Baby led weaning is the process of allowing baby to feed themselves once you begin adding complementary food to their diet. Baby is free to choose what they do and do not want to eat.
By using this method, baby learns to chew first rather than swallow, as they do with puréed foods. Around 6 months is a common age to begin this approach because babies begin picking thing up on their own. They are curious to explore the things they can touch and baby led weaning affords an opportunity to do just that. This approach is becoming more popular among parents for introducing solid foods to their babies. Some opt to start with puréed foods while others jump straight into “table foods.”
Once you begin giving “table foods” it is easy to provide baby with a portion of what the rest of the family is eating. The important thing to remember here is that baby can eat pretty much anything that is small enough to grip and chew. It’s okay if baby doesn’t eat what you give them because they are still getting their calories from breast or formula feeds.
Tips for getting started with baby led weaning
When positioning baby, make sure they are sitting upright with their hands and arms unrestricted. Place food in front of baby or allow them to take the food from your hand. In baby led weaning, it is important to allow baby to decide what to eat. Introduce new shapes and textures over time to provide baby an opportunity to learn how to handle different foods. Feeding baby the same food that you are eating, when possible, provides an opportunity for you to show baby how to eat that food.
Don’t be surprised if baby tries to mimic the way you handle and chew on food. During baby led weaning, meal times are about play and learning so make sure baby is not tired or too hungry. Remember breast of formula feeds will still be baby’s main source of nourishment until baby is one-year-old. They will naturally begin to reduce their milk feeds as they transition to solid food so allow baby to feed as much or as little as they want.
At the end of the day, you and your baby will have to decide if this is the right choice for you.
Keep in mind that you do not have to choose strictly one way or another. It is perfectly okay to mix puréed foods into your approach. Infant feeding is messy in general but baby led weaning is especially messy. Therefore it is a good idea to invest in easy clean surfaces to protect floors and furniture in meal areas. There are some foods to avoid and some potential safety concerns with this approach so be sure to do some research before starting.
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