Written by: Caroline Meyer
Baby led weaning is not a new concept, but it has found its way into the mainstream conversation on feeding little ones a lot more over the past few years. In basic terms it means that you no longer feed your baby pureed food with a spoon when teaching them to start eating solids. Your baby eats the same foods that you do.
What are the pros of baby led weaning?
Babies are allowed to explore colours, textures, flavours and smells of a variety of foods. They develop eye-hand coordination getting the food to their mouths as well as playing with it. They improve dexterity, chewing skills and should hopefully be less picky eaters. They also learn to stop eating when they feel full, teaching self-regulation. They are not being force fed food. There are also benefits involved financially as you don’t have to buy little jars of food or fancy cereals. You can give baby the same food the rest of the family is eating for dinner, just in smaller portions.
What are the cons of baby led weaning?
There is a risk of your baby not getting all the nutrition they need. You have to ensure you prepare healthy options and include all food groups, so baby gets all the vitamins and minerals their growing bodies need. You also must make sure that baby is eating enough. Regular checks are needed to make sure baby is thriving. There is a minor risk of choking with pieces of food that are too large. Never leave baby unattended while eating.
Tips for baby led weaning
Don’t start too early. Your baby must be sitting properly in a highchair without being propped. They must be able to make chewing motions and be able to move food around in their mouths. They need to have good neck strength and be able to feed themselves. This could be any time between 6 and 9 months. Wait until your baby can chew well before starting the process.
Don’t stop breastfeeding or giving formula. Your baby will still need this nutrition until they are 10 months to a year old. So, although you are giving them solids, you can’t actually wean until a later stage.
Stay close. You can’t just put the food down in front of baby and walk away. You need to supervise and socialise with your child. It is even better if the whole family eats together. This also teaches baby about eating and eventually how to use utensils etc.
Start with the basics. Softer foods such as cooked pasta, steamed vegetables, ripe fruit, shredded meat, flaked fish and puffed cereals are good starter foods. They give a bit of a range in colour, texture, flavours and so forth. Make sure you choose healthy options with high nutritional value.
Keep the food small enough. Foods should be large enough for baby to be able to pick it up, but small enough to prevent choking if they try to swallow the whole piece without chewing. Stay away from raisins, grapes, hot dogs, raw vegetables, sticky foods such as peanut butter and popcorn that can be a choking hazard. Avoid foods that need utensils while baby is little. You can introduce spoons and other cutlery later. Choose foods that are fine warm or cold. Don’t give baby food that is too hot. Stay away from spicy food or food that is salted while they are small.
Know there will be mess. Babies will pick up the food, throw it around, squish it, smear it and probably drop most on the floor that doesn’t end up in his hair. Place a plastic cloth or bag under the highchair to catch most of it. If you don’t have large bibs, try a kid’s art smock to reduce mess on the baby.