Has your baby turned 6 months? Are you all set to make purees and baby food and spoon feeding your little one? However, when it comes to introducing solids to your baby, there is no “right” way. The method worked well for one baby, might not work so well for another.
Well, there is another concept you will really appreciate for your child who is ready to start solid food. How about eating with your little one? Sharing the same table with him at the same time? Yes, we are talking about baby-led weaning.
Baby-led weaning has many potential benefits. That is the reason why more and more parents opt for this method when it comes time to start solid food. However, it is not as easy as it sounds. There are a lot of tips and concerns you have to know when it comes to baby-led weaning. Continue reading to understand more about this.
What Is Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning or BLW as it is popularly known is an approach taken by parents to introduce solid foods to the baby to encourage self-feeding of finger foods instead of spoon feeding of pureed or mashed foods. At this stage, the baby is encouraged to sit along with the family during mealtimes and is given appropriate finger foods. This way, the baby gets to choose what to eat, how much to eat and how to quickly eat it. They are also given the freedom to explore new textures and tastes without any pressure to eat a particular amount or a specific food. Mothers may wish to continue to breastfeed or bottle feed the baby to complement the solids as the baby will know when to increase solid food intake and decrease milk consumption.
When Is Your Baby Ready For BLW?
You will know when your baby is ready by noticing the following signs;
- When the baby can sit up without any support.
- When the baby does not use reflex action by pushing solid food out of his mouth using the tongue.
- When the baby has learned to chew.
- Check if your baby has developed the “pincer” grasp, as in when the baby learns to pick up things using the thumb and forefinger.
- When the baby tries to grab food from your plate and put it in his mouth and is also showing eagerness to participate during meal times.
What Are The Benefits Of Baby Led Weaning?
The main advantage of BLW is the baby starts to explore and enjoy healthy meals. Other benefits of BLW are:
- Baby-led weaning makes introducing solids easier
- Your baby will be more confident and happy at meal times
- It helps improve their motor skills
- It’s easy and inexpensive and you don’t have to spend more time in the kitchen
- It is comparatively less stressful for the parents as pleading with your baby for one last bite at every meal time can be quite stressful for the parents.
- High chances of reducing picky eaters in the future
- Babies will learn a lot by handling food. They will eventually understand to hold something soft without crushing it. Likewise, to hold something slippery properly.
- The baby will learn fast concepts such as less and more, heavy and light, size, shape, and texture.
- It gives your baby full control over their appetite
- They are much more nutritious than feeding processed foods
- The baby is able to focus more on the food and less on other activities during meal times
- It allows the baby to respect their abilities to self-feed, decide when to eat, how much to eat and also what to eat.
- It helps develop their sensory organs by touching and feeling the food, smelling the food, etc.
- Introducing different flavors at the beginning itself will help your baby in the future. They will be more accepting of all types of foods and will not be a fussy eater.
Some Great Baby Led Weaning First Foods
- Mashed potatoes
- Ripe bananas
- Sweet potatoes
- Soft cooked apples
- Soft cooked carrots, green beans, zucchini, and beetroot
- Cooked pumpkin
- Green beans with the skins removed
Baby Led Weaning – Foods To Avoid
Here are some foods to avoid during baby led weaning as it can lead to fatal injuries or sickness;
- Foods like grapes, cherries, nuts, and hot dogs are high at risk of leading to choking
- Foods containing gluten, egg whites, seafood, and citrus are considered to be allergic for some especially those with a family history of it.
- Table salt or sugar added to the foods may not do well with babies.
Will My Baby Get Enough To Eat?
This is one of the main concerns of the majority of mothers. Babies, just like adults know when they are hungry, when they are feeling full, and what nutrients she needs, etc. In case you feel your baby is not matching up to her recommended weight gain you can always add some purees, smoothies and additional fats like ghee and butter to her foods. This is the beauty of Baby Led Weaning!
Tips For Successful Baby-Led Weaning
- Wait until your baby is ready to be weaned for solid foods. This is between 6 – 8 months when the baby’s digestive system is ready for the solid food intake.
- Continue breastfeeding or formula feeding. However, make sure you provide at least 3-4 solid meals per day.
- Supervise your baby’s meal times and sit with them as they explore their food. This way you will know which food they show interest in and which they don’t.
- Start with soft foods such as steamed bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin.
- Choose foods which are easy to grasp with the little fingers. The finger foods should be too small as it can be a choking hazard and not too big too for them to feed themselves.
- Prepare for messes made by the baby during the meal time. This is a part of the BLW process.
What Not to Do for Baby-Led Weaning?
- Don’t choose inappropriate meal times for the baby. Fix up an everyday schedule and make sure to follow it religiously to encourage the practice of proper meal times for your baby.
- Don’t expect all your babies to adapt to it instantly. Your elder one might have adapted to BLW easily but your younger may need more time. patience is the key.
- Never overload the baby with new foods. Introduce them to only one new food every week and notice if they show any symptoms of allergy or discomfort after introducing the new food.
- Do not scold or put pressure on the baby to complete his meals. Babies know exactly how much they need for their stomach and when.
- Do not overly praise them too if they have finished one full meal by themselves. This may sometimes result in over-feeding the baby beyond his capacity to digest.
- Never provide foods which are choke hazards such as grapes, raisins, etc.
- Never give them sharp cutlery to use during BLW. Buy some good quality plastic fork and spoon which have rounded edges to avoid any injuries.
- Never give piping hot food on the plate for your baby. Ensure the food is lukewarm and the baby is able to eat the food without burning his tongue.
What Is The Difference Between Gagging And Choking?
Gagging is a normal and safe reflex by the baby that helps to prevent further choking. This happens when the baby takes in too much food than he can chew. A baby’s gag reflex is located at the tip of their tongue unlike for adults, that is why they tend to gag at some point when they begin weaning onto solid foods.
It is not perfection, but achieving a gradual progress is the key to successful baby led weaning. Allow your child to play with her food and feed herself using cutlery or her hands. You would be surprised as to how well she imitates you and grasps! Happy BLW!