How time flies.
Suddenly your once tiny newborn is ready to start trying solid foods. Perhaps your little one is teething, or maybe your GP told you it’s time. Whatever the reason, weaning can be a confusing time—for both parents and baby!
There’s no right or wrong way to do weaning. What works for one may not work for another. But baby led weaning is gaining traction as an approach that works for many children.
We’re diving into everything you need to know about this popular approach.
Image: eco rascals baby plate with suction base.
What Is Baby Led Weaning?
Traditional weaning starts by introducing purees and jarred baby foods to your baby’s diet gradually. Usually, this starts at around 6 months old. Much of this approach to weaning involves getting your baby used to the concept of food.
It’s quite a time-consuming process and, for some babies, can take a lot of convincing, especially if they’re wanting to be independent and feed themselves but haven’t got the dexterity to do it yet.
Baby led weaning tackles this by skipping out the purees and mush and jumping straight to finger foods. It allows babies to experiment with foods and have the choice over what they eat and how much.
It’s already a very popular approach in the UK and is gaining popularity in the states.
It allows babies to figure out chewing and swallowing at a much earlier age, although maybe gumming is more accurate! There’s no pushing foods onto them or endless aeroplanes trying to convince your baby to open their mouth.
For parents whose little one is not enjoying traditional weaning, this may come as a big relief. And it’s not the only benefit.
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
According to some research, as well as advocates of the approach, the benefits of baby led weaning are plentiful.
Because you’re introducing solids at an earlier age, this introduces your baby to a wider variety of textures and flavours early on. In the long run, this may mean that your baby develops better tolerance to different textures faster. This means, by the time they hit the toddler age, your little one may be less fussy when it comes to new foods.
Some studies have also suggested that babies who eat a wider variety of foods, including allergens like fish, are less likely to have allergies later in life. This said you should always consult with your GP about how to introduce common allergens into your baby’s diet before doing so.
Teaching a baby independence when it comes to mealtimes has benefits later in life too. With traditional weaning, the parent is in control of the food. This can lead to eating too much and too quickly.
In baby led weaning, just like with breastfeeding, your child is self-regulating what they eat, learning to recognise when they’re full and when they’re hungry. When babies learn self-regulation this early, there is a possibility this could reduce the risk of child obesity later in life.
This independent approach has benefits for your baby’s motor skill development too. Introducing finger foods promotes manual dexterity development, so you may see hand-eye coordination skills appear faster than with traditional weaning. This is great news for when the time comes to introduce cutlery to your baby.
Though the benefits are plentiful, as with all things, there are some downsides to be aware of.
Cons of Baby Led Weaning
The most obvious con is the mess.
Getting the hang of finger foods into your mouth is hard work when you’re that little! Food will often end up on the floor, in hair, on pets. It’s all part of the learning curve, but it may put some parents off.
Thankfully our ergonomically designed bamboo bowls and plates have nice high walls and sections that allows children to navigate food to the edge and use another hand to work on hand to mouth motion.
You also need to be aware of iron levels if you take the baby led weaning approach. When breastfeeding, babies get plenty of iron from breast milk up until around four months old.
After this point, iron levels in your breast milk can begin to fall. This is why many health care workers may suggest upping your own iron intake if breastfeeding. If you're bottle-feeding, formulas will already have sufficient iron included.
When it comes to finger foods, there are fewer iron-rich options that are easy for your baby to chew or gum on. There are still options, but it’s well worth discussing with your GP to make sure your baby is getting all the nutrients they need.
When and How to Start Baby Led Weaning
According to the Department of Health, six months is when most babies are ready to start solid foods. Your baby should be able to sit up by themselves and hold onto and grab objects.
But your baby is generally the best judge of when they’re ready to do this. Some may take to it like a duck to water and others won’t. Your doctor is the best person to speak to about any concerns.
You should continue to breastfeed or bottle-feed as you introduce finger foods. Let your baby take the lead on when to eat solids. Offer regular meals of solid foods, but let your baby decide if they want to eat them.
Dine together and eat the same foods where possible. If you’re eating fairly soft options, there’s no reason your baby can’t enjoy them. Some babies are more likely to mimic their parents if they’re eating the same thing.
You should keep it soft though. Research has shown there’s no increased choking from the baby led weaning approach. But you should still be cautious of choking hazard foods like crunchy fruit or vegetables.
There’s great guidance available on the NHS about which foods are and aren’t safe for your baby.
Prepare for the Next Step
Remember, only you and your baby know if a baby led weaning approach is right for you. We all know there are no set rules when it comes to parenting!
When the time comes to introduce cutlery to your little one, we’ve got some amazing options. All of them are eco-friendly, non-toxic, stylish, and available to browse online.