How to Start Baby-Led Weaning and Why You’d Want To
Looking to learn more about how to introduce your baby to solid foods? In this blog post, I will discuss the popular method of starting solids called baby led weaning. The name sounds like exactly what it means.
Baby led weaning is the process of feeding your baby solid foods in way that allows them to listen to their cues and follow their own abilities to feed independently. No spoons or purees here.
Typically, baby led weaning involves offering your baby soft cooked veggies and fruits, or other healthy foods, in finger-sized pieces. Baby then can pick up the food independently and bring it to their mouth, biting off pieces to practice chewing, and move the food around their mouth to swallow. Many families offer soft avocado slices, soft steamed veggie pieces, and sometimes toast with spreads or dips as starter foods. Most families offer their infant the same food eaten by the rest of the family. The main point is that baby is able to eat solid foods independently, without an adult putting a spoon into their mouth.
Baby led weaning can start as soon as your baby hits several developmental milestones. This includes sitting unassisted, development of a pincer grasp, able to pick up food and move it to their mouth, and loss of the tongue thrust reflex (the reflex to spit out food) and a decreased gag reflex. Typically this starts around 6 months, but can take longer for many babies. Be sure to consult your health care provider before starting solid foods with your infant.
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
- Development of oral feeding skills – as your baby learns to chew and move the food around on their own, they are developing their oral muscles they need for proper speech development. Sucking baby food off of a spoon uses the oral muscles differently than moving small pieces around the mouth with the tongue.
- Development of independence and listening to the body’s cues – your baby will learn to eat as they are hungry and interested, rather than the amount being determined by an adult. Your baby will be able to eat according to their own cues, which sets your baby up for healthy eating habits later in life.
- Introduction to family foods and healthy choices – Your baby will become introduced to the foods eaten by the family rather than separate prepared baby food.
- It’s so much less work! No specially prepared or purchased baby food and the messiness that comes with purees. (But that doesn’t mean there won’t be clean up!)
Baby Led Weaning is a fantastic book that is a great resource for baby led weaning. I don’t get anything from Amazon for linking their site, but it’s an affordable book to purchase. I also have it available in my library for clients to borrow as needed!
The Baby Led Weaning website is also a fantastic resource to learn more about how to get started.
We have used baby led weaning with all of our babies, and we plan to with our little squish as well. He is now 6 months, and showing some but not all of the signs of readiness. My second child was very slow to start solids, and yet my oldest started very enthusiastically right at 6 months. Every child is different.
As a Mindful Mama, I encourage you to connect with your baby and follow the path that feels right for your family. Every child is different and unique, so be sure to follow your instincts and consult with your pediatrician.