The Baby-Lead Weaning approach to feeding infants seems to be becoming more mainstream and popular. The whole idea behind it is letting your baby eat what the rest of your family is eating and skipping what we think of as the more traditional route- pureed foods.
Baby-Led Weaning; What is this all about?
As a new mom I was skeptical and a little unsure about just giving my baby table foods from the start, but after a lot of research and talking to other moms I decided to give it a try and haven’t regretted that decision since.
How do I know my baby is ready for Baby-Lead Weaning?
Your baby is at least 6 months old…. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends waiting to introduce any solid foods, purees and baby cereal included, until at least 6 months of age. WHY…..
Your baby can sit up independently
Your baby is showing an interest in food and family mealtimes
He/she is able to pick items up
Your baby has lost his/her tongue thrust reflex (pushing the food out the front of their mouth right away)
Your baby chews/gnaws even though he/she may not have teeth yet
What are the benefits of Baby-Lead Weaning?
It’s easy! I loved not having to drag a bunch of “baby food” with us when we went somewhere.
Increased exposure to a variety of flavors and textures- Some studies have shown that this may help your child have a healthier and more varied diet of foods in the long run.
Your child will be less likely to become overweight. This approach allows the child to be in charge of what and how much they eat rather than the more traditional approach where parents control what and how much goes in, which can lead to overeating.
Improved hand-eye coordination.
Learning how to chew and move food around in their mouth. Developing these skills can help with speech development as well!
Is there a downside to Baby-Lead Weaning?
I’m not going to lie…. It’s MESSY!
Possible choking. It is important to understand the difference between choking and gagging. Your child WILL gag, and that is how he/she will lean to move the food around in their mouth and protect their airway so that they don’t choke.
Iron intake, traditional pureed foods are often fortified with iron so your pediatrician may recommend that you add a daily iron supplement.
Tips and Tricks for Baby-Led Weaning
There are some great books available for families: Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods-and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater and The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook: 130 Recipes That Will Help Your Baby Learn to Eat Solid Foods and That the Whole Family Will Enjoy (Rapley).
Don’t freak out if your baby gags… One of the hardest parts for my husband and I was not having a big reaction (or one at all) when our son did gag. If we did not react he continued to eat as he had been and the experience did not turn into a negative one.
Prepare appropriate size foods and avoid foods that are choking hazards (nuts, whole grapes, popcorn, etc.). It is suggested to start with strips of food that are about the size of your finger. This way your baby can easily grab on and food will be accessible from wither side of their hand.
Remember the first few months are all about letting your baby learn and explore and not as much about how much he/she is eating. Breastmilk or formula should still be making up the majority of your baby’s nutritional needs at this point.