Baby-Led Weaning: How and Why You Should Try It
What is Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning is an approach to weaning an infant from being breast or bottle fed to eating solid foods. The first difference between baby-led weaning and a conventional weaning method is that baby-led weaning forgoes the introduction of pureed foods and spoon feeding. With a baby-led approach, the infant dives right in to eating solid foods with their hands starting at six months of age. This is important because babies younger than six months have not developed the tongue thrust reflex that is necessary for preventing choking. You should also make sure that your baby is able to sit up unassisted before committing to any weaning approach.
With baby-led weaning, you provide your infant with a dish of diced or mashed fruits, vegetables, or meats. Then, you back off and let the baby choose what and how to eat the food. The premise is that you are giving your child the opportunity to make her own decisions, as well as building her self-confidence as she discovers how to get the food in her mouth without any assistance. Of course, in the early stages of the weaning, you will need to show your child that the foods should be eaten and give her some direction on how to do it, but you are never supposed to actually put the food in your child’s mouth.
Is This Safe?
As long as your child has developed the tongue thrust reflex and is able to sit up, he will be prepared to safely eat solid foods. Just as you would if you were feeding him pureed foods, make sure he is sitting upright and in a sturdy seat before giving him solid foods. This is a standard safety precaution to prevent choking. It has also been proven that a healthy infant will eat until he is full, so you do not have to stress about a lack of sustenance with the baby-led method. Provide your infant with nutritious food sources that contain a wide array of vitamins and minerals in order to ensure a balanced diet. Otherwise, as long as your child is active in baby-led weaning, his body will receive all of the nourishment he needs.
Begin baby-led weaning by giving your infant baby-fist sized portions that are flat so she can grasp the food. However, do not try to make the child eat the entire serving as her stomach will be much smaller at this age. Always try to feed her the same foods everyone else is eating, as well as a variety of foods. Be patient. Do not rush your baby and try to feed her yourself, or you will jeopardize the success of the baby-led method.