Baby-Led Solids: An Overview
March 25th, 2011
I fed Miss Mouse baby food. I made it myself, from scratch, but it was definitely baby food. I spent lots of quality time with my food processor, and made more than my fair share of airplane noises as I attempted to convince a skeptical infant that spoonfuls of goop were, in fact, delicious meals.
I was preparing to follow a similar trajectory of feeding with Buggie when I happened across an article, written by the owner of my favorite cloth diaper store, about “child led solids.” In the month and a half since then, I’ve been a woman on a mission, reading everything I could get my hands on, including a terrific book called Baby-Led Weaning.*
The premise of Baby-Led Solids (BLS) is pretty simple: let your kid feed himself. Spoon-feeding and pureed sweet potatoes are more a product of history than of biological necessity. The proponents of BLS maintain that, if you wait until your baby is at least six months old to introduce solids (which you should do, according to the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization), there is no reason that your little one can’t dive right in to “table food” and bypass purees all together.
Woah. I find this concept both totally shocking and — the more I read/learned/think about it — totally plausible.
It turns out that babies evolve and grow in such a way as to make self-feeding doable from the get-go. Just as (most) babies learn gross motor skills in a particular and sequential order (rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, walking), babies also learn feeding skills in a particular and sequential order. Latch on to boob, reach for things, grab objects and bring them to their mouths, explore objects with lips and tongue, bite off a piece of food, chew, swallow, pick up small objects using thumb and forefinger.
What this developmental progression means is that, if left to their own devices when it comes to food, babies will naturally learn to self-feed at their own pace. The basic mantra is, if your baby can eat a food, she is developmentally ready to do so. For example, until a baby is capable of swallowing a bite of food without choking, he is unable to move that piece of food from the front of his mouth to the back (he’ll just spit it back out). The latter skill is developed only when he is ready to start swallowing things.
Pretty cool, huh?
With the exception of foods that pose a serious choking hazard (like nuts or grapes) and foods to be avoided because of their potential for allergic reaction (like peanut butter), BLS empowers you to let your baby eat pretty much whatever you are from a very early age. No need to agonize over the proper food introduction order — sweet potato first or applesauce?? You can simply share your dinner with your offspring and let him decide what he wants to munch on.
The biggest rule of Baby Led Solids (as the name suggests) is to let your baby set the pace. Offer a variety of foods, but fight the urge to feed your child. You need to let your baby learn to feed himself at his own speed, even if this means that meals take a loooooonnnngg time and most of the food ends up on the floor.
A great slogan that I’ve heard is “Food Before One Is Just For Fun.” This emphasizes the reality that (particularly for breastfed babies) the majority of their nutritional intake is going to come from breast milk for their entire first year. During a baby’s first year, learning to eat solid foods is just that — a learning process much more than a nutritional necessity.
I look forward to sharing with you our Adventures with Baby-Led Solids and would be curious to know if anyone out there has tried this approach!
*This approach to feeding is also known as Baby-Led Solids