The Lifelong Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning
An interview with Leslie Schilling, MS, RDN, co-author of the new book Born to Eat: Whole healthy foods from baby's first bite
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I get a lot of questions about how to manage the introduction of solid foods to infants and toddlers. Parents and grandparents are understandably anxious about getting this right and there’s some conflicting information out there, not to mention a ton of lore and well-meaning advice that can get overwhelming.
Leslie Schilling and Wendy Jo Peterson, both of whom are registered dietitian nutritionists as well as mothers, have just written a new book called Born to Eat. Not only is it a fantastic resource for anyone navigating through this important phase of a child’s (and family’s) life, but their relaxed and realistic approach is a much-needed antidote to all the dogma and stress that can accompany this topic.
Below are highlights from my recent conversation with Leslie. To hear the entire interview, please click on the player in the top right hand corner of the page.
What Is Baby-Led Weaning?
ND: For those who aren’t familiar with the baby-led weaning movement, can you briefly describe what it is and how it differs from what we’ve been doing over the last 50 years or so?
LS: Baby-led weaning is a feeding approach that allows baby to self-feed foods the same foods the rest of the family is eating, in appropriate shapes and textures. It doesn’t involve being spoon-fed purees. Once they are developmentally ready, baby can start exploring most foods and textures with parental support.
ND: Baby led weaning is more than just a philosophy or trend; there’s some emerging research to support this approach as well. But sometimes it can take a while for the clinicians on the front lines to embrace new research. Might parents face pushback from their pediatricians on this approach?
LS: That is very possible. Parents may find that some healthcare providers have heard of the method while others have not. Parents are the ultimate advocate for baby and can help their pediatrician by noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics promotes a self-feeding approach. Sometimes it’s just about switching the lingo.
ND: When people start learning about this approach, what are some of the things they find most surprising about the recommendations? Are there things that are controversial?
LS: When you tell someone to give baby a medium-cooked slice of steak, scrambled egg, or avocado slice, they make look at you a little funny. Many people don’t realize that a normally developing six-month old most likely has the skills to handle solid textures like these, especially now that the guidelines to start solids have changed from four-to-six months to a more developmentally appropriate six-month age.
Is Baby-Led Weaning Safe?
ND: When baby is leading the way, how do you make sure that they are getting all the nutrients they need?