Here at the Fortified Family, we are big fans of a baby and child-led approach to feeding. Not only is this the most natural way to introduce your baby to solids, but it’s easier, cheaper, safer and way less stressful than spoon feeding.
Baby led weaning is an approach to starting solid foods based on the premise that babies who feed themselves the wholesome foods provided by their parents:
Sounds great, right? A self-feeding baby?!
There are lots of things to be scared about when you have a baby, and introducing solid foods is right up there at the top of the list. I know because I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who has taught college-level nutrition science for over a decade and practiced nutrition for nearly 20 years, but I was still TOTALLY freaked out when I went to feed my oldest daughter Molly food for the first time when she turned 6 months of age.
I followed my pediatrician’s outdated advice and started her on iron-fortified rice cereal and offered other non-nutritious unidentifiable pureed vegetables by spoon. She would hate it and I would feel like an utter failure when she rejected all of my well intentioned feeding approaches. I mean I got seriously offended when Molly wouldn’t eat the purees I was painstakingly preparing for her. Our mealtimes quickly devolved into a battleground where my weapon was a spoon and my opponent fought me tirelessly as she flat out refused to eat. To this day Molly is still a very picky eater.
When it came time to expand our family, there was no WAY I was going to fight this same fight with my subsequent kids! At the height of my frustration with feeding Molly, I gave birth to premature quadruplet babies, bringing 4 more siblings into the fold. Even though my quadruplets were a long way off from eating solid foods, I started learning everything I could about alternatives to force-feeding purees by spoon..because physically and emotionally I knew I just could NOT handle 5 kids revolting against me at mealtime in a few months when they were all eating together.
I’m a dietitian and a decent cook, although certainly not a gourmet chef or a perfect eater. I love food and I want my kids to love food too. I don’t want them to be like those picky eater kids you see out in public. You know which ones I’m talking about...the picky eaters whose parents have to buy them the prepackaged prepared peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread with the crusts already torn off.
So, exactly how do you avoid prepackaged PB&J and raise a healthy eater?
Well, the more I looked into it, this baby led weaning thing seemed to be the way for my kids to avoid the unhealthy relationship with food that spoon feeding often fosters. I put my nutrition teacher tendencies to work and researched everything about baby led weaning before starting my quadruplets on solids at their adjusted age of 6 months.
I went whole hog on baby led weaning for the quadruplets with not a spoon in sight. Out of sheer necessity and preservation of my sanity, I worked up ways to incorporate the foods the rest of our family was eating into the babies’ diets.
After I ensured our quadruplets demonstrated all of the signs of readiness for food, the babies really took off with feeding themselves saving me tons of time, money and frustration. There were some bumps along the road, some kinks to work out, schedules to establish and food preparation techniques to master, but a baby led approach to feeding has been a godsend for my quadruplets who basically eat every type of food they are ever offered (...and the rest of our family even ended up accidentally eating healthier too!)
I would say our four-times feeding experiment has been a baby led feeding success story, but it wasn’t always easy and I’ve learned a lot along the way. I share my findings and favorite tools with you here at the Fortified Family as I hope a baby and child-led approach to feeding can be the key to enjoyable, and even accidental healthy eating in your family!