The Ultimate Guide to Baby Led weaning

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It can be pretty overwhelming to introduce your child to solid food, and since there are many options, you need to think twice before choosing. 

Pin image of baby led weaning

Most parents have gone into baby led weaning to introduce solid food to their children.

If you are yet to understand what baby led weaning means, stick around.

We will be discussing baby led weaning, its benefits, what you should know or avoid, and if it is for you.

What is baby led weaning?

Baby led weaning is a method whereby parents skip purees and spoon-feeding to introduce solid foods to their babies.  Instead of purees and spoon-feeding, they allow their children to feed themselves with their own hands. 

Photo of a baby being introduced to  baby led weaning

To make it more understandable, baby led weaning is a way many parents cut out baby food idea completely. 

According to parents, they do this to avoid raising picky eaters and accept the Montessori Parenting style whereby children are encouraged to be self-sufficient. 

For the baby, baby led weaning emphasizes independence. Because of these, you need to be sure that your baby is ready to start feeding on their own before bringing in baby led weaning.

Baby led weaning doesn’t mean that bottle-feeding or breastfeeding is wholly removed from the picture. 

Parents can still try baby led weaning while breastfeeding and bottle feeding. However, the children will be in charge of when they take the milk feeds.

Benefits of baby led weaning

Researchers are taking up many studies to ascertain the impact of baby led weaning. However, before their results are out, we believe the following to be the benefits of this method.

  1. To foster independence

With baby led weaning, you only need to take a child to the table and display food before them; these kids have the power to eat on their own and control what they are taking in and how much they eat. 

Since kids at that age prefer to put everything in their mouth, they will become less picky eaters because they will try everything you display on the table.

  1. Developing motor and oral skills

With baby led weaning, your child learns to grab food and put them in their mouths. While the baby is doing the self-feeding, they also work on their jaw strength, tongue movements, and swallowing skills. 

This method is even more beneficial for the child’s development because they will be exposed to foods of different consistencies.

Photo of a baby being introduced to  baby led weaning

Why should I let my child self-feed?

The following are some great reasons why every family should consider baby led weaning.

  • The child learns independence and is in control of that aspect of their lives
  • They develop critical oral and motor skills
  • They are in charge of their appetite and learn to recognize when they are full and stop eating accordingly.
  • The child can comfortably eat the food every member of the family is eating. That means you will less likely have to prepare special meals every time.
  • Since the baby eats real food and not some purees or baby food, it is less expensive
  • The baby is exposed to a variety of foods with different textures and flavors, and with this, they’ll become less picky in the future.
  • The baby starts experiencing family mealtime early on.
  • Since the baby is exposed to almost every kind of food, you can easily eat with the whole family in a restaurant.
  • For babies, this is a whole new level of fun because they love exploring, tasting, inspecting, and touching every kind of food.

At what age should I start baby led weaning? 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is advisable to allow your child to reach at least six months and sit alone before introducing the baby to baby led weaning. Also, you should ensure that they have firm neck control before doing this.

The most important pointer to start your baby led weaning is when your kids start showing interest in the food you are eating. They will react or try to reach out for the food or just watch you eat.

Babies must be able to move their tongues while they eat. This means that they should develop the needed tongue reflexes, which are essential for self-feeding, instead of just spitting them right out.

Photo of a baby

Baby led weaning tips

To make your baby led weaning easier and more fun, you should consider these tips

  • Do not start until your child is ready for baby led weaning. The criteria for being prepared are listed above
  • Get a lovely high chair with an adjustable footrest and straps.
  • Start with one food first and continue with that for a while.
  • Give your child some time as they adjust to this new phase of their lives. Also, be ready to introduce water when necessary. 
  • Watch your child while they eat. They are still children and do not know how to stay safe while eating. 
  • Let the child decide whether or not they will continue with the baby led weaning. You should stop if your baby turns their head away or fusses when you bring up this method. 
  • If your child doesn’t want to do the baby led weaning even when they have reached the age or attained the development, it is okay to allow them for a while. Give a few days or weeks break before starting again. Kids work with different timelines.
  • Do not stop milk feeding until your child can get enough food from self-feeding. So for the first few months of introducing them to eating solids, continue to satisfy their hunger with breast milk or formula feeds.
  • Be ready for a mess. Babies are babies and will rub the food on themselves.  So, when choosing a high chair, look for an easy-to-clean one because you will have lots of mess on it. There’s nothing you can do, it is just an experience you need to accept during baby led weaning.
  • If you are getting frustrated, replace the feeling by enjoying your baby’s face while they taste the first avocado. 

