Simply put, Baby-led weaning is allowing your baby to “self-feed”.
Here, “weaning” means the introduction of solid foods as opposed to exclusively breastfeeding or formula feeding. As a parent, listening to the cues and signals your baby is giving you will help guide the introduction of new foods.
Gill Rapley coined the term in her book “Baby-led Weaning: The essential guide to introducing solids”.
Baby Led weaning can feel like a daunting undertaking. Giving up control of the weaning schedule is easier said than done.
But if you do, allowing your baby to decide the pace of eating, how much to eat, and what of your offerings to eat can develop a strong and lasting intuitive relationship with food.
Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to achieving this…
Starting between 4-6 months babies will gain the skills necessary to eat solid food. How exciting!! Be mindful that on the whole, babies are better equipped to start solid foods at 6 months. Look out for these things to know if they’re ready:
- Holding their head up with control
- Sitting without support/ with little support
- Can pick up toys between finger and thumb and can follow toys/hands to mouth
What is a good baby’s first food?
In truth, there are lots of good options for a first food. Fruits and vegetables are usually an easy-to-access, fun first food. (Examples: Cooked carrot, parsnip, sweet potato, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, squash, or raw avocado, ripe peach, banana, etc..) .
These should be cut into chunks; wide enough to so they are easy to get a good grip-of, long enough to poke out the top of your baby’s clenched fist. There are many easy-to-hold finger foods like; buttered toast, banana, melon, unsalted breadsticks, pieces of cheese.
Choose low salt foods
Check the packaging for added salt in foods.
What if my baby is; throwing food on the floor/not eating anything/spitting foods out?
Remember that the foods you are offering are complementary to breastfeeding and/or formula – they don’t need to be providing all the nutrition at this time.
This is all about letting your baby experience the different tastes, textures, and smells of food; It’s going to get messy!
But try looking at it this way, getting messy is an important part of weaning. Your baby needs to get to know what a food feels like and smells like before they put it in their mouth.
Baby-led weaning might not be perfect for you or your baby, research shows that not all babies are ready for “self-feeding” at 6 months. Remember, this is all just a framework to support the introduction of solid foods. If you feel like starting purees or spoon-feeding would be helpful at any time, go ahead!
Baby Non-verbal cues
Babies can tell us a lot by their body language. These are some common cues to look out for; your baby might have some of their own too!
- Turning their head away
- Throwing food repeatedly
- Pushing spoon away from the face
What baby is saying, “I’ve had enough, let’s try again later!”
Getting set-up for Baby-led weaning?
- Usually, you have the most time to feed children in the middle of the day.
- This is a good time due to more time, less pressure.
- Sit baby on your lap, facing away from you, with a hand either side of their bottom for support. Or use a highchair – you can add a rolled-up towel around the hips to make it fit.
- Limit any distractions; turn off the television and take away other toys – this tells your baby “it’s time to eat”.
Why Not just stick with milk a little longer?
- The idea is to prepare your baby to start eating family foods by 1 year. Drinking milk only doesn’t allow the development of the muscles and control needed to eat and chew family foods.
- We need to develop tongue control for speech.
- Later on, around 2-3years old children can be less interested in trying new foods- get a good variety in early.
- This is an exciting time to try giving your baby some new tastes and experiences!
In summary Baby-led weaning is one method for introducing solids to your baby, but there are many other ways to do it.
Remember that your child will always go at their own pace. Supporting them to be the best at their pace is where I can help.