The vast majority of parents are very familiar with the small jars of purees known as “baby food.” As my daughter approached 6 months, the age at which I began offering solids, I began to contemplate this whole baby food issue. What did babies eat before supermarkets started stocking an entire aisle of these little jars? Do babies have to eat pureed food? And do babies have to be spoon fed?
My own mother skipped the pureed foods and spoon feeding, so I suspected that this was a viable option. After doing some research I came upon the idea of “Baby-Led Weaning.” In this case, weaning refers to starting solids, not to reducing bottle or breast feedings (I think it is a British use of the term, but don’t quote me on that). The basic premise of baby-led weaning is that from 6 months of age, baby is offered healthful table foods and allowed to self-feed. If you are interested in this method of feeding, here is additional information on the Baby-led Weaning website.
My daughter loved feeding herself from the moment I allowed her to grab food off of my plate. We started with well-cooked, soft produce such as zucchini, potatoes, and baked apples. Soon she was eating a wide variety of foods. I have never prepared any foods specifically for her to eat; she eats what my husband and I eat. And I have never spoon fed her. She loves to feed herself.
Is it messy? Very! Fortunately we have a dog who is happy to assist with clean-up. Do not be afraid of a little mealtime mess. Have a stash of bibs and a damp rag for wiping hands and faces (and tummies, toes, neck creases, ears…). The messy stage does not last forever, I promise.
And finally, I believe that self-feeding improved my daughter’s manual dexterity. She mastered her pincer grasp (thumb and index finger) very quickly after she started solids. By 7 months of age she could pick up a single grain of rice or a pea using her pincer grasp. I have no scientific data to prove it, but I confident that her fine motor skills have benefited from this style of eating.
So don’t assume that you have to feed your baby pureed foods with a spoon. That is a perfectly fine option, of course, but there are plenty of other styles of feeding that may hold greater appeal for you and your baby.