says her son's motor skills are at work. Pablo not only eats the food, but he also bangs and mashes the food with his hands. "Baby-led eating (weaning) is messy [but it's] a lot more about exploration, practicing of motor skills than eating,” warned Paula.
3. It helps baby become independent eaters. Because babies who eat don't wait for their parents to spoon-feed them, as Paula wrote, they become confident eaters and learn to be independent during mealtimes early on. While foods are cut in large sizes to reduce the risk of choking, parents should always keep watch. 4. It helps teach baby to gauge their fullness. Pablo also gets to decide when they've had enough to eat. "Healthy eating habits -- no forcing, knowing when and what your body can take, etc. -- from the start, and when maintained, can be a big factor of how eating will be in adult life," Paula stressed.
In introducing solids, you first have to make sure your baby is ready for solids. Baby-led weaning is similar to the traditional way of giving baby solids because it's normal for a baby to spit out food as he's learning how to chew. (Paula shares that the secret to Pablo being able to learn to chew properly is breastfeeding.)
It is an excellent way to introduce solid food to your baby naturally, but baby-led weaning may not work for all kids. Paula shared that she also lets Pablo have soup because he likes it – and their way works for them. Find out what works for you and your baby, too.