By Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD
There are two popular schools of thought when it comes to introducing babies to solid foods. On the one hand, there are cookbooks and recipes galore for all sorts of gourmet baby purees. On the other hand, the Baby Led Weaning movement promotes baby and toddler meals consisting of only finger foods.
Both puree and Baby Led Weaning can be healthy strategies. Both also have pitfalls.
Here’s how to take the best from each school of thought to safely meet your baby’s rapidly changing nutrition needs, provide the opportunity to learn eating skills, and establish life-long healthy eating habits.
Allow your baby to control how much they eat and what they eat from what’s provided. Be sure that your baby is an active participant in eating (i.e. no sneaking in mouthfuls when they’re distracted). It’s easy to inadvertently over feed your baby because you worry that he/she isn’t eating enough. However, the vast majority of babies know when they’re hungry and when they’re satisfied. By noticing and respecting your baby’s signals of “all done”, you’re supporting them to grow a healthy body and get the nutrition that they need. You also won’t be teaching your baby the poor habits of overeating or mindless eating.
Provide lots of opportunity to learn eating skills with a wide variety of textures. Puree is a texture that adults eat too (e.g. mashed potatoes, oatmeal). So there’s value in giving your little one the opportunity to eat them. Purees also offer the opportunity for your baby to learn to use utensils. Finger foods teach babies to chew before swallowing. To minimize picky eating, provide your baby with a wide variety of textures before the picky eating stage begins. The picky eater stage often starts between 12 – 24 months but I’ve seen it start as early as 9 months. If your child has only tried pureed foods when they reach the picky eating stage, it can contribute to picky eating.
Provide lots of iron-rich foods. Little bodies use iron for growth and development. It’s particularly important in brain development. There are a number of iron-rich foods that can be provided as purees and finger foods. Iron-rich foods include:
• Fish and shellfish
• Egg yolk
• Beans and lentils
• Nut and seed butters
• Iron-enriched infant cereal
In summary, both purees and finger foods can play a role in meeting babies’ nutrition needs and teaching babies eating skills and establishing life-long healthy eating habits. Provide a variety of textures, iron rich foods, and be sure to follow your baby’s lead in how much to eat.
– Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD is known as The Dietitian Who Transforms Picky Eaters into Food Confident Kids. From introducing solids through the picky eating years, she helps Moms and Dads be confident that they’re giving their kids good nutrition today… and instilling a life-long LOVE of healthy eating. Get scientific evidence-based answers to real questions from real parents (recipes too!) by signing up for her 101 Healthy Snack Ideas at: www.vitaminkconsulting.com