Congratulations on 6 months with your little bundle of joy. Six months is a magical milestone for babies and their parents. At this time, your baby’s digestive system may be ready for a little more than just mama’s milk which has been their only source of nutrients from day 1. And you may think that it’s about time that they tasted actual food. As much as you’d like to allow your baby to sample every taste and flavor, there are still chances that your baby may not be ready for this buffet just yet. Weaning your baby off of milk and onto solid food is a far more complicated process than you would have anticipated. There are potential allergies to look out for, not to mention the obvious fact that every baby is different and will take to solids in their own time. Sometimes, it’s best to give it a while and let your baby lead you through the process instead of the other way around. Here’s everything you need to know about the baby-led approach to starting solid food and why it’s perfectly okay to delay introducing solids until your baby is comfortable enough to try them.
Why Is Breast Milk Important For Babies?
There’s a reason that most healthcare professionals recommend that you breastfeed your baby for 6 months or longer and that is because it plays a crucial part in the development of your baby. Breast Milk contains all the nutrients your baby needs in all the right proportions. It’s the best thing you could give your baby. The only thing that breastmilk doesn’t supply is vitamin D (1), unless you consume a very high intake of the same. So, when you do decide to start your baby on solid foods, maybe pick something that will provide them with vitamin D.
Your breast milk also contains important antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. It makes sure that they are at a healthy weight and may reduce the risk of contracting certain diseases. For all these reasons, there is no need to cut off breastfeeding altogether. It will make it harder for your baby’s digestive system to cope with the sudden change in food consistency and nutrients and might end up upsetting your little one’s tummy. You can go on to breastfeed your infant well past the 6 month mark and slowly start introducing solids along with breastmilk. This will allow you to introduce a wide variety of foods to your baby so that they can experiment and develop a pallet for all kinds of foods while still gaining the necessary nutrients from breast milk. Your goal here is not to feed them full meals but to introduce foods to them.
Why You Should Try The Baby- Led Approach To Introducing Solid Foods
1. It’s Easier On The Parents
This approach is a great way to take some pressure off the parents as they can just make a mushier, baby appropriate version of the family meal. No more having to store and puree food just for the baby. Besides this also gives parents a chance to unwind and enjoy a meal without having to stress out about feeding the baby. The baby can pick what they want and enjoy a relaxing meal with their parents. This will give parents to engage with their partner and talk to their other kids all while keeping an eye on the baby. And the baby gets to sate their curiosity about the food being served to them at their own pace.
2. They Develop Healthy Eating Habits As They Grow Older
As babies are free to choose how much food they eat in this approach, they tend to be healthier eaters growing up compared to spoon-fed babies who have no say in what or how much they eat. Being an active participant in the feeding process encourages healthier eating habits. One study found that kids weaned using the baby-led approach upon reaching the age of preschoolers were less likely to desire sweets that children who were weaned using a puree feeding approach (2). When given some amount of autonomy over their own diet, kids tend to go the healthier route.
3. It Helps In Defining Motor Skills
In order to eat by themselves your baby must first be able to sit unassisted, have a strong tongue thrust and an effective pincher grasp. And although most babies are able to do these things around the time they reach 6 months of age, all babies are different and grow at their own pace. So, a good cue to assess if your baby is ready for food is to look out for these signs and then further allow them to develop their motor skills by eating by themselves.
Introducing solid food into your baby’s diet doesn’t have to happen a day after they hit the 6 month milestone. It can take a year or even two for your baby to get fully accustomed to solids. So, take your time and don’t rush it!