As a society, our views on nutrition and feeding strategies for infants/toddlers have been constantly changing throughout the decades. We have seen trends such as making your own baby food purees, baby food in pouches (yay for convenience!), and mesh feeders or teethers.
A recent trend you may have heard of is called baby-led weaning. Although fairly new in popularity in the U.S, different cultures worldwide have been using it for years. This is a technique of solid food introduction that skips over traditional baby food purees and goes straight to the self-feeding of finger foods to discover the texture, taste, smell, and color. It also allows the baby to decide when they are full, as opposed to how we frequently “top them off” with a few more spoonfuls of baby food. If you plan on using this method, please do your research and understand the timeline of infant development of oral motor skills.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) maintains that to be ready to add purees, the infant needs to be able to sit in a highchair or feeder seat independently with good head control. They should be 4-6 months old and double their birth weight, show interest by opening their mouth when food is offered and bringing their hands to their mouth, as well as being able to move food from a spoon to the back of their mouth/throat. AAP warns that since choking is a risk, when transitioning to finger foods they should be soft, cut small, not processed or seasoned, and easy to gum and swallow. They emphasize: Do not give your baby anything that requires chewing at this age!
Regardless of the method (or combination of methods) you and your family choose, remember to focus on good eating habits: eating as a family when possible, resting between bites, stopping when full as to not overfeed, and offering a variety of nutrient-rich healthy foods.
Ali Griffin, ARNP
Weiss Pediatric Care