The Do’s and Don’ts of Baby Led Weaning
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First of all, What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning is a very common way of introducing solid foods to babies. It consists of allowing babies to feed themselves finger foods, rather than spoon-feeding them baby food. Its always been a common practice, but recently it has been labeled as “baby led weaning”, and become a popular topic.
When should I start baby led weaning?
You should always wait until your baby is at least six months of age to begin feeding solid foods, unless otherwise directed by your doctor. But there are also some signs you should watch for to know your baby is ready for baby led weaning. Your baby should be able to:
- Sit up unassisted
- Pick up pieces of food and bring them to their mouth
- Eat without their tongue pushing the food out (tongue thrust reflex)
What are the benefits of baby led weaning?
There are quite a few benefits, one being that baby will learn to chew from the very beginning, rather than starting with just having to swallow purees. It’s also been said that babies who began with baby led weaning, and were offered a variety of food are less likely to be picky eaters. As for mom, it’s less work to practice baby led weaning than it is to mash up and puree foods, and spoon feed.
What are the best baby led weaning foods?
Aim for foods that are very easily broken down. If they aren’t naturally a soft food, be sure to cook them until they soften. Be sure they are cut into small enough pieces to not be a choking hazard. You should also aim for foods that are high in iron. Here is a list of good foods for baby led weaning:
- green beans
- cooked carrots
- soft/shredded meats
Foods to avoid with baby led weaning:
- hot dogs pieces that aren’t cut up small
- grape tomatoes
- raw carrots
- peanut butter
- foods high in added sugars
- foods high in salt (babies kidneys can’t handle a lot of salt or sugar)
Super awesome products that are baby led weaning must haves:
- Dishes that won’t spill
- Baby-friendly silverware
- Easily washed bibs
- Booster or high chair
- Baby led weaning cookbook
You can get a set of silicone spill free dishes, silverware, and bibs on Amazon!
Tips for Baby Led Weaning Success
1. Get a good seat for your baby
You can get the traditional highchair, which a lot of people prefer. Or, you can go for a booster, (my personal preference.) The booster is nice for many reasons. One, it’s light and easy. It just goes right on one of the dining chairs. Two, it will last way longer!
Odds are, after your baby gets to be a toddler, you will likely end up buying a booster for them anyway, so they can be tall enough to reach the table. So you can skip the high chair all together and get the booster. The booster also comes with a tray, so you can decide whether or not you want to use the tray, or just push the seat up to the dining table. This booster is the one I use and love!
2. Get into a routine
Sit down as a family together, and establish a good mealtime routine. Maybe start doing this every night at dinner, and work into a morning, lunch, and possibly even a snack time routine, depending on your baby’s needs.
3. Never leave your baby to eat alone
Always keep a close eye on your baby while they’re eating. This goes for anything, whether or not a baby is drinking a bottle, eating purees or practicing baby led weaning. You always want to be around in case the baby starts to choke. It’s also important to know how to help a baby when they are choking. Read this article for more information about helping your baby if they are choking, or in need of CPR.
4. Let your baby decide
Let your baby decide how much to eat, how fast to eat it, and which foods to eat. It’s fine to encourage trying to new foods, but don’t force-feed. Baby led weaning allows for your baby to have more control of their eating, unlike eating purees when there’s often a set amount you try to get them to eat, and then call it good.
5. Prepare for a mess
It’s going to get messy. So be prepared for that! Strip baby down to a diaper, get a good bib, lay something on the floor if need be. Get yourself a good vacuum (this one is AMAZING, it cleans up way better than I could have ever imagined.)
6. Introduce new foods slowly
Don’t just throw a bunch of different foods on the tray every day. Start with one or two and slowly add in more. This is important in helping noticing food allergies, and being able to determine how the baby reacts to different foods.
7. Don’t cut the pieces too small
If you cut up the food into pieces that are super tiny, your baby won’t be able to pick them up. So try a few different sizes to see what works best for your baby.
8. Don’t freak out if they gag
It is likely that your baby will gag. But, there is a difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is a baby’s natural reflex to move food back towards the front of the mouth to avoid choking.
9. Don’t forget to continue breastmilk and/or formula
Babies need breastmilk or formula until they are at least one year old. While they might begin to drink less when they eat more solids, it is important not to cut it out of their diet completely, as it will still be their main source of nutrition.
Hopefully, these tips and ideas can help you get started!
We hope that this article was able to give you a good idea of how to get started with baby led weaning! Also, don’t forget to reach out to your doctor to see if it’s the right time to begin feeding solids.
What if my baby doesn’t like baby led weaning?
If you decide that baby-led weaning isn’t working for your baby, that’s fine! Babies don’t really need anything other than formula or breastmilk until one year of age.
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