What if it turns out that you can skip all the puréed mushy vegetables with the “airplane spoon” and move straight to letting your baby feed him-/herself?
Baby led weaning is the profound act of allowing babies to discover for themselves, just exactly how to eat solid foods. Around 6 months of age, most babies are ready to self-feed, but before you explore this feeding option, some basic requirements must be met.
First of all, your baby must be able to sit on its own, unassisted. They must also display interest in foods that you are eating and show that they can indeed move food to the back of their mouth with up and down jaw movements.
Secondly, know that you are not exempt from the experience, you will still need to supervise and encourage your child to eat with their hands. And don’t give up on breastfeeding, babies need that quality nutrition till they are at least a year old.
Baby led weaning can be messy, so gather your courage and just go for it!
- Prepare foods for easy grabbing – think long strips, crinkle cuts.
- Make sure to provide high-calorie and nutrient-dense foods – healthy fats, protein- and iron- rich foods are a must.
- Begin the journey with soft foods – cooked egg yolks, mango slices, shredded meats, cucumber, raspberries, chunks of banana, avocado, etc.
- Eat together – so they can be encouraged by the sight of you enjoying real food! You can even give them some of the same ingredients from your meal, although it would be wise to avoid honey and salt.
It’s fun to watch your child explore new flavors and textures, but there is a certain stress level that comes with baby led weaning. And it is certainly not for everyone. You have to trust that your child will not choke, just as they trust you not to feed them something that will make them sick.
But, there is that gag reflex that gives all of us a scare from time to time, it can even happen with puréed foods. Gagging is a safe reflex that allows your baby to get rid of food that is too challenging, and they will either spit it out, or vomit. All things considered, it never hurts to know the infant Heimlich-maneuver. There is little cause for worry though, babies know how to swallow and with baby led weaning they are doing it at their own pace.
To minimize the stress of the risk of choking there are certain foods that you should avoid: hot dogs, grapes, raisins, nuts and nut butters.
Refrain from adding too many new foods to your baby’s diet at a time, a general rule is to introduce a new item every 4 or 5 days. Be careful not to overwhelm your baby with too many options at a time, 1 or 2 is enough in the beginning.
Motor skills are developed during baby led weaning, such as chewing and swallowing. Also, your baby is developing dexterity in the fine motor skills department: the pincer grasp (picking up food between thumb and forefinger), as well as engaging in bountiful hand-to-eye movement.
With baby led weaning, babies are said to learn self-regulation, meaning that they only eat until they are full, then naturally, they will start to play with the remainder food. And since they are able to enjoy a wider range of foods from a younger age, it is likely that they will continue to be explorative later in life.
When all is said and done, take it slow and let your baby take the lead. Look and listen for cues as to how they wish to progress. Some babies are slower to catch on in the process of learning how to self-feed, but just like with walking and talking they will get the hang of it, and soon will be running ahead and chowing down like a pro, hopefully not at the same time.
If you are looking for more resources on baby led weaning, please check out: www.BourkeStBaby.com Rennae’s blog does an excellent job at helping families introduce food to their babies; understand the ins and out of baby led weaning and teach parents how to love the weaning process.
What is your experience with baby led weaning? What are some of the foods your infant enjoys? Has your toddler grown into a curious eater? We would love to hear from you. Please post a comment and follow us on Twitter: @remys_dad or @DadsITH