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Baby on board

(article, Lisa Weiner)

Not thrilled about feeding your tot unappetizing gobs of mush? Consider instead the feeding trend called "baby-led weaning." 

Baby-led weaning eschews bland puréed baby foods in favor of “real food” — in other words, making the baby’s meals similar to the rest of the family’s, right from the get-go. Proponents claim that baby-led weaning (usually begun when the baby is about six months old) not only fosters a healthy relationship to food but also encourages the development of an adventurous palate. 

The technique is ridiculously simple: Give your baby a chunk of food and watch her bring it to her mouth. If she likes it, she’ll eat it; if she doesn’t, she won’t.

Gill Rapley, a UNICEF nutrition expert and advocate of baby-led weaning, claims that by allowing babies to control how much they eat (no spoon-feeding, no coaxing) and by giving them food in its natural form (broccoli spears, couscous clumps), babies will enjoy eating, develop diverse palates, and avoid foods to which they're allergic.

Skeptics argue that giving babies chunks of food presents them with choking hazards. But Rapley notes that babies’ mouths are better at manipulating chunks of food than soft purées; in other words, babies allowed to gnaw on solid food are actually at less risk for choking than their traditionally fed counterparts.

If baby-led weaning catches on, its biggest impact may be not on babies but on parents: no more preparing separate meals for baby, no more grinding with the food mill, no more packing up the diaper bag with jars of baby food. Whether dining at home or at restaurants, babies can enjoy the same delicious food as the rest of the family.