Baby-led weaning means giving your child suitably sized food portions and letting them feed themselves instead of spoon-feeding them puréed food. The term was coined by Gill Rapley, a former health visitor and midwife. The idea being that you wouldn’t have to prepare separate meals just for baby rather feeding him from whatever the family is eating.
Parents usually start this at 6 months old when the World Health Organisation suggests that babies be introduced to solid food. At this age the baby is able to grasp things to put into their mouths. According to C. C. Harrison a dietician and mother of two who runs the blog Healthy Baby Beans “it is giving your child the power to eat food based on his or her readiness, hunger, fullness, and curiosity.”
Why do it?
• It promotes sitting down to eat with the family.
• Helps develop fine motor skills
• It helps babies to self-regulate and teaches them healthy eating habits
• It encourages exploration and learning through touch, taste, smell and sight.
• It encourages independence
• It makes picky eating less likely
• Babies learn to chew first then swallow rather than the reverse when being fed purée.
What are the disadvantages?
• It can get very messy with babies wasting food by throwing it on the floor.
• Choking is a concern
• Meals can take longer
• You can’t be sure that your child is getting enough to eat
What the experts say?
Megan Faure, author of Feeding Sense, says “I think Baby-led weaning is a fabulous idea. I think like most new ideas and trends it may not always be completely practical, which is why we advocate a modified version of Baby-led weaning, where the mom has some control but at the same time the baby has his or her own bowl of softly steamed whole food too.”
Books on baby-led weaning:
The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook
Weaning made easy
Some first foods for baby-led weaning
Banana - this is best served in large chunks for baby to gnaw, as they will be easier for him to hold.
Pear- this can be served raw (if soft, ripe and juicy) or lightly steamed if the texture doesn't seem 'gummable'.
Avocado - we call it 'nature's perfect baby food'... and with good reason! An excellent source of healthy fats that requires no cooking, avocado is another food best served in larger chunks for baby to get his gums into!
Apple - the texture is somewhat harder than pear, so raw apple is not ideal for toothless tots just getting started with solids. Steam or bake chunks of apple until tender before serving.
Peaches/nectarines - these can be given to baby raw (if nice and soft) or lightly cooked
Plums - like peaches, these often have a 'squishy' texture when raw... but if they seem a little hard, then steam them lightly before serving.
Melon - a very soft, juicy chunk of cantaloupe or watermelon is ideal for baby led weaning and provides lots of nutrients too!
What has your experience with baby-led weaning been? Or does the traditional way of weaning make more sense?