1. DO offer your baby the chance to participate whenever anyone else in the family is eating. You can begin to do this as soon as he shows an interest in watching you, although he is unlikely to be ready to put food in his mouth until he is about six months old.
2. DO ensure that your baby is supported in an upright position while he is experimenting with food. In the early days you can sit him on your lap, facing the table. Once he is beginning to show skill at picking food up he will almost certainly be mature enough to sit, with minimal support, in a high chair.
3. DO start by offering foods that are baby-fist-sized, preferably french-fry-shaped (i.e., with a ‘handle’). As far as possible, and provided they are suitable, offer him the same foods that you are eating, so that he feels part of what is going on.
4. DO offer a variety of foods. There is no need to limit your baby’s experience with food any more than you do with toys.
5. DON’T hurry your baby. Allow him to direct the pace of what he is doing. In particular, don’t be tempted to ‘help’ him by putting things in his mouth for him.
6. DON’T expect your baby to eat any food on the first few occasions. Once he has discovered that these new toys taste nice, he will begin to chew and, later, to swallow.
7. DON’T expect a young baby to eat all of each piece of food at first – remember that he won’t yet have developed the ability to get at food which is inside his fist.
8. DO try rejected foods again later – babies often change their minds and later accept foods they originally turned down.
9. DON’T leave your baby on his own with food.
10. DON’T offer foods which present an obvious danger, such as peanuts.
11. DON’T offer ‘fast’ foods, ready meals or foods that have added salt or sugar.
12. DO offer water from a cup but don’t worry if your baby shows no interest in it. A breastfed baby, in particular, is likely to continue for some time to get all the drinks he needs from the breast.
13. DO be prepared for the mess! A clean plastic sheet on the floor under the high chair will protect your carpet and make clearing up easier. It will also enable you to give back foods that have been dropped, so that less is wasted. (You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your baby learns to eat with very little mess!)
14. DO continue to allow your baby to breastfeed whenever he wants, for as long as he wants. Expect his feeding pattern to change as he starts to eat more solid foods.
15. If you have a family history of food intolerance, allergy or digestive problems, DO discuss this method of weaning with your health advisers before embarking on it.
16. Finally, DO enjoy watching your baby learn about food – and develop his skills with his hands and mouth in the process!
© Gill Rapley, 2008
Guidelines for implementing a baby-led approach to the introduction of solid foods