In the 1960s it was recommended by Health Officials that solids were introduced from six months, and weaning was encouraged using purees, phasing onto mashed then solids. In 2003 the government and World Health Organisation advised that solids should be introduced at six months, which it was felt babies could cope with as they were better able to sit unsupported and their hand-eye co-ordination had developed more.
However, some professionals now believe that hand eye co-ordination and development is interwoven with our we develop our babies eating habits.
Choking and Gagging - Babies should not be left unattended whilst eating. An infants gag reflex is excellent and designed to keep the baby safe. It is now argued that the baby's grip develops with their swallow reflex. Initially infants will grip food in a fist shape, and gnaw, then as their dexterity and hand eye improves they begin to pick up smaller and smaller pieces of food.
Baby Led Weaning can help to prevent food intolerances with children as they are eating whole, quality foods so their gut can develop balanced bacteria. They also get used to texture, pips, skins and fibre so they are less likely to be fussy eaters.
Baby Led Weaning is suitable for breastfed and bottle fed babies too.
It encourages the family too eat together at the table, so the baby can join in with meal times and experiment with different foods.
If they reject a food it just means they don't want it on that day, so do not exclude it, just pop it onto the plate another time. It is wrong to assume the baby doesnt it, it is right to assume they are experimenting and learning.
Baby Led Weaning is messy; but that is fine, and not a crime, let them play with their food, squeeze it, feel and explore, so it becomes fun and yummy.
Victoria Shorland, Consultant Nutritionist (MBANT) holds clinics in Folkestone, Hythe and Faversham for parents and children. Food Intolerance Testing available for children and babies.
Recommended reading: Gill Rapley, Baby Led Weaning.