by Jen Thompson, MPP
So what, if anything, do scientists have to say about how best to introduce your baby to solid foods? There are a few studies examining baby-led weaning, mostly from the United Kingdom. For example, one study concluded that most (though not all) babies were capable of self-feeding by 8 months of age. Another study of 155 babies found that self-fed infants had lower body mass index and were less likely to prefer sweeter foods than their spoon-fed counterparts . (This study should be interpreted with some caution, as it relied on parents’ recollections of their children’s diets and food preferences.) A review of studies on baby-led weaning concluded that baby-led weaning “could conceivably have beneficial effects on the infant’s nutrition and development.” The same authors concluded that a randomized controlled trial was needed to get more definitive answers.
In my own personal study of infant feeding practices (sample size: 1), my son took to baby rice cereal and vegetable purees like the proverbial duck to water. A few weeks later, at 8 months old, he shoved a fistful of rice and beans from my dinner plate into his mouth and went back for seconds. After consulting with his pediatrician, we’ve adopted a “WBWET” approach – “Whatever Baby Will Eat Today.” Sometimes that’s yogurt or mashed fruit from a spoon; sometimes it’s pieces of banana or Cheerios that he feeds himself. Last night it was bits of leftover pasta with peas and cheese, served on a high chair tray with an eager dog whining at his feet (which does help with the messiness of a self-fed infant). For now, we’ll see where baby leads us.