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Weaning your baby: Spoon-fed or baby-led?

With your firstborn, it feels like every time you think you’ve masteredone baby-rearing challenge, you’re set with the next.

With your firstborn, it feels like every time you think you’ve mastered one baby-rearing challenge, you’re set with the next. Just when you’ve finally stopped fretting about how much milk your growing infant is drinking, you’re faced with new anxieties about when to start feeding the baby solids, whether the meal is nutritious enough and if he or she will actually eat it.

There are two major approaches to weaning — the traditional spoon-fed method where the parent is in control, and the modern, “baby-led” weaning where the baby learns to feed itself.

“With first babies, moms often lack the confidence to combine the two methods,” says Dr. Rana Conway, author of “Weaning Made Easy.” “They find it reassuring to follow a set of guidelines.”

There are, however, advantages to both techniques, and combining methods is easy, says Dr. Conway.

“The balance between spoon-feeding and self-feeding depends on your baby and what you’re doing that day,” she explains. “It also changes over time. Most babies need spoon-feeding to start with, but it’s also vital to give them something to try to eat with their fingers too, even if they just play with it.

They’ll be getting the nutrients they need, but they can also learn about real food. After a few months, self-feeding really takes off — and by a year, most babies will only need help with foods like yogurt. It’s really about taking a balanced approach and seeing what works.”

Can you prevent fussy eating?

“Some babies are just naturally more picky than others,” Dr. Conway says, “but evidence shows you can increase the chances of your child enjoying a healthy range of foods if you sit down to eat with them and give them the opportunity to try lots of different foods. It’s also essential that you give them healthy meals. It seems obvious, but if you don’t keep offering them vegetables, you can’t blame them for not eating their greens. The more often a baby is given a certain food, the more likely she is to eat it and enjoy it. The idea of eating healthy meals together isn’t rocket science; but for busy parents, it takes a conscious effort.”

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