Whether your baby takes formula or breastmilk, it’s a big transition for your little one once they begin eating purees or solid foods. My daughter is 8 months old and although we’ve tried a variety of traditional baby food purees, she doesn’t like many of them! I’m hard pressed to find something green that she’ll eat though, because I am determined not to have a picky eater. We decided to try baby led weaning, which is a more versatile method of transitioning to food and allows the baby to eat largely what the rest of the family is having. There are also additional benefits, such as fine tuning motor skills and establishing self-regulation early on (read: not eating until their stuffed). Here is a bit about some things that have worked for us and what you should know about baby led weaning!
WHAT IS BABY LED WEANING?
Baby led weaning is essentially offering any types of foods to your baby that are soft, easily mashable, and can be self-fed. The baby learns to pick up items, usually off a high chair tray, and feed themselves what they can handle and have room for, rather than consuming everything that is spooned into their mouths. There has been research that this helps them identify when they are full and decide when they are done eating. Now, don’t get me wrong – I know there are times when there just simply isn’t time for this! It also can be quite messy, just to forewarn you. However, it can be quite nice to sit and enjoy dinner as a family rather than deal with flying an airplane spoon with mushed up spinach into your little one’s mouth. Even if you implement baby lead weaning into one meal of the day, your baby can still benefit from it.
WHEN TO BEGIN?
There isn’t a set timeline, and you’ll want to cater this to the individual needs and development of your own child, but I began implementing baby led weaning with my daughter at about 6 months old. Some signs that your baby may be ready to try and self-feed are if they can sit up in a high chair unassisted, they have good neck strength and can support their head well, and they can move their jaw in “chewing” motions. This may take a little while to get the hang of, particularly at the beginning. My daughter had a few instances of gagging when she would put food in her mouth, but got the hang of it pretty fast, and that quickly subsided. Remember – there is a difference between gagging and choking. Make sure you are right next to your baby’s highchair or where they are eating at all times so you can prevent any safety and choking hazards.
WHAT TYPES OF FOODS WORK?
The good thing about baby led weaning, is that your child can have almost anything that they can gnaw on or mash up with their gums. Certain foods should be avoided of course, such as honey and cow’s milk until the baby is of an appropriate age, but otherwise most fruits, vegetables, and proteins are fair game. (If you feel unsure before introducing new foods to your baby, make sure and consult your pediatrician before doing so.) Generally we let my daughter try bites of anything that’s off our plates as long as they’re appropriate for her, and some of the foods that she has really enjoyed have been avocadoes, scrambled eggs, bananas, and beans.
OTHER FAVORITES WHEN BEGINNING TO INTRODUCE SOLID FOODS –
These are some other foods more of the baby variety that my daughter has enjoyed and we have introduced. Honestly, I’ve tried them all as well, and some of them are pretty tasty! 😅 The Arrowroot Cookies taste like Girl Scout Trefoils! I have bought these in the single-serving packages at our local grocery store, and after doing a bit of research I’ve found that it’s usually cheaper to buy in bulk off of Amazon. These foods all come sealed and are non-perishable, so you can store them for a long time, but you do need to watch the expiration dates once they’ve been opened. Some of the different foods can grow stale rather quickly when they’ve been exposed to air, which can then present a choking hazard if they don’t disintegrate quickly as they normally would.
No matter what age your little one is, as parents it’s always important to think about the nutrition and food that is fueling their bodies. If you decide to implement baby led weaning, make sure it’s at the pace that your baby needs, and follow their cues. Here’s to no more mush and airplane spoons!