For the last post in my baby foods series I wanted to talk about introducing foods to your baby through baby-led weaning. This is a popular feeding strategy that some parents like to use to help their baby transition from a liquid diet to eating solid foods. Keep reading to learn about baby-led weaning and decide if it is something you would like to try with your child.
What is baby-led weaning?
If you are a new parent or have never heard this term, BLW (baby-led weaning) is simply a way to introduce solid foods to your baby. What foods are introduced are not as important as the concept of how they are introduced.
The founders of this method place more emphasis on including the baby during family mealtimes and giving them opportunities to experiment with feeding themselves. Most parents agree that this can be both exciting and messy at the same time, but always worth it.
The term “weaning” also plays an important role as this is a gradual process versus something that happens overnight. Since your baby is still most likely drinking formula milk or breastmilk, the foods introduced during this time should be seen as supplements versus replacements.
Introducing Foods to Your Baby Through Baby-led Weaning
Below is a quick guide to follow for starting your baby on the weaning process from strictly milk to a combination of milk and solid foods.
When should you start BLW (or baby-led feeding)?
The 6-month timeframe is generally when most parents start on this journey with their babies. This is generally the time when babies have mastered certain milestones such as sitting up independently, brings objects to their mouth, loss of tongue thrust reflex, and shows an interest in foods they see you (and other family members) eating.
Watch out for these cues and be sure your baby is completely ready before you start this journey.
How to Start Baby-led Weaning or Feeding
The first rule of thumb is to start slow. Just like they learn to sit up, crawl, and even walk, eating is another milestone that requires skill. Starting slow may look like introducing one solid food during mealtime and serving that same food for several days before introducing something different.
It is also a good idea to set up a safe space for eating. This means providing your baby with seating that support them sitting in an upright position and a table where they can easily grab food from.
Last but not least, you want to make sure you start with age and developmentally-appropriate foods. If your child has already been introduced to solids by another form and they are ready for stage 2 or stage 3 foods, then it is okay to start with those. Check my previous posts for suitable food choices for each stage.
Benefits of Baby-led Weaning/Feeding
To wrap up this post, I’d like to highlight a few benefits of choosing this method for introducing solids to your baby. For starters, studies suggest that babies who are able to be introduced to solid foods sooner than later often do not become obese later in life. This is due to their ability to learn how to regulate fullness and hunger cues.
Another benefit is your child will get to have exposure to lots of different food types, tastes, and textures. When your baby has the opportunity to do this, they also are working on their fine and gross motor skills.
Lastly, most parents who choose this method agree that this is a much more cost-efficient way of feeding your baby, especially because your baby can eat what your family is eating (so long as it’s age-appropriate). It can also save time because you can meal plan and meal prep with your baby and his/her feeding needs in mind.
Introducing foods to you baby through baby-led weaning can be a fun and exciting time. Use the tips and suggestions above to start your babies journey to experimenting with solid foods. Also, don’t forget to check out my other posts in this series. And as always, I’d love to hear from you. If you have any baby-led weaning tips or tricks, put them in the comments below.