Solid Starts Founder and Feeding Expert Jenny Best On Feeders: Do or Don’t? (And More!)

When it comes to the baby-led weaning (BLW) space, it’s hard to get more influential than Solid Starts founder Jenny Best. Her online courses, her app (it’s free and a must for anyone doing BLW – you can look up hundreds of foods to see if they’re safe for baby, to learn how to cut the food based on baby’s age, videos of babies eating the specific foods you’re searching and more) and her Instagram are unbelievable resources.

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She’s a wealth of knowledge and many parents swear that they couldn’t have imagined starting solids without her unparalleled resources. We chatted with her to get her takes on two important issues when it comes to starting solids – no matter your approach: high chairs and feeders.

Read on for her expert opinions on both along with an extra “must-have” for minimizing the inevitable mess that comes with starting solids.

High Chair

“We aren’t brand loyalists, but what we want to see in a high chair from a safety and positioning standpoint are first a totally upright seat. This is crucial for swallowing safety. Eating reclined is not safe for either spoon feeding or solids and is a very dependent position for the baby. It’s much harder for baby to lean in and engage if/when reclined. Second, we like a chair with a foot rest. This is most crucial for postural control. Having the feet firmly planted with the knees bent at 90 degrees sets the hips/pelvis up for perfect alignment for sitting. When the hips and pelvis are neutral, it encourages the back and neck to be upright—sitting strong is ideal for solids. Therapy speak is ‘what happens at the hips, happens at the lips,’ so this strong base of support helps provide the freedom for the lips, tongue, and jaw to do their job for chewing. And finally, we like a removable tray, so the chair can be pulled right up to the dinner table. This way baby can see, smell, and experience the family meal from the start.”

Feeders

“We do not recommend using a mesh feeder for most babies. This is because mesh feeders reinforce the same suck-to-swallow motion that babies use with the bottle or breast, which is not what we want babies to do with solid food. The goal with solid foods is not merely just nutrition, but to teach baby to chew thoroughly. To trigger the chew reflex, baby will need to be offered chewable food.In therapy speak, feeders reinforce the same motor pattern that sucking on a bottle or breast uses, not a lateral tongue movement pattern and munching pattern. It does share flavor with the baby, but there is no oral motor benefit in offering via a feeder—if you want baby to taste something they can taste the actual food. If baby has dysphagia or specific concerns (re:swallowing), this can be an option but we view it as a therapeutic option.”

Mess Minimizing Must-Have

“I would suggest two to three good, waterproof splat mats like this one. There are some more tips you can find here to minimize the mess that comes with starting solids.”