As a feeding expert and speech-language pathologist, I teach parents to start solids at about 6 months (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 textures and starts baby on finger foods that the rest of the family eats. 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 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 (wiping down the tray). Babies love to make that motion and watch in awe as the food flies off their trays – to our dismay. In my experience, the stress of constant cleanup and food waste are some 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!
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. By choosing the right dishware, you can also help foster other gross and fine motor development, such as their pincer grasp.
Perfect Plate for BLW
My favorite plate for BLW is the Mini Mat, 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. In addition, 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 (2 oz. for each eye compartment and 4 oz. 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. But remember, 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 28 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 starting solids. 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!
- The most important safety feature is that it is made of lightweight material and ties around baby’s back (not their developing neck). Yes, heavy silicone and fabric bibs with pockets are a choking risk because the weight of these materials (plus the weight of food and liquids) “that keeps your floor clean” can pull down on baby’s neck. This can place them in an unsafe feeding position, which can increase choking risk. Instead, I recommend the BapronBaby bib! Use my code DAWN10 for 10% off and save the pockets for their tiny adorable jeans!
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 me! #MsDawnSLP #babyledweaning #BLW