Surprising Research May Make You Reconsider How You Start Your Baby On Solids

Moms love to experience all the milestones of a baby’s first months of life.  They learn and grow so quickly, and it is exciting to watch the miracle of infant development occur.

One such milestone is baby’s first bites of solid food.  This step often signals the end of the newborn phase and provides a new way to interact with our infants.

An infant feeding trend is picking up steam with many new moms, and the benefits will surprise you.  In fact, if you feed your infant commercial baby food products, you will be shocked at what your baby is really ingesting.

Baby-led weaning not only encourages infant development skills, but it may keep your little one far healthier than introducing store-bought baby food.

U.S. News and World Report stated:

In the early stages of life, nutrition plays a critical role in laying a healthy physical and neurological foundation for children. And a growing number of parents are opting to make their own baby food to ensure nutritional quality, or simply serving their infants the foods they cook for the rest of the family. Given this and a desire to sit down to family meals, parents are increasingly embracing a baby-led approach to weaning.

 Baby-led weaning is a feeding method that allows a baby to self-feed when developmentally appropriate to start solids (at around six months of age). This feeding style skips purees and spoon-feeding, while letting a baby self-regulate by choosing what to eat from offered foods the family is already eating.

 The term baby-led weaning was coined by Gill Rapley, an infant feeding expert, public health nurse and co-author of the book “Baby-led Weaning.” Now that BLW is becoming a trend in the U.S., pediatricians, nutrition professionals and researchers are taking a closer look at the new feeding method.

 It’s argued that infants self-feeding solid foods isn’t new at all. Humans have survived and thrived without baby food for thousands of years. However, as BLW has increased in popularity, so have concerns around certain nutrient needs and the potential for choking. This has spurred international interest and research.

Not only are infants learning to regulate feeding patterns on their own, baby-led weaning provides the means for earlier development of fine-motor skills.

And this method is beneficial to the entire family.  Experts believe this technique improves parents’ feeding practices to be less regimented about the timing and quantity they are feeding their infant.  The practice of baby-led weaning allows infants to become more responsive to their own hunger and fullness cues.

It is also proven to reduce picky eating because the infant is more engaged in the feeding process (yes, babies get bored, too!) and allows for a positive mealtime experience for the whole family.  Feeding baby the same foods we are eating at mealtime increases the family bond and provides baby with a deeper sense of confidence in self-feeding.

Many parents have heard of baby-led weaning, but shy away from trying the practice with their infants due to choking concerns.  However, a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2016 finds there is no increase in choking hazard as compared to using traditional baby food.

And while many moms make their own baby food purees at home already, going a step further with well-cooked mushy table foods increases an infant’s perception of properly chewing food before swallowing, and allows for the baby to control how much food they have in their mouths at one time.

Pediatricians emphasize that all infant feeding methods have a risk of choking involved, especially as baby learns to navigate how to eat real food, but that if safe feeding practices are observed, baby-led weaning provides great benefit.

Obviously if using this technique with your infant, the table food you prepare must be very tender and cut into very small pieces.  Infants should always be able to fully sit up in the high chair and should always be closely supervised while eating.

Still not convinced?  A non-profit advocacy group who monitors commercial food products can provide you with a little more food for thought.

The Clean Label Project seeks to provide transparency into the labeling of commercial foods and has heavily researched what goes into store-bought baby food products.  Although many manufacturers label their baby foods as only containing fruits and vegetables pureed with water, the labels do not tell the whole story.

In fact, your infant may be ingesting dangerous chemicals that can have lasting consequences.  The Clean Label Project finds, according to U.S. News and World Report:

…that hundreds of baby food products tested positive for chemicals, such as arsenic, lead and cadmium, that could be toxic to developing infants. The report by the Clean Label Project is yet another reason many new parents and health professionals are scrambling for safer options to feed infants.

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Clean Label Project has released the following frightening statistics after testing hundreds of commercial baby foods:

  • Many certified organic baby food products tested had two times the level of arsenic as conventional baby food.

  • Nearly 80% of infant formulas contained detectable levels of arsenic, 65% of baby food products contained arsenic, 36% contained lead, 58% contained cadmium, and many contained acrylamides linked to brain damage, cancer, and reproductive harm.

  • 60% of so-called “BPA free” products actually contain BPA. You may have noticed that most baby food is no longer packaged in the traditional glass baby food jars of the past. While the labeling of these new “convenient and resealable” plastic containers guarantee no presence of the toxic chemical BPA, the Clean Label Project has determined that is not the case.

The benefits of baby-led weaning on infant nutrition and development are proven, and can lead to a positive mealtime experience for the whole family.  With proper supervision, this technique may produce some amazing results as you watch your baby navigate the world of self-feeding – leading to better eating habits for life.

What do you think of baby-led weaning?  Have you tried this technique with your own little one?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments.