Recently, I was babysitting a seven-month-old and stuck to his worried mom’s schedule strictly. I only fed him at the suggested times, changed his diapers as often as requested and gave him “tummy time” precisely for the allotted amount of time. Though he was certainly used to the regimen, I couldn’t help but notice that he wanted to break free from it in some ways. Specifically, he was not very interested in the baby food I was trying to feed him, and I wondered whether or not it might be a good idea for his mom to take baby’s hints and move on to another type of food. I did a little bit of research into the matter in hopes of providing her with some insight, and the results of a recent study gave me just that.

Many experts agree that babies should be completely done with pureed baby foods by age two, but recent research proves that taking cues from a baby who is interested in other foods might lead to better health down the road. In the study, babies who led their parents’ decision to move to finger foods when they were ready had a smaller chance of being obese as children. These babies made better health choices in general through childhood. In fact, babies who didn’t spoon-feed at all were healthiest, but such a drastic decision doesn’t have to be made to improve the future health choice and weight of your child. Letting your baby move on to solid finger foods when he or she seems ready is an excellent idea.

You should talk to your baby’s pediatrician about proper feeding schedules and weight management when you feel that it’s time to move away from puree, but there are some very easy options that your newly independent baby will love. Soft foods such as pieces of pasta, cooked carrot or potato, bananas and cheese are all foods that you can dice up and leave on your baby’s high chair while he or she explores the new textures and tastes.

Once you’ve moved on from milk and formula to baby food, there’s no telling when your baby might feel the inspiration of independence. However, when she does, it’s okay to let him or her explore finger foods. Doing so will help set your baby up for a healthier future because he or she will make better health choices.

Source: Ellen Townsend et al: Baby Knows Best? The Impact Of Weaning Style On Food Preferences And Body Mass Index In Early Childhood In A Case–Controlled Sample. British Medical Journal Volume 2 2012

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