First foods to try for baby led weaning 

The general rule for introducing a baby to baby led weaning is to start with soft foods. These can be cooked egg yolks, shredded or tenderly cooked meats, soft pasta, and vegetables.

Experts advise that the foods you choose should be high in calories, healthy fats, and proteins. 

Avoid adding salt and limit the spices you use for your baby’s food.

Photo of a baby being introduced to  baby led weaning

Also, ensure that you cut these foods to a reasonable size for easy grasp. There is more in how to cut your baby food for baby led weaning in the subsequent section.

So, when asking for the best foods to start with for baby led weaning, they include thick mango slices, sweet potato wedges, bananas with some of its peels on, roasted, steamed broccoli florets which are big enough for your child to hold.

You can also try ripe avocado, mashed avocados, cooked chicken on bone which is large enough for your child to suck on.

Foods to avoid during baby led weaning 

The foods you should concentrate on are those that are soft enough for your baby to feed on and can be squished between their fingers. 

These foods will be easier for them to eat and digest. So when practicing baby led weaning, avoid the following:

  • Foods that are hard, crunchy, or sticky. They include raw carrots or apples, nut butter, etc
  • Honey. It can increase your child’s risk of botulism
  • Salt 
  • Adding extra sugar to the food, they don’t need it
  • Using cow’s milk for kids under the age of 1 is not encouraged; they will find it difficult to digest. However, you can try plain yogurt.

At this time, let your child decide the food they want to eat more. You can know this by watching them and how they react when you offer them food. 

So, offer them a variety to choose from. 

Photo of fruits; great idea for baby led weaning

What if the baby chokes during baby led weaning? 

Most parents are usually scared that their kids will choke with self-feeding. But the rate of choking during self-feeding is no different when they are being fed.

With self-feeding, children will gurgle more, and this may sound like they are choking. 

Yes, your child may indeed choke every once in a while, but the sound of gurgling shows that they are doing the right thing to get the food moving in their mouth. 

It can be pretty scary to hear the sound as parents, and you know we are always on the watch out; lol.

So, if you do not feel very comfortable about the gurgling sound, know that we also had the same fears. I made the journey smoother for my kids by giving them a few preloaded spoons of purees.

Tips for cutting foods for baby led weaning 

Since you wouldn’t want your baby to swallow the food at once, ensure that it is small enough. Also, you need to make sure that it is not too big for their hands to handle.

Photo of food

Generally, when cutting food for your baby, make it up to 4 inches long. This means that the food should roughly be the size of your finger.

Do not make the pieces too small because babies cannot pick up smaller pieces until they reach 9 months. At this point, they must have developed the ability to use their fingers well. It is known as “pincer grasp.”

If you have to serve your child with slippery food, ensure you leave some peels on them.

This means that you need to wash these peels well. This method is more applicable for food like mangoes, bananas, avocado, and kiwi.

How much food will my baby eat when starting baby led weaning?

For a start, your baby will not eat so much food. They will only taste this food, and that is okay.

This is why we advise that you continue feeding them with breast milk or bottle feed until they eat enough to be satisfied by themselves. This should take up to a few months.

Should my child develop teeth before starting baby led weaning?

As parents, we get worried about whether children will be able to consume solids when they don’t have teeth or when they have only a few front teeth.

But this is the thing; kids don’t need teeth for chewing, especially during the early months. The gums are firm and will do the work of the teeth while the teeth are yet to develop.

So, whether your child has no teeth or a few at the front, it is okay to introduce baby led weaning.

Photo of a baby being introduced to  baby led weaning

What if I want to add some purees and baby led weaning?

From the introduction, baby led weaning is defined as skipping purees entirely for solid foods. But if you are not comfortable with skipping purees altogether, you can introduce baby led weaning alongside the purees.

Every child is different, and you cannot detect your child’s nutrition by entirely depending on other people’s experiences.

Conclusion

Your child is your best lead for baby led weaning. So, ensure that you monitor them to know when they are ready, the food they like to eat, and whether or not you should strictly go on baby led weaning.

If your child seems unprepared for baby led weaning, give them a break for maybe a week or more, before returning to it. 

Also, if they are not okay taking solid foods alone, or you feel unsatisfied letting them just jump into solids, you can introduce them to baby led weaning alongside purees.

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