Baby Led Weaning: A Comprehensive Guide on Self-Feeding
Baby-led weaning- A must-read comprehensive guide!
When my husband and I decided we wanted to try baby-led weaning for our then three-month-old, we reached out to friends and family for recommendations.
Their responses were quite varied: “Do what works for you”; “Ask your pediatrician”; “Honey, why are you feeding solids so young?” The most common question we received was as follows: “How do you do baby-led weaning?”
But baby-led weaning is a modern approach to starting solids that’s more hands-off for parents and has been linked to positive outcomes.
We have created a comprehensive guide on how to do baby-led weaning. It offers all the necessary information in a concise and easy-to-follow manner.
What Is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is a method of feeding babies solids that involve waiting until your little one reaches a developmental milestone (like being able to sit up steadily) and then manually putting food (finger foods) in their mouths.
These alternative feeding methods allow children to feed independently with no parent influence — bypassing spoon feeds and purees.
Baby-led Weaning (BLW) is coined by a former U.K public health nurse, Gill Rapley. Also called baby-led feeding, baby-led weaning offers parents a way to completely bypass the idea of baby food.
With this relaxed approach, the baby has the chance to feed himself solid food without adult help.
Food is usually offered as soft pieces held in the baby’s hand instead of offered on a spoon. A baby’s plate or tray is filled with chunks of different family foods, and he feeds in the way he pleases. Essentially, baby-led weaning focuses on your little one’s independence.
Parents need to wait for their children to show signs that they are ready to eat and follow their cues regarding solid food.
Families bring babies to the dinner table, encourage them to pick up their food, and let them consume as much or as little as they wish. A baby who begins solids with baby-led weaning continues to receive breast milk or bottle milk and can decide when those milk feeds will be tapered off.
Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning
Experts are starting to analyze how baby-led weaning impacts a baby. However, babies tend to benefit so much from this feeding method. Here are some of the benefits of baby-led weaning.
Promoting Feeding Independence
Your little one will learn to feed independently (on his own) and control what he eats and the quantity of food he consumes.
Baby-led weaning also provides an opportunity for your infant to practice fine motor and oral skills needed to pick up various pieces of food sizes with his fingers.
Control of Appetite
Your baby can control the amount of food to eat and learns to stop when he is full. From what we know, babies who get this opportunity to be in charge and explore different food flavours and textures tend to less likely become picky eaters as they grow.
Less Stress and Expenses
The baby consumes real food. This means that they eat what you eat, and you won’t have to bother about getting expensive pouches, jars or blenders. You also won’t have to encounter the stress of making two different foods at a given time.
Babies love to explore their senses of touch, sight, and taste as they can inspect and taste various flavours and textures. This practice will help them to work on swallowing, jaw strength, and tongue movements.
When to Start Baby-Led Weaning
Don’t start until your child appears ready. Your baby must have started sitting down on a high chair without assistance, have good neck strength, and can lift foods, chew and swallow freely.
A healthy infant over the age of six months is developmentally capable of self-feeding, though not all children are entirely able to chew until they are nine months old. The baby-led weaning process will help develop those chewing skills.”
Also, during this weaning process, you should not stop giving your child breast milk or formula until he gets to 10 to 12 months. Your baby needs an adequate amount of nutrients to grow and develop.
How to Start Baby-Led Weaning
The ability of your baby to eat solid food right off the bat may seem unlikely, but you will probably be stunned at how well he does. Regardless, if you’re going to offer solids to your baby the baby-led-weaning way, be sure to follow these steps:
- Take note of your baby milestones to make sure he is ready to start solid meals.
- Prepare the highchair ready, adjusting the straps and footrest if necessary.
- As soon as you start solids, introduce water. My recommendation is to use a trainer cup.
- To begin with, focus on one food and offer only one food at a time.
- Soften the food. Whatever you choose to serve, in the beginning, any food your baby eats should be soft enough to squish with your fingers or easily dissolve. It will help your baby quickly learn to chew. Don’t eat crunchy, hard foods such as raw carrots or apple slices.
- You should continue to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby regularly throughout most of the first year since breast milk or formula provides most of the child’s nutrition.
- As your baby grows, expose her to various foods to cultivate an adventurous palate and reduce her chances of becoming picky later in life. Offer foods with different colours (like sweet potatoes, tomatoes) and textures (like watermelon, softly cooked pasta). Every meal should contain one food high in iron.
- If the baby fusses, turns his head, or shows any other indication that he does not wish to continue, stop. When they are done, you’ll usually be able to tell.
It is normal; if your baby seems uninterested in solids after you start offering them, it’s okay. You may want to take a few days or weeks off before starting again. The timelines of each kid are unique.
Baby-Led Weaning First Foods
Introducing solid foods to a baby with either baby-led weaning or purees is perfectly acceptable – but this topic is so controversial!
I’m here to advise you that there is no “right” way to do it. It is completely fine to do either, or even combine both if it works for your family.
When it comes to baby’s first food, the goal is to introduce them to flavours, nutrients, and food they can easily chew and suck. You and your baby should enjoy this milestone together.
It’s best to make foods that are finger-sized so that your baby can’t force the whole thing into his mouth. He can grasp with their chubby little hands. The following are our favourite first foods to introduce to your baby based on baby-led weaning.
