We've begun the process of introducing solids to our second daughter. This is my first experience of weaning a 'normal' feeder. My first daughter had health issues and things were much more complex, so I'm loving seeing dd2 really enjoy her first tastes of solid foods.
She's just over 6 months old now, and we started giving her food to play with a couple of weeks ago. I can honestly say that until last week none of it had made it down her throat! However, she's clearly got the hang of it now, and is starting to eat a range of foods. Of course we didn't start offering her anything until she was showing all the signs of readiness:
1/ Able to stay upright in a sitting position and hold her head steady.
2/ Able to co-ordinate well enough to grab and hold food and bring it to her mouth all on her own.
3/ Able to swallow food - has lost the tongue-thrust reflex. If a baby is offered solid foods before they're ready (usually by an over-eager mother with a spoon) they will push some of it back out of their mouths instinctively and end up with distinctive circle of food (usually orange in colour) around their mouths.
Alternatively you could just wait until your child grabs some garlic bread off your plate and stuffs it in their mouth like my sister did... ;)
So here's why I love baby-led solids.
- If they're not ready, they won't eat. Simple. You won't get the timing wrong if you let your baby feed itself.
- They are in control of what they take in. This just makes sense to me, and breastfed babies do it anyway since they control what they take from the breast. Research published recently supports this as the healthiest way to introduce solid foods.
- It's fun! The get to squish, press, drop, sniff, investigate, experiment and of course wear what they're eating. So much more interesting than 'here comes the aeroplane' don't you think?
- It's far less hassle for me - part 1. I don't have to cook/ mush/ or buy anything special. How does anyone find the time? We just give her little bits of whatever we're eating.
- My daughter gets to sit with her family and eat at mealtimes. I don't know how common it is, but I regularly see mums spoon-feeding their babies separately. I prefer my family to eat together as much as possible.
- It's less hassle for me - part 2. I 'give her access' to a bit of whatever I've got on my plate, and I don't always make it easy ;) I get to eat my own dinner and I let her get on with it. Or not.
If you think your baby is coming close to readiness, try sitting them up in a high chair at the table with you and give them a toy to chomp on for a while. Perhaps set it on the table and let them pick it up on their own. This way they can practise the co-ordination necessary to start feeding themselves.
For lots more information about baby-led solids, look here, here, here, here, and there's a facebook group here.
Not all babies are ready for solids at the same age. The best thing you can do is watch your child. If they don't seem interested at 6 months, don't stress! They'll get there at their own speed, and breast milk or formula should be their main source of nutrients until at least age 1 anyway. Remember always to offer milk before any solid foods and you won't go far wrong.