Thinking of giving baby-led weaning a try, here is a guide that can help!
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning is a hands-off baby-led approach to feeding. Hand-held finger foods are introduced to the baby rather than spoon-fed purees. It is not a new method it was made very popular in the UK and is now starting to make its way down here. Skipping the purees and spoon-feeding, the baby goes straight to feeding themselves with finger foods. The key is that the baby is in control of feeding, it lets the baby control its food consumption by self-feeding and self-regulating its food intake, pretty amazing right?!
Before I attempted this method I did a lot of research, I had heard of it thru other mom friends and our pediatrician but was lost of where to start. I hope if you are in my same spot you find this helpful! Do not be shy, this is a safe space for questions and support!
First off the definition of baby-led weaning: a method of introducing solid food into a baby’s diet by allowing them to feed themselves versus being spoon-fed.
Breast milk or formula is still the baby’s number one source of nutrition, this method is a great way to develop oral motor control in the beginning. In my opinion, this is the best thing to happen since the bib!
The Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning
Most babies can start at 6 months. The benefits of baby-led weaning can be great,
- helps fine-tune motor development, hand and-eye coordination, chewing skills, and dexterity
- healthy eating habits
- regulating food intake efficiently
- No buying jars and purees! (woohoo!)
That being said you will also need to be very vigilant about the baby choking when you start. Babies have a very sensitive gag reflex, which does not mean they are choking and it passes once the baby is accustomed to food.
When Should I Start Baby-Led Weaning? Is my baby ready?
Wait till your baby is ready, there is no need to rush this. Once your pediatrician gives you the green light, you can start baby-led weaning. Your child should be able to sit up and have good neck strength usually around 6 months of age. Here are some guidelines to consider before you start:
- Wait until the baby can sit up on its own.
- Baby can bring hands and toys to mouth.
- Strong head and neck control.
- Wait until the baby has started to develop a pincer grasp.
- Baby will need to sit upright while eating, NEVER LEANING BACKWARDS.
- Never leave a baby alone while eating.
- Know the difference between gagging and choking. Studies have shown there is no difference in choking frequency with babies who are offered purees and those who do baby-led weaning.
Before you start ensure your baby is ready, seek pediatrician approval. Practice sitting with your baby, and lastly eat with your baby.
Does my baby need teeth to start?
Nope! We chew with our back molars, which typically do not come in until 2-3 years of age. Baby’s first foods should be soft some great first foods are banana, avocado, steamed broccoli, or sweet potato. Substantial long pieces cut into strip or crinkle-cut will be easiest for the baby to manage.
Foods to start with for Baby-Led Weaning
Food ideally should be shaped like a figure, easy for the baby to grab and long enough to stick out of the baby’s fist. Always start simple. Choose foods high in iron. Start with single foods like a strip of avocado, sweet potato, or banana. Think whole foods, not processed. Veggies should be cooked until soft stay away from salt and sugar. If the fruit is not soft then you will need to steam it till it becomes soft in texture. The easiest way to serve small round fruit like blueberries is to smash it between your figures before serving. When serving meat focus on high iron and zinc, chicken thighs and hard-boiled eggs are great. Baby will want to play with food, this is great sensory play! They may not eat much at first but they are learning. This is very very messy, be prepared for a mess, if you have a dog they will love all the food droppings, haha! It’s normal for a baby to have a gag reflex when starting solids, it improves over time. At six months baby will only need a meal a day and their primary source of nutrition will be breastmilk or formula.
Studies have shown waiting later to introduce allergenic food may increase a food allergy. Check with your pediatrician first if your child has a high allergenic risk. I like to introduce one allergenic food group at a time in the case that baby does develop an allergic reaction. Try to introduce high allergy foods for close to 6 months. Here is a list of allergenic foods:
- tree nuts
- finned fish