To spoon-feed a baby or not spoon-feed a baby, that is the question.
The first few months of a baby’s life are fairly simple* when it comes to food. Then around six months, babies start to exhibit signs that they are ready for solid foods!
Many babies start with single-ingredient Stage 1 purees and over the next few months move on to more textured, and combined flavors. However, baby-led weaning, or The Rapley Method as it is also known, skips the purees and the little spoons entirely.
Let’s find out more:
WHAT IS BABY-LED WEANING?
Baby-led weaning is a technique coined by Gill Rapley, author of “Baby-Led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food.” The practice, also described as “self-feeding,” is a way of introducing babies to solid foods that allows them to feed themselves. No spoons. Just hand to face. Food to floor.
This practice starts at 6 months and is all about discovery and enjoyment. The baby sits with the family at mealtime and makes a mess!
Messes aside, many parents believe the Rapley Method is a fuss-free way to introduce food to babies who are ready for solids.
Allows babies to explore texture, taste, color, and smell on their own
Encourages confidence and independence
Helps with hand-eye coordination
Helps develop chewing and chewing skills
Makes picky eating and mealtime battles less likely to occur
IS BABY-LED WEANING RIGHT FOR YOU?
According to baby-led weaning devotees, all babies can begin to feed themselves around 6 months –– they simply have to be given the opportunity. Deciding on whether baby-led weaning is right for your family, is a personal choice. Your comfort as a new parent is paramount. (Remember our babies read our cues about food and mealtime.)
The most common concern is around choking. However, as with any solid foods, you should never leave your baby unattended or alone with food.
According to Rapley, “Choking is no more likely with baby-led weaning than with the conventional method of introducing solids. In fact, allowing babies to control what goes into their mouths may actually help them learn to eat safely.” She further explains the difference between choking and gagging, however as a new parent, both can be terrifying. If you’re more comfortable starting with purees, there are amazing Stage 1 options for your baby.
HOW TO GET STARTED ON BABY-LED WEANING
Sit your baby upright, facing the table.
Make sure your baby is able to sit steadily and can use her hands and arms freely.
Offer your baby food, rather than give it to her – put it in front of her, or let her take it from your hand, so that the decision is hers.
Start with foods that are easy to pick up – Stage 4 Chunky Combos features full chunks of food that are easy to grab.
Introduce new shapes and textures gradually so that your baby can work out how to handle them.
Include your baby in your meal times whenever you can. And don’t rush them! Allow them the opportunity to explore. Baby-led weaning should be messy! It’s experimental! It also requires extreme patience.
Always check with your pediatrician if you have any concerns or questions.