Making its way to the top of the to-do list is the idea of allowing babies to naturally experiment with eating solid foods, also known as baby led weaning.
Based on the popular book, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, this method is becoming the top way to make the transition into helping babies eat like a big kid.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
In a nutshell, baby led weaning involves skipping the pureed foods and going straight for the solids.
It is ideal to start babies on this journey around 6 months or older.
The overall idea is to begin introducing your baby to eating healthy foods that he or she chooses.
What soon follows is your baby learning how to chew their food, then swallow.
When to Start Baby Led Weaning
Experts suggest that the six-month mile marker is a great indicator for starting this journey due to the fact that most babies are able to sit independently by that age and have more control over their arm, hand, and finger movements.
Two other strong indicators involve the babies ability to push food out (gag reflex) and their intestines have developed enough to process solid foods.
Starting this process any earlier could prevent your child from properly chewing (or gumming) food and processing it, leading to stomach aches and the chance of choking (versus gagging) on food.
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
Going hand-in-hand with a fast growing baby, allowing them to experiment with solid foods and feeding themselves helps with reaching a new range of development and life skills.
For starters, babies are getting a great motor development workout. Their hand-eye coordination is being fine-tuned in the process, and their ability to critically think is in the works as well.
Another perk involves babies learning self-regulation.
Typically babies will not put more in their mouth than they want while also experimenting with how much is too much, or too little.
This is why research shows that spoonfed children are more overweight than babies who are introduced to led weaning.
Digestion benefits are in the works as well since weaned babies are giving their system a full workout from chewing to bowel movement.
Speaking of which, you’ll also be giving your child the opportunity to form healthy eating habits.
Last but not least, you’ll also enjoy a decrease in the grocery bill because you won’t be stocking up on those little jars of baby food.
Instead, you can allow your baby to eat (safe) foods right along with the rest of the family.
As you meal plan, simply keep in mind that you have one more little mouth to feed and even consider making a little extra for them to have later.
Best First Foods for Baby Led Weaning
Before you think to give up everything else, consider continuing to breast or bottle feed your baby throughout this process.
Babies get the majority of their nutrients this way for at least the first year of life.
In addition to keeping the nursing schedule, here are a few other quick tips:
- Invest in a high chair.
- Keep a few bibs and wiping cloths on hand (things can get a little messy).
- Start small and slow.
- Introduce a variety of foods (soft and cut appropriately in strips versus bite-size).
- Don’t force it, and don’t give up.
A list of some first foods to consider introducing to your baby:
- Fruits and vegetables: banana, steamed broccoli, carrots, green beans, sweet potato.
- Grains: whole wheat toast and hummus.
- Healthy fats: avocados.
- Protein: hard-boiled eggs, boiled chicken or beef, grilled fish (make sure all bones are removed).
- Dairy: yogurt, pasteurized cheeses like cottage cheese or ricotta.
Stay clear of adding any salt or additional seasonings to your baby’s food.
This allows your baby to truly taste the food and get all the nutrients it has to offer.
Also aim to keep your baby’s diet as healthy as possible.
As tempting as it may be to let them have a nibble of your cookie, save those sweet treats for much later in life.
The Big Don’ts to Baby Led Weaning
There are a few things to keep in mind as you introduce your baby to solid foods.
- First and foremost, do not feed them anything that can’t be smashed with their gums.
- Foods should always be cooked, steamed, boiled, or grilled.
- Start with giving them just a few pieces or strips of something, then add more. This will help prevent them from feeling overwhelmed.
- Do not try baby led weaning if your child is fussy or tired. They will most likely show resistance which in return can make you feel unaccomplished.
- Always stay next to your baby when they are eating.
- Also, learn the difference between gagging and choking. A choking baby will not be able to breathe and will not be making a noise. A gagging baby will make noise, cough, and be able to breathe.
- Last but not least, make sure your baby is sitting in a comfortable and upright position.
As they begin to explore, don’t panic or get overly concerned about the mess that will most likely be made, or their gagging.
It’s all part of learning how to eat solid foods. And don’t worry, they’ll be eating like a big kid in no time!
Remember that baby led weaning is just like any other milestone and should be approached per the parent’s discretion. Always make decisions that are best for you and your baby and go from there.