When it comes time to introduce solids into your baby’s diet, about a million questions run through your mind! What’s the best first food? Will giving my baby cereal make them sleep through the night? How old should my baby be to start solid food? While when and how to start solid food is something that you should always consult your child’s pediatrician about, being aware of solid food options is very important!
With my first child, over 12 years ago, I had never heard of Baby Led Weaning. I fed her cereal around 5 months, followed by pureed foods starting around six months. When I had my son about 2 years ago, I started hearing and reading about Baby Led Weaning. My first thought when I heard the word “wean” in the name of it was, But I don’t want to wean my baby from breast milk. Although the name Baby Led Weaning includes the word wean, it does not mean rushing to stop breast or bottle feeding! It simply means to let your infant take the lead in eating solids. I decided to try it with my son! As a side note: Both my daughter, who was fed purees, and my son, who never had purees, turned out fine. So don’t feel that parental guilt for whatever choice you make! Read on for some answers to your questions about Baby Led Weaning.
What exactly IS Baby Led Weaning?
Baby Led Weaning is all about letting your baby feed themselves and take control over what goes in their mouth. It focuses on exploring the taste, texture and smells of “real” food as opposed to purees. Start by mentally tossing all the preconceived notions you have about baby food. You’re not going to need spoons, purees or baby cereal. What you will need are a lot of bibs, wash cloths, and maybe a dog (to clean up the floor).
What signs should I look for to know my baby is ready for solid food?
Your infant should be able to sit up on his or her own. Watch for your baby to be grabbing for your food off the table as another sign. One of the great things about Baby Led Weaning is that everyone gets to eat together, and no one has to let their food get cold while they spoon feed the baby.
What are some good first foods? How should I cut the foods to give to my baby?
Some suggestions for foods to start with are:
- steamed veggies such as carrots
The best way to cut food is in slices the size of your index finger. This makes it easy for babies beginning to eat solid foods to grasp in their fist, still leaving some food sticking out of the top to gnaw on.
Here’s a group of pictures from when my son was about 8 months old, enjoying a breakfast of banana and toast slices, dipping them in yogurt. I wouldn’t recommend any bowls of food in the early days of doing Baby Led Weaning as they’ll probably quickly become projectile objects!
As you can see, he didn’t actually eat much food! That’s alright, though, because breast milk or formula is still a baby’s main source of nutrition for the first year. Baby Led Weaning allows for a lot of exploration (and a whole lot of mess!).
But doesn’t my baby doesn’t have teeth! I worry about choking!
This was my number 1 worry about doing Baby Led Weaning, so I decided to buy this book: Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods and Helping Your Baby Grow Up to Be a Happy, Confident Eater.
This book explains the difference between choking and gagging. Basically, the gag reflex is normal, and something your baby should learn about through chewing and putting things in their mouth. And my son did gag a few times in the beginning. I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me nervous! But the key is to not intervene when your baby is gagging. If you have more questions about gagging vs choking, I suggest reading this article.
Do you have any experience with Baby Led Weaning? Please share them to help other parents feel more confident and comfortable!
Please do not substitute any advice on feeding your baby for that of your medical professional. This article simply shares one parent’s experience with Baby Led Weaning as a way to introduce solid foods.