Your baby is now old enough to start trying different sources of food and baby-led weaning is a common method at this stage. There are so many different ways to go about helping your child try new foods and grow. However, this method is a common one and for good reason – it’s effective! I’m going to give you all the tips, tricks, and info you need to know about the baby led-weaning method.
What is Baby Led-Weaning?
This method is simply giving your baby real food right away, instead of beginning with purees.
Babies won’t need spoons for this style of feeding. Start by offering the suggested foods, cut to the appropriate size, and the rest is history! One of the main principles is to feed them while you’re eating, as they don’t know what food is or what to do with it. After lots of grabbing, smearing, and throwing, they may start to try and taste it. This can take a few days or weeks, it’s all apart of the process, so be patient. This should not be their main source of nutrients until after they turn one. Not to say purees can’t be given to baby, just be sure to let them feed themselves with a spoon. Practice makes perfect!
When to Start Baby Led-Weaning?
You may begin BLW as soon as your baby is ready for solids, you don’t need to try purees first. In fact, studies have shown if you first introduce purees, babies may become confused when you switch to BLW. So, it’s best to stick with one or the other. The following organizations, NHS and WHO say you need to wait until your baby is at least 6 months old.
It is especially important in BLW that babies can sit up unassisted, so in case baby begins to choke or gag they are able to sit themselves up. Once your baby is one, they should be eating three meals, plus a snack. It’s up to you when you decide to start this, you are welcome to try earlier. Just remember milk ( formula, breastmilk) should be their main source of nutrients, until one. If your baby hits all those qualifications you are good to go, and if you feel like you should wait a bit, that’s ok too.
Benefits of Baby Led-Weaning?
BLW teaches babies self-regulation. You put food on the plate and let them pick and eat until finished. Let them be in control rather than putting a cap on just finishing a jar of baby food. This teaches and encourages babies to make decisions on their own and decide what the want to eat. Offer a good range of healthy options for your baby to choose from.
For instance, cake will likely always be a favorite. This will help develop their gross and fine motor control. Flipping foods over, bringing food to their mouth, wiping their face off, etc. Another benefit is that you won’t have to make a special meal for your baby, just cut dinner up (as long there is no reason to avoid it) and let them explore. The one downfall is how messy this process can be, since your baby may like to throw food! In that case, just stick a plastic drop cloth underneath, making clean-up effortless!
What to Feed During BLW?
There isn’t really a first food for BLW, you just jump right in. This can be a bit scary, but it’s all trial and error. It may be easier to offer individual bites instead of things like sandwiches, but it’s all preference and how baby takes to BLW. You don’t have to steer completely clear of seasoned or spicy foods, just start slow. They may surprise you!
How Should Food Be Cut, To Avoid Choking?
The way food is cut is so important when practicing BLW. If your baby is new to this, try and cut pieces to the size of your finger. This will give baby access to grip and also chew on the other end. Don’t panic if they take a bite off, this will encourage them to move food around and swallow. If they spit the food that’s ok too. Only intervene if they are having trouble. Once baby masters chewing and swallowing (which can be months) you can begin to cut food into smaller, bitesize pieces.
Most of baby-led weaning is pretty lenient. Be sure to check that food is cooked all the way, not too hot in temperature, and cut properly before giving to baby. Good luck, and remember this is a process!