Starting solids: which approach is right for your family?

How the hell do you start feeding your baby food? It’s a damn good question. 

You’ve worked out that your baby is ready to start (go mama). But, you’ve got no clue what to do next. You’re not the only one. And just one Google search will reveal a million different opinions, ideas, and thoughts on the topic of feeding your offspring – which can only make it more overwhelming. 

Step away from your search browser, mama. Here’s a bite-sized (pun intended) guide to the different approaches for starting solids, to help you work out what’s right for your family. 

Let’s chat about this idea of “approach”…

Isn’t feeding your baby just, well, feeding your baby? Correct. You still make sure they’re ready, stick to baby-appropriate foods, introduce allergens, follow the individual advice of your pediatrician, and watch them like a f*cking hawk any time they’re eating (because #safety). 

But, there are different ways you can do it. The approach you choose will depend on what your baby responds to and what you are comfortable with. There are two main approaches, starting with…

Traditional purée 

This involves introducing your baby to different foods by feeding them puréed or mashed ingredients – think blended up meat and vegetables, stewed fruits, and more. It’s the approach most often recommended by bodies like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so it is likely what you’re familiar with. 

Why might you consider it? 

According to the CDC, it’s great for helping babies get used to textures gradually, while managing the risk of choking. For many parents, choking and gagging can be one of the scariest things about starting solids. 

Why might it not be for you?

Some babies (like mine) are more independent, and therefore resistant to being fed by anyone else. Which leads to the next approach. 

Baby-led weaning 

Baby-led weaning is all about offering your baby appropriately-sized chunks of food for them to pick up and feed themselves. It’s quite popular in countries like the UK and Australia and is gaining momentum in the US. 

Why might you consider it? 

As mentioned, your baby might just want to do it themselves. In addition, the Children’s Hospital of Orange County says it can help babies develop things like fine motor skills and control over how much food they want, and when. Plus, it can be a whole lot of playful, messy fun – in the best way.

Why might it not be for you? 

Parents can be cautious of this method due to fears of choking – how much will my baby take in their mouth, will little chunks come off the food and I won’t see? This is understandable. However, an analysis published in the AAP’s journal, Pediatrics, showed that baby-led weaning does not appear to pose any more of a choking risk than traditional purée feeding, given it’s done safely – so under supervision, with your baby sitting upright, and with foods that are appropriate (e.g. no choking hazards and cut into a manageable size). Experts suggest it might also not suit babies that were born premature, have issues gaining weight, or have developmental delays. 

A final piece of food for thought…

You can experiment with both methods at once. The experts at Cincinnati Children’s hospital say there’s no reason why families can’t try a bit of both – so offering your baby purée on a spoon, as well as chunks of food to feed themselves. The goal is to find what works for you and your baby. 

At the end of the day, every baby is different, and so is every parent. What works for one family might not work for another. You know yourself and your baby best, mama, and if you’re unsure, speak to your pediatrician for individual advice. 

If you have started solids, which approach did you use? And which food has been a hit in your home? My little one loves bread (like mother; like son). Tell us in the comments. 

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