Baby-led weaning has become the new hot trend among new parents.
The author published a weaning-related Instagram post that went viral, and it suggested many parents feel judged about their choices.
She shares three tips on how to better feed children, regardless of the method parents choose.
My baby was just starting to eat solids, and I was so excited. I wanted to tell a friend with older kids how adorable my 6-month-old was messily feeding himself purees.
When I did, she said, "Well, we decided to do baby-led weaning. It was the right decision for us. It was the best." Deflated, I stopped hearing the rest of her story. I could feel the judgment past the words that seemed nonjudgmental.
As a brand-new mom - even a dietitian - the people who made me feel the worst during that first year were the people who were passionate about baby-led weaning. My friends who didn't breastfeed tell me they felt the same way when they hear "breast is best." Baby-led weaning, or BLW, is when you introduce solid foods without pureeing them first, allowing babies to self-feed and regulate what and how much they want to eat.
Evidence shows that there are several ways of introducing solids: purees, baby led, or a mix of both. Studies show that child outcomes are similar regardless of the way they are introduced to solid food. Also, there's no perfect way of doing it.
Deep down, we want to do what's best for our babies
When we hear "baby-led weaning is best" and it's "backed by studies," we drop everything and learn how to serve an avocado spear to a baby.
My favorite study, however, compares the details about the parents who use different weaning methods. The authors' conclusion is that the success of one weaning method against the other is a little less about the texture of the baby food and much more about how the parents feed babies - whether purees or solids. It's also about how much money, education, and resources the parents have.
On Kids Eat in Color, my Instagram account, I'm always talking about how I did "whatever I want" weaning. I did a few purees, got an old-fashioned baby-food grinder to grind table food at the table, learned to cook family food on the more mushy side, and learned a few evidence-based guidelines for feeding my child from infancy and on.
3 tips for weaning using evidence-based principles
Following are three tips that have helped me and the parents we work with to more confidently feed our children, even those deemed "picky eaters." These tips are flexible for many family situations, including baby-led weaning and puree feeding. These principles can help kids eat a larger variety of foods over time, and help reduce picky eating.
1. Let your baby decide whether to eat, and how much.
Wait for your baby to open their mouth and put their head forward before you put food in it, or let them feed themselves. Let them get down when they're finished eating without pressuring them to eat more, even if it's only two bites.
2. You decide what's on the menu, where your baby eats, and when to serve solid-food meals.
You're running the show, so you get to serve a wide variety of food, even if they choose not to eat it. The more flavors your child is exposed to the better. Also, set regular meal times, and serve them in a place where your child can sit down.
3. No matter how you start weaning, move your child to safely prepared family-table foods as quickly as it works for your family.
If your child is getting stuck or you have concerns, check in with your medical provider.
Jennifer Anderson is a registered dietitian with a master's in international health, human nutrition from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is the founder and CEO of Kids Eat In Color.
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