Starting solids is an exciting milestone for baby to reach, but what is all this talk of baby-led weaning?
Turns out spooning lovingly prepared purees into the hatch while making aeroplane noises isn’t the only baby feeding option.
Nope, for a real hands-on experience to starting solids, let your baby take the lead with baby-led weaning!
What is Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning – it sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Fancy it’s not! Baby-led weaning simply means letting baby feed themselves.
It’s all about throwing traditional feeding methods to the side here mamas! Instead of spoon-feeding your baby delicious purees, baby-led weaning means you offer your little one a selection of finger foods. Given the freedom of choice, baby is able to choose what they fancy nibbling on and attempt to feed themselves. Awesome. Who doesn’t love a smorgasbord?
Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning
One of the main benefits of baby-led weaning is that these babies tend to be a little more advanced and adventurous with their eating. It’s FANTASTIC for establishing great food/eating habits, controlling appetite and potentially nipping fussy eating in the bud. This style of weaning is also brilliant for involving baby in family mealtimes, it’s interesting for everyone to see what the youngest member of the family likes to eat first!
Getting Started with Baby-Led Weaning
Getting started is easy! Saddle up baby in their high chair at the family mealtime so that baby can copy those at the table – yep, you’re all role models! Skip using bowls and cutlery and place food directly in front of your bub on the high chair tray or table.
In the early days, your baby is going to have an absolute BALL discovering food and learning to feed themselves. Chances are, not as much food will be getting into their mouth compared to what will be on the floor. Continue to breastfeed or give bottles of milk between mealtimes.
What’s on the Menu?
Offer age-appropriate foods to baby, which are soft to chew yet able to be picked up easily in their fist (as the pincer grip is yet to be perfected!). Cut foods in a wedge or chip shape so they can hold up to being gripped and look for foods with a natural handle such as broccoli and cauliflower.
Foods to try: Steamed apple, pear, carrots, zucchini, sweet potato, pumpkin and green beans. Fresh fruit is a winner too, try peaches, pears, plums, bananas and avocado – though they’re slippery, so expect a delicious mess to be made! Cooked meat is great for boosting iron.
But Won’t Babies Choke if Feeding Themselves?
Choking is a real concern for many parents starting out on the baby-led weaning journey. Steam foods to a point where a small amount of pressure makes them pliable, breaking up in the fist or gums before baby moves them in their mouth to swallow. Avoid offering any foods which are potential choking hazards – whole nuts, whole grapes, cherry tomatoes, for example.
Also know the difference between the gag reflex (where baby will look horrified with what they’ve just tasted, spit it out and attempt to eat it again) and genuine choking. Make sure baby is able to sit upright while being unsupported (a pre-requisite for any baby starting solids). Also, brush up on your first aid skills, so you can confidently know what to do if ever there is an incident.
Top Tips for Baby-Led Weaning:
Baby-Led Weaning DOs
- Wait until your child is six-months-old before starting.
- Have fun!
- Allow plenty of time to explore AND eat.
- Steam foods until borderline soft and only offer very ripe fruit.
- Offer a variety of textures and flavours.
- Let your little one explore food freely. If she wants to eat smushed peas with her peach wedge, then so be it.
- Remember that with baby-led weaning, babies choose what, how much, and how quickly to eat. So BE PATIENT!
Baby-Led Weaning DONTs
- Don’t add any honey, sugar or salt to make foods more enticing.
- Leave chocolate alone – they have YEARS to explore that ahead of them.
- Avoid processed foods, focus on whole foods instead.
- Don’t offer foods that are high risk for choking – whole nuts, grapes, cherry tomatoes.
- Don’t ever leave your baby unsupervised while eating.
- Try not to rush them.
- Don’t hinder the experience with cutlery or bowls (and it’s fewer dishes!).
- Try not to freak out over the mess!
As always with babies, nothing is ever black and white. If you’re concerned your baby isn’t eating enough, you can always mix it up and team baby-led weaning with a spoon-fed top up!
What to Read Next