Hey there, mamas! Today, we will be chatting about an intuitive and gentle approach to introducing solid foods to your little one: baby-led weaning. Baby-led weaning is a natural and fun way to help your child develop independence while learning to enjoy a variety of healthy foods. Let’s dive in!
What is Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning (BLW) is where your baby takes the lead in exploring and eating solid foods. Instead of spoon-feeding purees, you’ll offer your baby a variety of soft, age-appropriate finger foods they can pick up, taste, and experiment with at their own pace.
Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning
BLW has some fantastic benefits for both you and your baby. Here are just a few:
- Develop motor skills: Picking up, holding, and chewing finger foods helps your baby practice fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
- Promotes healthy eating habits: By offering a variety of healthy foods, your baby learns to enjoy different flavours and textures, which can help prevent picky eating later on.
- Encourages independence: With BLW, your baby decides how much and what they want to eat, helping them build confidence and self-feeding skills.
- Makes mealtime fun: BLW turns mealtime into a fun, sensory experience where your baby can explore new foods at their own pace.
Getting Started with Baby-Led Weaning
Before jumping into BLW, it’s essential to ensure your baby is ready for solids. Most babies are ready around 6 months, but ideally, you want to keep an eye on all signs of readiness. Here are some signs to look for:
- Your baby can sit up unassisted or with little support.
- They show interest in your food and try to grab it.
- They can bring food to their mouth independently.
Once your baby is ready, follow these simple steps:
- Choose age-appropriate foods: Start with soft, easy-to-grip foods like steamed veggies, ripe fruits, or mashed beans. You can introduce various textures and flavours as your baby becomes more confident.
- Prepare the food: Cut the food into small, manageable pieces that are easy for your baby to hold and chew. Usually, finger-sized pieces of food are for ages 6 to 8 months.
- Offer a variety of foods: Provide a range of healthy options at each meal, letting your baby explore and choose what they want to eat.
- Let your baby lead: Be patient and let your baby explore at their own pace. They might play with the food or only take a few bites, but that’s okay! The goal is to help them build independence and enjoy the process.
- Stay safe: Always supervise your baby during mealtime and ensure they are seated in a stable, upright position.
What if choking terrifies me?
If you are terrified of your baby choking and every time they gag makes your heart miss a beat, then starting with purees might be a better option. I also recommend learning about the difference between gagging and choking and completing a first aid course to give you the confidence to act in an emergency. If you choose to start with purees, I encourage you to make nutrient-dense purees and slowly begin BWL by 9 months to encourage oral motor skills to develop and avoid fussy eating later in life.
Holistic Insight into BWL: “Is food before one just for fun?”
There is a lot of discussion in the BWL community group about “foods before one being just for fun“. But I’m not a fan of this saying. This may not be a popular opinion, but as a baby naturopath and nutritionist, I see the effects of nutritional deficiencies daily. Babies need high amounts of iron and zinc, which aren’t available in large amounts in breastmilk or formula. So how do we get around this? First, offer nutrient-dense foods such as organ meats, meats, poultry and other animal products.
Ideally, I like to offer a mixture of nutrient-dense purees and finger foods to optimise nutrition while helping your baby develop independence, fine motor skills, and a love for various foods. Remember to be patient, let your baby lead, and enjoy the process together. You will both get there eventually. If you are worried about your baby’s nutrition, book a 1:1 consultation with us.
A Few Final Tips for Baby-Led Weaning Success
- Be prepared for messes! Your baby will likely get food all over their face, hands, and high chair. That’s all part of the learning process, so embrace and enjoy the mess.
- Don’t stress about how much your baby eats. At first, they might only eat a little or taste the food. That’s perfectly normal! Remember that breast milk or formula should still be their primary source of nutrition until they are one year old.
- Make sure to offer nutrient-dense foods like liver strips and lamb cutlets.
- It’s okay to offer purees or spoon-feed, especially if your baby is struggling with certain textures or you are feeling very nervous about choking. The key is to be flexible and find what works best for you and your baby.
Baby-led weaning is a fantastic way to introduce your little one to the world of solid foods, and when combined with purees, it makes for a wholesome diet. Allowing them to explore different tastes and textures at their own pace will set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. So, grab some bibs, get ready for a bit of mess, and watch your baby blossom into an independent eater!
If you are wondering how to start solids for optimal gut health make sure to grab a copy of our FREE eBook: 5 Simple Steps to Starting Solids for Optimal Gut Health.