The British Medical Journal today published an article entitled, Baby knows best? The impact of weaning style on food preferences and body mass index in early childhood in a case–controlled sample. Read whole article.

Because this was written in Great Britain, what they call “weaning” is what we call “starting solids.” The authors, Ellen Townsend and Nicola J Pickford, looked at two groups of children. One group started solids with spoon feeding, eating the foods that their parents picked for them. The other group of babies pretty much started solids by swiping things that were on their parents’ plates.

What happened? Well probably the most striking results were

  • The children who were spoon-fed preferred sweets to all other things
  • The children who took what they wanted were more likely to prefer healthy carbs
  • The children who were spoon-fed started with a lot of pureed foods
  • The children who started themselves finger-fed themselves – not much puree there
  • The children who were spoon-fed had higher BMIs later on
  • The children who chose their own foods were slimmer later on

I won’t regurgitate this article for you. You will enjoy reading it yourself. Sure makes me think about the advice we often hear about how to start babies on solids, and makes me wonder why we’ve got all those ice cube trays of homemade purees when our babies probably would’ve preferred chasing some steamed green beans around the highchair tray!

Food is such a crazy making proposition in families (and in many of our lives!). Here’s some other thoughts, based on ways to get off to a healthy start with your baby and toddler. (Oh, toddler eating – that’s another whole column!)

Both you and your child have certain responsibilities in feeding. Be sure to fulfill your own, but don’t try to take over your child’s. She will do her part.


Parent – Responsible for the type of food that is bought, how the food is prepared, when the food is served, and the environment in which the meal is served.

Child – Responsible for whether he eats, what he eats, and how much he eats.

Young children will not eat the same way from day to day or from meal to meal. Growth spurts and changes in activity or interests affect children’s appetites. As long as the child is healthy and growing, you don’t need to be concerned. Do not force your child to eat specific foods or clean her plate. Healthy children will eat what they need.

Present food and mealtime as a positive experience. Don’t use food (such as candy) as a reward. Don’t deny dessert as punishment. Doing these things might cause your child to believe that sweets are special foods and to overeat when given the opportunity.

You have a responsibility to be a good role model for your child and to help him learn. Your child will imitate you, so be sure to display the behaviors you would like him to have. Try and enjoy a variety of foods, and have good manners at the table.

My (now-grown) children still tease about meal times at our house while they were growing up. “We will be seated and have a nice conversation. When you go to the White House to have dinner, the President will say, ‘Look what nice manners you have! Your mother was a good mother!”

Give your kids some memories, and enjoy the craziness of dinners together. Here’s to many happy times, even if you are eating chicken nuggets and fries together! (Someday it may be vegetarian curry and a lassi.)

On March 7, Chris Ellis, RD with the Brattleboro Food CO-OP will be coming to the New Moms Network meeting (9:30 AM) to talk about starting solids.  Come learn more!

One thought on “Starting Solids: Know Your Responsibilities”

  1. Doubt I’ll be able to make it that week – such a timely topic for our little family. Thanks Dawn

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