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Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett

The Experiment: New York (2008,2010)

Gill Rapley, a public health nurse for more than twenty years started to research baby eating habits as part of a master’s degree and went on to write a book. Tracey Murkett is a freelance writer and journalist.

The idea on which this book is based is that babies start eating foods in addition to breast or bottle at around six months of age, however, according to these authors the decision is based less on a baby’s chronological age and weight and more on his or her level of development. Indications of readiness are when baby can sit, reach and grab things and put them in his/ her mouth and chew on them. Baby should not be hungry when first offered solid foods, the experience is initially one of playing and investigating the food and of being sociable at the table. Such an approach also takes the pressure off the necessity of eating a balanced meal and obtaining nutrients and having to have a pre-determined plan.

With reference to first foods, because the child is usually six months or older, there is no specific sequence in which the foods should be introduced unless the baby has any allergies or medical conditions. Sugar and salt are avoided, foodstuffs from the four different food groups are offered daily, and they are served in aform that the baby can manage. Foods which are potentially hazardous such as nuts, fish bones and fruit pips are avoided. It is not recommended that baby’s first food is cereal as this is high in starch and so is digested slowly and lacks nutritive value. Baby’s first foods are usually cooked vegetables and cooked or raw fruit. Larger pieces are given so baby can hold the food in his or her fist.

The authors’ maintain that Baby-led weaning (BLW) will develop baby’s chewing skills, manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Baby will get to taste a wide range of foods and learn some social skills at the table. He will eat only as much as he needs, which will make him less likely to be overweight when he’s older. Most of all he’ll enjoy having some control over what he eats.

Babies do not always eat according to a fixed pattern, they may eat more on some days than others. One eight month old baby may eat plenty of solid food but many may still be eating little in the early stages.

This book is filled with ideas on how to cope with BLW in different situations such as eating in restaurants, going on picnics and encourages parents to think about giving sweets as treats. The authors also discuss the matter of feeding and returning to work. It is a comprehensive book with ends with a chart listing the nutritive value of foods and a discussion on tips for maintaining hygienic food habits.