Spoon-led weaning is a common method that many parents are familiar with. This is when you feed your baby purees with a spoon, starting at around 6 months of age when they can sit up and grab things.
However, some high-risk babies may need to start earlier due to allergy risks, and premature or specially challenged babies may need to start before 6 months. Talk to your doctor before starting solids to make sure your baby is ready.
So, how do you know if your baby is ready? Babies show certain signs of development or growth, which indicate they're ready to eat solid foods. One such sign is their ability to chew and swallow. There are some important signs of readiness, which we will cover on Day 5 of this week. We will also explore how you can guide your baby to build these skills, if they are not yet there.
Speaking about spoon-led weaning, let’s understand the pros and cons of this method.
Pros of Spoon-Led Weaning
It allows parents to have control over what and how much their baby is eating.
It ensures that the baby gets a range of nutrient-dense foods.
It may be less messy than baby-led weaning, making it a good option for parents who have no time or help to clean up afterward.
Cons of Spoon-Led Weaning
Babies may get stuck on purees and become picky eaters, especially if they get used to extremely smooth purees. However, you can avoid this by transitioning to solid foods quickly.
Preparing food separately for babies is tedious.
Chewing, which is reflexive, may start to fade as the baby approaches their first birthday. It's important to get them used to eating solids before their first birthday to prevent picky eating in the future.
Babies depend on their parents to eat, so it's good to transition away from spoon feeding by around 9 months of age to encourage them to eat by hand.
When parents control the spoon and the amount of food being offered, babies have fewer opportunities to choose foods and explore textures. This can lead to picky eating and preferences for soft, smooth pureed foods later on.
It’s common for parents to unknowingly overfeed babies with purees and mashed foods, which can lead to a quick reduction in breastfeeding. Breastfeeding should continue along with solids until babies are 12 months old.
Babies may not get to eat what the rest of the family eats, and may have less of an opportunity to learn by example.
Can Babies Chew? They Have No Teeth!
It's a common misconception that teeth are necessary for chewing, but the truth is that your baby's gums are strong enough to handle soft foods. Even though their milk teeth are just below the surface of their gums, they are perfectly capable of chewing!
So, while you might want to avoid giving them hard foods like raw carrots, steamed ones can be a great way to give your little one a chance to practice their chewing skills. In fact, you might notice that babies typically start with their incisors before moving on to their molars (the teeth used for chewing) around 14 months of age.
Don't worry if your baby doesn't have all their teeth yet; they can still develop their chewing ability and it's vital to start early to help them learn!
Ready to Try Spoon-Led Weaning? Here’s a Step-by-Step Guide
1) Position your baby well
Ensure your baby is sitting in a comfortable position during feeding time. Place them upright on your lap, in a high chair/booster seat, or on a flat surface with a soft blanket.
Their hands and arms should be free.
Don’t let your baby lie down or recline during mealtimes. It’s a common practice in Indian homes to make the baby lie down on their mother’s stretched out legs. If your baby is horizontal, they’re at a higher risk for choking!
Place a messy mat on your lap, table, or floor to make cleaning up afterward easier. Babies love to explore and may throw food around!
2) Start feeding
Always test the temperature of the food before feeding.
Use a soft-tipped plastic spoon to avoid injuring their gums.
Start with 1-2 teaspoons of pureed or mashed solid food or baby cereal for the first few feedings, about an hour after breastfeeding, so your baby isn't too hungry or cranky.
Hold the spoon about 12 inches in front of your baby's face and watch for signs of interest.
Offer your baby small amounts of food using your fingers or the spoon. Wait for your baby to open their mouth before offering the food.
3) When to stop feeding
Let your baby decide how much they want to eat. When they start playing with their food, turning their face away, or throwing it away, it's a sign that they're full and it's time to take them out of the high chair and clean up any mess.
If your baby isn't interested in the food you’re holding out, let them smell the food for now and try again another time.
Don’t worry too much about the quantity they consume. It’s natural for babies to eat less food at this age.
Don't hurry your baby to finish the meal or force them to eat! Be patient and let them take their time to eat at their own pace.