- Melon slices
- Roasted apple (with skin) and sweet potato wedges
- A large piece of steamed or roasted broccoli florets
- Thick mango slice
- Fresh banana (with some peel still on)
- Mashed avocado with toast sticks
- Soft and ripe avocado spears
- Beef or lamb
- Dark meat chicken (the bone area or a large piece)
With the exception of larger pieces of meat, the food should generally be as soft as you can squash between your fingers. To prevent her from putting a large chunk of food in her mouth, increase the size of the piece if the baby gnaws down on it.
First foods puree to introduce to your infant includes:
- Mashed roasted sweet potato, banana, avocado, puree, pea, and butternut squash puree.
- Unsweetened apple sauce
- Oatmeal baby cereal
Baby-Led Weaning Foods for Older Babies
When your child approaches his first birthday, his menu will look quite a bit like yours. At this point, nearly any food is fair game, so chances are he will be able to consume most of what the rest of the family is eating.
Some of the foods you can give a growing baby from 10 to 12 months are:
- Spaghetti and small pieces of meatballs topped with Parmesan cheese.
- Baked chicken or fish, cut into bite-sized pieces
- Roasted sweet potato wedges and steamed peas or broccoli
- Tacos served in bits, with beans, grated cheese
- Chopped tomato and tender whole-grain tortilla wedges.
- Grilled cheese sandwich, cut into wedges with tomato soup for dunking.
- Steamed carrot half-moons or strips, thinly peeled and sliced cucumber strips, sliced cheese and whole-grain pita.
Foods Not to Serve While Doing Baby-Led Weaning (BLW)
Baby-led weaning requires smooth, squishable foods your baby can eat and digest quickly. Avoid giving your baby the following foods:
- Crunchy, hard or sticky foods such as raw carrot or apple, whole nuts, crackers, or nut butter.
- Slippery foods
- Extra salt
- Extra sugar
- Cow’s milk
Watch your baby try to eat while you are sitting with him. They provide you with the best guide for adjusting how you serve food.
Safety Tips to Consider When Trying Baby-Led Weaning
Before you start with baby-led weaning, we’ll love you to consider these tips below:
- Know about the gag reflex. Gagging, however, is a completely different experience from choking and is a sign that babies are learning to move food in their mouths. It is also a sign that they know how to get food out of their mouths — an essential skill!
- Get acquainted with the basics of knowing when to put your baby on solids. (See the section above for more knowledge).
- Give them a highchair with feet support and a straight seat to encourage their success.
- Serve them food while sitting with them.
- Let go of your expectation of what will happen, and let your child lead the way.
- Start by trying one new food a day.
- Start introducing baby to a variety of food textures as soon as possible.
- Give him water in a little open cup or sippy cup.
Tips for Successful Baby-Led Weaning
The concept of baby-led weaning will soon become second nature to you and your toddler, even if it seems intimidating at first. Check out some useful tips to assist you in getting started smoothly without stress.
Buy a Big Bib
Dress your infant in only one diaper, cover him with an oversize smock or bib, and cover the floor under the high chair with a drop cloth or newspaper.
Slowly Introduce Your Little One to Food
If your child is just beginning to eat, do not place more than one or two pieces of food in front of her. Too many options could overwhelm your little one.
Forget About Bowl or Plates Initially
She’ll throw them on the floor. Stack the food on the table or highchair tray and let them enjoy the moment.
Make Slippery Foods Easy To Grasp
Does your baby’s soft finger food (avocado, tofu) slide off his tiny fingers when he eats it?
To make things easier for your kiddo to grasp, enjoy Cheerios, wheat germ, or whole-grain crackers. Grind them into a fine powder, and then sprinkle the powder on the food. In addition, you will increase the food health benefits.
Baby experiments with the taste and texture of new textures when eating solid foods. Getting comfortable with various foods is the aim of baby-led weaning.
Let Him Take the Lead
It is typical for your little one to eat very little in the first few months because she will be getting her nutrition from formula or breast milk. Eventually, as she gets better and eats more solid foods, she’ll be able to consume less breast milk and formula.
As with many parenting approaches, baby-led weaning is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on your preference, you can choose baby-led weaning sometimes or alternate with spoon-feeding.
In a Nutshell
You might find that baby-led weaning will allow your little one to become more independent at mealtimes and even help her learn to eat more adventurously. Enjoy their feeding memory and growth moments.
Baby-Led Weaning FAQS
Is Baby-Led Weaning Recommended?
Research and medical experts who agree with the BLW method say it helps babies become independent since their parents won’t interfere with food choices and feed them.
These children tend to stay in control and become less picky eaters as they eat more vegetables and fruits.
However, most doctors do not advise parents to use this feeding method because its benefits have undergone study on a large scale. Only limited research has been done, based on observational studies among small groups.
If you plan to use this BLW method, you must follow safety guides to avoid cases of choking, gag reflex, or allergy reactions.
Also, adhere to recommended tips, which involve incorporating breastfeeding or formula-feeding into the BLW and giving your baby meals with essential nutrients.
Is Baby-Led Weaning Dangerous?
It is not dangerous provided you follow the proper guides and tips. You will have to keep an eye on your child to replace smaller chunks of food with larger ones to prevent the food from getting stuck in their throats.
Also, the foods should be soft enough for your baby to chew or swallow to prevent a case of choking. If you want to start the baby-led weaning feeding but have concerns, you can contact your pediatrician or doctor for a professional guide.