Baby Led Weaning
What is baby-led weaning?
As with breastfeeding on demand, baby-led weaning is an approach to introducing solid foods that focuses on letting your baby be more in control of when he or she wants to eat, and how much, and what food. Your baby makes more of his or her own food choices.
Rather than the more traditional method of introducing solid foods with purees that are fed from a spoon, with the baby-led approach you don’t begin to introduce solids until your baby is at least 6 months old. At this point you offer soft-cooked, age-appropriate foods that are cut or mashed into easily manageable pieces rather than pureed – and you don’t feed baby with a spoon. For example, you could offer a large piece of apple that your baby can hold and gnaw on, or a bowl of soft-cooked mashed apples to put into his or her own mouth.
If you introduce solid foods when your baby is between 4 and 6 months old, he or she will not be able to handle the baby-led weaning types of foods. If you delay introducing solid foods until after the age of 6 months old, then your baby should be more ready to accept ‘chunkier’ textures. Babies are all different and will eat textures and ‘chunks’ when they are ready.
Some parents choose to wait a little then use the baby-led method, while others prefer to offer pureed foods at an earlier stage – it’s a matter of what you think is right for your own baby….and for you!
BUT REMEMBER! Whichever method you choose, always ensure that any foods you offer do not pose a choking hazard – whether in terms of texture, or method of feeding.
If do you choose the baby-led approach, your baby should….
- be at least 6 months of age
- be able to sit up unassisted
- have lost the ‘tongue thrust’ reflex
- be able to grasp and hold onto foods.
Ensuring that your baby gets the right amounts of nutrients:
Foods recommended in charts for the 4-6 months and 6-8 months ranges will be good starter foods for the baby-led weaning approach.
A well-balanced diet of solid foods should give your baby the amounts of the right foods that he or she needs. Pay close attention to your baby’s cues, as feeding patterns often change from day to day, or things may be happening around your baby that affect his or her eating pattern. It is important that you don’t disturb your baby’s ability to self-regulate by taking over and feeding him or her yourself.
Only you can decide if the baby-led approach to introducing solid foods is right for your baby. Discuss the method with your baby’s doctor or paediatrician, but whichever method you decide upon, always try to give your baby foods that you have prepared from fresh ingredients in your own kitchen – whether it is pureed, mashed, or cut into chunks.
There have been assertions and advice in some communities that giving purees can lead to illness, constipation, or obesity – or to babies who are unable to chew. No studies or professional conclusions seem to be available to support these statements.