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What’s the Best Baby-Feeding Guide? Your Baby!

Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Blog Posts | 7 comments

Baby in academician clothes  with roll and book

Trust me, I know what I’m doing…

Part of the reason so many parents get into feeding trouble is that they often lack quality support or information. Without trusted family nearby, and with pediatricians and family doctors who may not know much about feeding, parents often turn to the internet for advice.

Here is a resource from the Johns Hopkins website that a parent on FB shared with me. This Hopkins page baffled me with some of the feeding advice for parents:

“Begin with small amounts of new solid foods–a teaspoon at first and slowly increase to a tablespoon.” (Um, what if the infant doesn’t want any, or is eating eagerly and wants more? My big, healthy baby ate many tablespoons of food on many occasions, some occasions she ate nothing. How slowly to increase? Over a day, a week, ten minutes? I’m confused.)

“Infant cereals with iron should be given to your infant until your infant is 18 months old.” (I haven’t heard this before, and can’t imagine most 18 month-olds wanting to eat baby cereal. By 18 months, the toddler should be enjoying mostly the same foods as the rest of the family.)

“Feed all food with a spoon. Your baby needs to learn to eat from a spoon.” (What? Does a baby really need to learn from a spoon? All the parents who intuitively allow the baby to feed himself if he wants to, and all the moms and babies who love Baby Led Weaning, might disagree.)

“Feeding your baby solid food too early may lead to overfeeding and being overweight.” (I get annoyed when it doesn’t mention that feeding too early, which can invite feeding battles, is as likely to cause weight dysregulation on the other extreme and make feeding a negative experience, contributing to poor eating and poor weight gain…)

Overall the language is prescriptive, with absolute ounces, confusing advice and tables, and words like “needs to” and “should” and “begin”… There is very little about responding to the baby.
What is your reaction?

A Better Resource: Satter’s Guide to Following Your Baby’s Lead

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Satter’s latest resource, continues to focus on helping you follow your child’s lead with feeding, while helping you do your jobs to support her eating (Division of Responsibility).  It’s a new booklet from Ellyn Satter MS, RD. I just got it from the publisher last week, and it’s fantastic*.  Satter’s feeding model has been around for decades, and helps parents feed in a responsive and tuned-in way. Increasingly, research is confirming that responsive feeding supports internal regulation and eating competence.

Contrast Satter’s advice to that from above:

“Let her eat her way— fast or slowly, steady or start and stop.”
“Let her eat a lot or a little. Don’t make her eat a certain amount.”
“Offer solids based on what your baby can do, not on how old he is.”
“Getting to grown-up food… Feed him when is is a little hungry, between breast or after part of the bottle…”
“Stop when he shows you he is done, even if he did not eat.”
“Give him a tablespoon or two of each food; let him have more if he wants it.”

How does this advice feel to you?

It boils down to this wisdom from a mom on my facebook page where we were having a great discussion about another feeding guideline that advised to not allow an infant more than 32 ounces of formula a day:

“Basically I dislike any advice that allows others to justify telling me to go against my baby’s cues and my judgment.”

* I receive no financial reward or other incentive to review materials, Ellyn Satter’s included, which I recommend frequently.

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7 Comments

Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. ALKD

    Do you feel there is a link between introducing foods too early and allergies? A pediatrician recently suggested that we add infant cereal to our 3 mo old’s diet. Our son is gaining weight and height normally (ahead of the curve in both areas, actually) and I don’t see the need to introduce processed grains so early. We are excited to try soft/mashed fruits & veggies at 5/6 months… but feel it’s wise to wait until our little guy starts getting in a few teeth.

    We subscribe to baby-led feeding, and since he is still very young, he eats whenever he signals that he’s hungry and eats until he signals that he’s done. Currently, he has breastmilk only, and has not seemed dissatisfied with that at all. I know that introducing infant cereals first is a very common thing to do, and that they’re enriched with lots of good stuff, but it seems like it’d just be introducing “filler” to what is already a satisfying & nutritious meal. Is there reasoning that I am missing?

    • ALKD

      I should clarify that I do not think that rice cereal/infant cereal is “bad.” But with the theory that introducing foods too early could help children develop food allergies, I question the rationale behind giving my son rice cereal when he definitely is not ready to eat actual rice.

    • katja

      You are right, no need to start introducing rice cereal at three months. That’s not any “official” advice from any agencies I am aware of. He may be ready for food well before his teeth come in. My M didn’t get teeth until she was 8 months old. He will give you other clues he is ready, and should be able to mash, and manipulate properly prepared foods earlier if he is ready. Good luck! The theory of introducing foods too early leading to allergies seems to have flip-flopped again. The latest research seems to suggest introducing earlier than 6 months may lessen the risk. I don’t think the data is solid to recommend anything other than feeding your child in a way that is developmentally appropriate and responsive. In other words, feeding a child solids at 4 months to decrease the risk of allergies, when a child is not physically ready, is a risky proposition to me. Good luck!

  2. Elle

    I’m passing this article along to a friend.

    There are so many differing opinions on how to feed babies out there. It is hard for new parents to know where to turn.

    I love the advice of following the baby’s cues. It just leaves me wondering if children are born with knowing how to regulate themselves or if it is something that we teach them.

    At what point do we put constraints on children and what they eat? I’m sure that we all want children to develop healthy eating habits and to have a good relationship with food. Does that start in infancy or later on?

    I look forward to hearing your outlook on this.

    • katja

      I believe infants are born with this skill, and we support it, or not. I don’t think we TEACH it. Does that make sense? I think it’s a critical difference… Check out, Child of Mine for a great resource to get at your big questions!

  3. Rachel Young

    How do you feel about giving a 9 month old table food? Our son is enthusiastic and I like to have him involved in the family meal. Tonight he was eating pasta (the spiral shape, if that makes a difference) off his tray. But I do worry about choking. How do you balance wanting him to be able to explore with being concerned about choking.

    • katja

      Good for you for including him in meals. Sounds like he loves what you are cooking. Watch him closely as you advance texture. Check out this link. It might help! Get CPR training as well. http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/cms-assets/documents/99488-972320.com71.pdf Don’t let him eat on the go, watch him and his skills. He will let you know. Gagging is normal, but scary for many parents. Advance him slowly as he is able. Start with small pieces, or mash the foods and then see how he does. My M could eat mashed table foods well, but took longer to handle things like cheerios or crackers/teething biscuits since she took huge bites and gagged every time. He will guide you. How did he do with the pasta? Did he surprise you? Poke around on satter’s website or her book, Child of Mine can be a great resource going forward! (I get no money for recommending her materials…)