A Guide to Starting Baby Led Weaning
Starting solid foods with your little one is an exciting time. But it also comes with a lot of questions. Have you heard about baby-led weaning? If you've been looking into baby-led weaning, you've come to the right place. Before you take on the process of starting solids with your baby, there are some things you need to know ahead of time.
On a side note, if baby-led weaning isn’t for you, check out this article about Our Guide to Making Homemade First Food Baby Purees!
What Is Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning was popularized by Gill Rapley and Tracy Murkett’s book “Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide―How to Introduce Solid Foods and Help Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater,” published in 2009. This method of introducing foods to your baby has become popular in the last decade by parents wanting a different option than feeding purees. Baby-led weaning is a way of slowly weaning your child off the dependence on breastmilk and baby formula by introducing solid foods in a way that they feed themselves.
By allowing them to feed themselves with finger foods, they can try new foods, learn chewing skills and they can improve hand eye coordination. This method can also help babies learn to stop eating when they are feeling full and other healthy eating habits.
Keep in mind, as you start weaning your child off of breastmilk and formula, it doesn't mean you're getting rid of it. Your baby’s main source of nutrition will be breastmilk or formula until they are 1 year old.
How do I know when the baby is ready for solid foods?
Before you start introducing solids to your child, there is one major thing you need to look out for, signs of readiness. The only way your child will be open to the introduction of solids is if they're ready to begin incorporating foods into their diet.
There are several signs you'll want to look for when deciding if your baby is ready to begin eating other foods, including:
- Baby is no longer thrusting their tongue
- Improved hand-eye coordination
- The baby is showing an increased interest in foods
- Neck strength and the ability to sit unassisted
While all of these are important, you shouldn't start giving your child solids if they cannot sit up without your help. Not being able to keep themselves upright increases the chances of them choking while you're feeding them.
What age can I start baby-led weaning?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends starting to introduce foods at around 6 months of age. It’s around this age that they are developmentally ready to start eating solid foods. Make sure to check for all the cues that your baby is ready and start by introducing 1 food at a time to pinpoint any possible food allergies. It may take until your baby is closer to 9 months before they can master chewing, but they are learning!
What are the best foods to start with?
As the baby-led weaning process gets underway, introduce soft healthy foods that provide them with the vital nutrients and vitamins they need to continue growing and developing. When you think of baby-led weaning foods, think soft mashable foods. Some foods that you may want to incorporate include:
- Steamed broccoli
- Scrambled eggs
- Cut up berries
Remember that you don't have to provide your child with solid food if you're not ready. If your baby is not ready and you want to feed them, you can take a step back and puree the foods for them if you prefer. As they become more comfortable with eating, you can leave the different foods in their natural form to make it easier for your child to pick up. They may have some trouble picking up slippery foods so expect some messes when you are starting.
Teeth Aren't Mandatory
It's easy to assume that your child can't eat solid foods if they haven't yet begun to sprout teeth, but this isn't true. Your child doesn't need teeth to eat because they have gums.
The teeth you use to chew food are your front molars, and to be honest, waiting for them to come in for some children doesn't happen until they're around a year old. Not to mention waiting too long makes it hard for a child to get used to different food textures. Allowing them to eat different foods while their young gives them the time and space to learn and figure out their food preferences.
Store Foods for On the Go
As a parent you spend a lot of your time on the go, which means there will be times when you're baby is hungry while you're out and about. Instead of running to the nearest convenient store we recommend you keep a 2 in 1 snack cup in your baby bag or near at all times.
If your child is exhibiting signs they're hungry, open the snack cup and allow them to feed themselves some of the food you've placed inside it. Find a brand like Baby's Brew that not only offers you a snack cup, but also one that can be transformed into a straw sippy cup for your child.
It minimizes the mess that comes with snacking and allows you to take it wherever, whenever necessary.
Baby-Led Weaning: Things You Need to Know
Baby-led weaning is a great method for introducing solid foods to your baby. For parents who would like to introduce solid foods at 6 months, baby led weaning is a good choice. Do your best to let them explore on their own. Just know that it’s going to be pretty messy for the first few months as they are learning how to pick up the food and feed themselves. Embrace the mess and enjoy watching your little one experience this new food adventure.
Q: What is baby-led weaning?
A: Baby-led weaning is a way of slowly weaning your child off the dependence on breastmilk and baby formula by introducing solid foods in a way that they feed themselves. It's skipping purees and going straight to baby safe soft finger foods.
Q: What is the best first solid food for baby to eat?
A: When it comes to baby-led weaning, you’ll want to start with soft natural foods cut to small pieces so the baby does not choke on the food. Some good first options include ripe avocado, banana, steamed vegetables and berries.
Q: When should a baby start eating solids?
A: It is suggested that when doing baby-led weaning, you should start around 6 months of age. Make sure that your child has good neck strength and is able to sit unassisted before trying baby-led weaning.
Q: What are the advantages to baby-led weaning?
A: Advantages of baby-led weaning include; trying new foods, learning chewing skills and they can improve hand eye coordination. This method can also help babies learn to stop eating when they are feeling full and other healthy eating habits. It also gives parents a hands off approach by allowing them to feed themselves,
Q: What are the disadvantages to baby-led weaning?
A: A disadvantage of this method is that the starting age for feeding is delayed some. When starting baby-led weaning, it will take time for your child to learn how to feed themselves. When feeding purees, it is much faster to feed the baby a meal and you know how much the baby has eaten.
Q: Is there a health benefit to baby-led weaning?
A: Eventually every baby reaches the age and skills where they can feed themselves. Is one method better than another? Not really, it's mainly just parental preference. Babies typically start with the same first foods whether or not they are pureed or cut up.
Written by: Kristen Bickel
Kristen is a mom of 4 and an employee at The Baby’s Brew.