What is Is Baby Led Weaning, and is it Right for Your Family?

Updated: Feb 1


Picture of a dad feeding a baby in a high chair.
My daughter, river, eating some of her first purees.

We started River, our daughter with jar foods. She only ate them for about 2 months, then she wanted to eat what we were eating, so we decided to try Baby Led Weaning.


What is baby led weaning?


Baby led weaning is a strategy where you let your baby learn to eat solids by feeding them the same foods that you eat, only cut up into bite-sized pieces.


Usually, you would start this process around six months of age, which would be the same age that you start a baby on solids using purees. Before 6 months, it is recommended to only feed your baby either breast milk or formula, as their system does not need other food before that time.


The typical alternative would be to feed your baby a premade baby food jar, or a homemade puree. This can be a good starting point, even with baby led weaning, so that you will be able to each your baby to eat from a spoon, "chew" and swallow the food.




How do I know if my baby is ready?


Babies will typically show readiness for eating table foods by showing interest in your food, or reaching for foods. Also, if they seem to be nursing very frequently and still hungry.


According to the Australian Parenting Website, "Signs your baby is ready for solids include when your baby:

  • has good head and neck control and can sit upright when supported

  • shows an interest in food – for example, they look at what’s on your plate

  • reaches out for your food

  • opens their mouth when you offer them food on a spoon.

Most babies start to show these signs by around 6 months, although this can vary.

It’s recommended not to introduce solids before 4 months.

If your baby is nearing 7 months of age and hasn’t started solids, you might like to get some advice from your child and family health nurse or GP."


It is important to discuss introducing solids with your pediatrician prior to doing so to make sure that your baby is showing signs of readiness, so that you can ensure they aren't going to choke while feeding. They can also offer additional useful tips, using knowledge of your baby and your family.


When your baby can sit up pretty well, it is helpful for baby led weaning, so that they aren't going to fall over while eating, which can be a choking hazard.


Benefits of Baby-led weaning.


We chose baby led weaning with our daughter because it allowed her to eat at her own pace. We did this after she had lost interest in jar baby foods, and seemed more interested in what we were eating. This was great because she could eat with the rest of the family, and eat the same foods that we were eating. This can make the baby feel included with the rest of the family at mealtimes.


According to Healthline, benefits of baby led weaning include:

  • May promote good eating behaviors

  • May protect against excess weight gain

  • May reduce fussiness around food

  • May make feeding your child easier

When you allow your child to feed herself, it gives a feeling of autonomy. This way, the baby can experiment with different types of foods. It also allows them to eat at their own pace, and stop eating when they feel full. This is in contrast to feeding them yourself, and just stopping when the food is used up. Baby led weaning allows the baby to control their own portion size and naturally develop a healthy relationship with food, since they only eat until they feel full.


It is also important that you allow your baby to stop eating without having to "clean their plate" as so many of us grew up learning. This overrides your baby's natural hunger and full cues from their body.


Another reason to choose baby led weaning is that regular foods are typically healthier than baby foods. By using baby led weaning, you can ensure that your baby is eating the same type of balanced diet that the rest of the family is eating.


Also, it has been found in some studies that some baby food jars have a high lead content. This is not all baby foods, but it was concerning to me that baby foods may have lead content as this can be toxic to your baby's system. Even if you decide that baby led weaning isn't the right choice for your family, be sure to do your research on brands that are certified as not having heavy metals.


What are some good first foods for my baby?


It is a good idea to only start your baby with one or two new foods at a time, to be sure that they aren't allergic.


According to the VeganNatural Mom, "these foods will be perfect to start with!

  1. Steamed sweet potato with a dash of cinnamon

  2. Steamed broccoli dipped in tahini

  3. Steamed cauliflower dipped in tahini

  4. Baked potato wedges with olive oil and garlic

  5. Baked pumpkin slices with cinnamon

  6. Steamed carrot slices with a dash of nutmeg

  7. Banana slices coated in chia seeds

  8. Avocado slices coated in flaxseeds

  9. Ripe and soft pear slices dipped in hazelnut butter

  10. Ripe and soft peach slices dipped in almond butter

  11. Strawberry quarters

  12. Steamed apple slices dipped in peanut butter

  13. Mango slices

  14. Melon slices

  15. Raw tofu slices"

Vegan Natural Mom says that these are great foods for young babies, especially when steamed, because they are very soft and most babies at 6 months old don't have teeth. Soft foods are important to avoid choking.


Are there foods I shouldn't feed my baby?


There are also some other foods that you should not feed your baby right away, such as anything small and hard like nuts and popcorn, peanut butter, and honey.


We were told by the pediatrician not to introduce anything small and hard like popcorn, nuts, or small hard candies with our daughter until five years of age, to avoid a possible choking hazard. These type of foods need to be chewed carefully, not swallowed. Small babies and toddlers will not always understand the importance of chewing properly, so it is best to hold off on these foods.


Since a peanut allergy can have dire consequences such as anaphylaxis, it is best to consult with your pediatrician prior to introducing peanut butter or other peanut products with your baby. Typically, this will not be until after one year of age, or later.


It is also best to avoid feeding your baby honey until after one year of age, because honey can contain bacteria that will cause Infant botulism.


Conclusion.


Baby led weaning is a popular alternative to feeding babies purees and jarred baby foods. There are many health benefits for your baby to baby led weaning, and it can help them develop a healthier relationship with food throughout their lifetime.


Always be sure to consult with your pediatrician or healthcare provider before starting your baby on solid foods, and never start before 4 months of age, as their digestive system will not be ready for solids at that point.


Let me know in the comments if you try baby led weaning, how it works for you, and if you have any questions. Also, let me know if there are other topics that you would like me to cover in the future.


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