For generations, babies’ first foods have been soft and spoon fed, such as baby cereal, pureed vegetables and fruits. But, some moms are offering solid foods first and letting babies decide what to eat. Researchers at the University of Nottingham in England examined the health benefits of this process, referred to as “baby-led weaning.”
“You hand control of the feeding over to the child in baby-led weaning,” says Dr. Ellen Townsend, from the university’s School of Psychology who conducted the research along with Dr. Nicole Pitchford. “From six months, most babies are developmentally ready to sit up, hold their heads up, reach and grasp for foods, put them in their mouths and chew. It is great fun, and babies really enjoy it.”
Townsend and Pitchford surveyed parents about how they had fed their children and how much their children liked and ate 151 foods. They found that babies who had been spoon fed tended to prefer sweets while those who hand fed themselves preferred carbohydrates, which form the building blocks for good nutrition.
Townsend says some foods that work well for baby-led weaning are steamed or baked vegetables sticks, pieces of toast or pita bread, strips of meat or slices of hard-boiled egg.