Posted: Apr 18, 2012 2:29 PM
When the time comes to introduce solids to your baby, you have more than one path to consider. Will you choose to feed your baby traditional cereals and purées -- or try the baby-led weaning approach to encourage self-feeding from the start?

Today, I took my daughter to the pediatrician for her 4-month well visit. As anticipated, her doctor brought up the subject of introducing solids. I am familiar with the American Academy of Pediatrics' current recommendation that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months of life, and while her doctor agreed that this would be a fine choice in our situation, I have started the process of developing a game plan for introducing my baby to solids in the upcoming months.

baby-led weaning

When my son was a baby, I chose rice cereal as his first food -- followed by weeks of vegetables and fruits. This time around, after reading Gill Rapley's book Baby-led Weaning, I am strongly considering skipping the mush in favor of self-feeding from the start.

What is baby-led weaning?

The rationale behind Rapley's method is quite simple. She notes in her book that breastfeeding is really the ideal preparation for babies to begin self-feeding because they are already accustomed to setting their own pace. Babies who breastfeed are also better prepared for a variety of tastes -- as they are used to these changes in their mother's milk.

Another aspect of the baby-led weaning approach that I like focuses on allowing the baby to utilize her natural desire to explore taste and texture, instead of cramming a spoon in her mouth. I love the idea of placing real, wholesome foods in front of my baby and allowing curiosity to lead her actions.

Are there any risks?

I have to admit, I am terrified of my baby choking and there will probably be some gagging involved when practicing baby-led weaning.

Of course, in Gill Rapley's book, Baby-led Weaning, this fear is addressed. She writes that while many parents are afraid of the baby choking during self-feeding, a baby is actually less likely to choke when in full control of what goes in her mouth. Rapley also notes that spoon feeding, which encourages babies to suck purées to the back of the throat, may actually be more likely to cause choking.

I am really still on the fence about how to introduce solids to my daughter. Should I start the purée and cereal regimen or experiment with baby-led weaning?

Dear Moms: What was your child's first food -- and would you consider trying the baby-led weaning approach?

More about feeding your baby

Pumping exclusively: A nursing alternative
My baby is an advanced foodie
When family, friends and strangers fight your right to breastfeed

Topics: dear moms