If you're a parent, chances are you've been bombarded with advice on how to best feed your child. From what type of formula to use to when to start solid foods, it can be tough to sift through all of the information (and misinformation) out there.
However, there is one feeding method that is gaining traction in recent years, and that's baby led weaning.
In this post, we'll take a look at what baby-led weaning is, some of the benefits, and some of the best foods to start with.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning is exactly what it sounds like - letting your baby lead the way when it comes to introducing solid foods. This means that instead of spoon-feeding your child purees or jarred baby food, you'll start them eating finger foods and soft foods that they can pick up and eat on their own.
This method can be started as early as 6 months, but usually around 7-8 months is when most babies are developmentally ready to start self-feeding.
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
There are a number of benefits associated with baby led weaning, including:
• Allowing baby to develop at their own pace - When children are allowed to feed themselves, they do so at their own pace and according to their own ability. This can help prevent off putting experiences or choking hazards.
• Encourages healthy food choices - One study found that when given the opportunity to self-feed, babies naturally chose healthier options more often than when they were spoon-fed by an adult.1 This suggests that baby led weaning may help promote healthy eating habits from an early age.
• Helps develop fine motor skills - Picking up small pieces of food and bringing them to your mouth requires a significant amount of coordination. As such, self-feeding helps babies develop the fine motor skills they'll need for tasks like tying their shoes and brushing their teeth later on in life.
• strengthens jaw muscles - Chewing also helps babies develop strong jaw muscles, which can aid in teething and reduce the risk of developing malocclusion ( misaligned teeth) later on.
The Best Foods to Start Baby Led Weaning
When first starting out with baby led weaning, it's important to offer your child foods that are soft enough to easily mash with their gums but not so soft that they turn into mush when chewed.
It is also important to offer your baby a variety of different foods from each food group. This will help them get the nutrients they need and allow them to explore different tastes and textures.
You can try offering sticky foods that they can pick up and will be easier to eat than slippery foods.
Some great starter baby led weaning foods include:
Avocados are an excellent first food for baby led weaning because they are soft and easy to mash. They are also a good source of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Just be sure to remove the pit and skin before giving them to your baby.
Bananas are another soft, easy to mash fruit that makes a great first food for baby led weaning. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals, potassium and fiber and can help to regulate your baby's digestion. You can also add them to other foods, such as oatmeal or yogurt, to make them more nutrient-dense. Just be sure to cut them into small pieces so they don't choke on them.
Sweet potatoes are a great first food for baby led weaning because they are packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fiber. A sweet potato can be roasted, mashed, or pureed, making them versatile and easy to prepare.
Carrots are a great first food for baby led weaning because they are packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fiber. Carrots can be roasted, mashed, or pureed, making them versatile and easy to prepare.
Eggs are a great first food for baby led weaning because they are an excellent source of protein and choline. Choline is an important nutrient that helps to support brain development in babies. Eggs can be cooked in a variety of ways, making them versatile and easy for your baby to eat.
Yogurt is a great first food for baby led weaning because it is packed with calcium and protein. It is also a good source of probiotics, which can help to support your baby's digestive health. Just be sure to choose plain yogurt without any added sugar or flavorings
Apples are a great solid food for baby led weaning because they are packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fiber. Apples can be roasted, mashed, or pureed, making them versatile and easy to prepare.
Oats are a great first food for baby led weaning because they are packed with nutrients and fiber. They are also easy to cook and can be mashed or pureed for your baby. Just be sure to cook them until they are soft so your baby can easily digest them.
Peaches are a great first food for baby led weaning because they are soft and easy to mash. They are also a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and fiber. Peaches can be roasted, mashed, or pureed, making them versatile and easy to prepare.
When starting out, it is important to keep your baby's portion sizes small and give them plenty of time to practice self-feeding.
How To Prepare Foods for Baby Led Weaning
Preparing finger foods for baby led weaning is actually pretty simple. In most cases, you won't need to do anything beyond washing the fruit or veggie and then slicing it into thin strips or bite-sized pieces for baby led feeding.
If you're offering cooked meats, cut them into small chunks as well. It's also important to avoid adding any salt, sugar, or spices to your child's food as these can be harmful for little ones.
If you'd like to check out some great recipes for baby-led weaning then have a look at my blog The Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning and the Books to Help You Master It.
Bear the following in mind:
-All foods should be soft enough to mash with a fork.
-Avoid adding salt, sugar, honey, or other spices. Let your baby taste food in its natural form first to develop their palate.
-Cut food into long strips or sticks that are easy for little hands to grab onto. Steamed vegetables are a great option because they are already soft and easy to eat.
-Never leave baby unattended and be sure to watch baby eat until they are finished
Some parents choose to give their babies finger foods right from the start while others prefer to mashed or pureed food first and gradually introduce finger foods along with breast milk or formula as their child's dexterity improves. There is no wrong way to do baby led weaning - do what works best for you and your child!
Baby led weaning is a great option for parents who want their children to develop at their own pace and learn healthy eating habits from an early age. If you're interested in trying this method, start by offering your child soft fruits and vegetables that have been thinly sliced or cut into small pieces. Avoid adding any salt, sugar, spice or sauces to the food as these can be harmful for young babies. With a little patience and practice, your child will be a pro at self-feeding in no time!