As a feeding expert and speech language pathologist, I teach parents to start solids at about 6 months of age (depending on the baby’s readiness signals). There are two popular feeding methods that parents choose from when introducing solids: 1) the Traditional Method (serving only purees) or 2) the Baby Led Weaning (BLW) method. BLW skips puree foods and starts baby on finger foods that the rest of the family is eating. In my clinical experience, more parents are gravitating to BLW. My passion is to help them navigate BLW safely, avoid feeding challenges and try to make mealtime less stressful. Here are some of my top feeding tips that just may change the way you choose to start solids!
Plate vs. Tray: You may think that you don’t need a plate if you have baby eat straight off of the highchair tray. But here are some developmental reasons why you should consider offering meals on a plate instead.
- Avoid Constant Cleanup: When a child eats off of a highchair tray, they excitedly move their hands from side to side (like they are wiping down the tray). Babies love to do that motion and watch in awe as the food goes flying off their tray – to our dismay. In my experience, the stress of constant cleanup and food waste is one of the reasons parents give up on finger foods and stick with spoon-feeding purees. To decrease mealtime mess, skip feeding directly off the tray and use a plate!
- Foster Development: With a plate, baby can learn how to successfully eat by crossing midline (baby’s gross motor ability to use their hands across their body to eat), which is a critical skill for safe BLW. Additionally, by choosing the right dishware you can help foster other gross and fine motor development, such as their pincher grasp.
- Perfect Plate for BLW: My favorite plate for BLW is the Mini Mat, which is an all-in-one plate + placemat that suctions to the table. The mat captures the mealtime mess, and the patented self-seal feature means no more tipped or thrown plates! The mat has three compartments that visually remind parents to serve a fruit or veggie, protein and carbohydrate. The smiley face design puts kids in the right mood for a positive mealtime experience and promotes the exploration of new foods. And the Mini Mat is portion-sized (2oz for each eye compartment and 4oz for the smile compartment) so you know how much of each food group baby ate!
Withhold vs. Wipe: Having the right products can decrease stress associated with mealtime cleanup. That is why I always recommend having a bib when introducing solids. However, the bib is there to catch the mealtime mess, not to wipe your child’s face. If you are an obsessive chin wiper (we have all been there!) here are some sensory reasons why you may want to withhold face wiping.
- Avoid Feeding Aversions: Feeding aversions can occur if we constantly clean a child’s face during mealtime. Even a quick wipe from a bib can be an uncomfortable sensory experience for baby and possibly cause food refusal. Babies do not like to be distracted by harsh facial sensations while eating. Thus, cleanup should wait until the end of the meal.
- Perfect Bib for BLW: In over 24 years of feeding therapy, I have found that the BapronBaby bibs (or “baprons”) are hands down the best solution for messy mealtime. This bib-apron hybrid was designed specifically for infants and children who have a sensory aversion to traditional bibs (that tie and put pressure on the neck). My favorite feature for BLW is that they are 100% waterproof and stain resistant. No more stripping your baby down to a diaper for mealtime. Score!
I hope these feeding tips will help you start solids successfully. Feel free to share some of your tips, fears, experiences and favorite finger foods with us! #ezpzfun #babyledweaning
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz