What is it? Is it safe? How do I start?
When our littlest one started solids a couple of months ago, we decided to do something a little different than with our first. We decided to try baby-led weaning, and can I tell you it is probably one of my favorite things! It is such a time saver! Not only do I not have to spend time making his pureed baby foods, baby H feeds himself and at the same time the rest of the family sits down to dinner. We are able to enjoy our meals as a whole family (and I get to eat it hot!!)
So what is baby-led weaning?
It’s where you skip pureed and mashed up baby foods all together and give your little one finger foods from the get go. There are lots of benefits to baby-led weaning. 1.) It lets babies be in control of how much they eat and doesn’t let us as parents push extra food they don’t need. This allows them to really learn how to listen to their bodies and know when they are full, which makes them less likely to be overweight. 2.) It lets babies learn how to chew (or gum) then swallow their food-which is what they will have to learn either way, and it aids in digestion. 3.) It lets babies develop their hand-eye coordination. 4.) It lets babies get more familiar with different flavors and textures (which hopefully will keep them from being picky eaters, no promises though!)
Is it safe?
Yes! You just have to provide a watchful eye over your little one, especially as they get the hang of it. One thing to know is that as your baby learns how to feed themselves, they might gag. This is totally normal as they are figuring out how to move lumps of food around in their mouths. It is also a safety response as food gets too far back in their mouth. You also need to know there is a difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is when your baby makes a little noise or cough to keep food from going too far into the back of their mouth. The best thing to do is to keep an eye on them and stay calm; your little one will most likely resolve the problem on their own. Gagging happens less and less often the more practice your baby gets. Choking on the other hand is SILENT and your baby will most likely look terrified and be unable to breathe.
To practice safe baby-led weaning make sure you never leave your baby alone with food. Always have eyes on them and limit the amount of food on their table. Avoid serving hard foods that a baby cannot gum and choking hazards such as nuts, whole grapes, popcorn, hotdogs, and fruits with skins on them, etc. Finally make sure you keep your baby upright in their highchair while eating. Follow these safety precautions and you and your baby will have so much fun exploring the wide world of new foods.
Where do I start?
First your little one should be at least 6 months old and able to sit up on their own. You should also talk with your pediatrician if this is something you’re interested in. Most babies will get the go ahead but it’s always best to double check incase there’s something your doctor wants to focus on. It also gives you a chance to ask any questions you might have.
Once you get the green light the first thing I’d do is invest in a good bib. My favorite is a silicone bib with a big pouch to catch all the food he drops. You also might be interested in a sheet to put on the ground to catch food… or maybe a dog. Then you’re ready to make their food. Make sure that you cut the food into thick strips so they are easy to hold onto and chew on from the top down. For things like peas and blueberries I smash them so they are more flat than round. This makes it easier for a baby to chew as well. Do not start off cutting them into tiny pieces. Also you need to make sure any hard foods i.e. broccoli or apples are steamed or roasted before giving them to your baby. It’s always good to start with single ingredient foods and wait a few days before introducing a new one to check for any allergies. I also like to only give 1 or 2 pieces at a time to reduce the amount of food my little guy can put in his mouth at one time. This helps to avoid gagging as he has learned to chew foods.