Baby-Led Weaning 101 | Parenting Guide

Dec 10 , 2020

Doan Khanh

Baby-Led Weaning 101 | Parenting Guide

Weaning is an important part of growing. So, when it comes to weaning your baby, the first thing that you think about might be mushy cereal or pureed peas and lots of feeding time. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why many parents have considered and tried baby-led weaning. There are many potential benefits of this method, including early motor skill development, decrease picky eating or self-regulation. Read on to know more about baby-led weaning.

What is Baby-Led Weaning

baby-led weaning

The term baby-led weaning it's just a fancy way of saying that you skip the purees and mashed-up foods and go straight to solid finger foods for your baby from day one. On top of that, this method allows babies to learn how to chew first, then swallow. Also, it prevents parents from spending hours of spoon-feeding their child, since babies are in control of how much food they put into their mouths with baby-led weaning.

When to Start Baby-Led Weaning

Experts recommend the best time to start solid foods is around 6 months. By that age, most babies are able to sit up by themselves and grab objects. However, while most babies will be able to try this method, others who have special needs or are unable to consume foods on their own can’t. If you are wondering if baby-led weaning is okay for your child or not, then talk about it with your pediatrician.

Baby-Led Weaning Benefits

With baby-led weaning, your baby will get familiar with more different textures and flavors than babies who are fed purees. Plus, it makes them more likely to develop healthy food preferences in the future. In fact, studies have shown that babies who eat a variety of foods might be less likely to have food allergies when they grow up.

In addition, because parents are in control while spoon-feeding their baby with transitional weaning, so babies may have to eat faster or more than they really need. However, similar to breastfeeding, baby-led weaning allows your baby to self-regulate how much they eat based on their hunger levels. Therefore, your baby will be less likely to become overweight. Also, this method helps your baby develop their manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination skills while learning how to eat by hand.

Baby-Led Weaning Drawbacks

baby-led weaning

Despite there are many reasons to consider baby-led weaning, there are still a couple of disadvantages. Letting your baby eat on their own is messy, especially for those who are learning how to hold onto foods and get it into their mouths. However, there are a couple of tools that will make things a little bit easier and a little less messy for you as a parent like using bibs.

On the one hand, choking might be the thing that most parents are concerned about. And, you might think that eating solid foods is more dangerous than purees because your baby has to swallow bigger chunks. Actually, researches have shown that the risk of choking is the same for traditional weaning and baby-led weaning. After all, your baby will do just fine, as long as you offer safe foods and always have an eye on them.

Safety Guide

As long as you present food safely, baby-led weaning is perfectly safe. Here are a few tips to ensure your baby safety:

  • Avoid serving any foods that are choking hazards (nuts, grapes or apples)
  • Never leave your baby alone with food.
  • Keep your baby sitting upright in a high chair while eating.
  • Watch for allergic reactions.
  • Explain baby-led weaning to everyone who takes care of your child, so they follow the same safety precautions as you do.
  • Learn what to do with choking.

Tips and Advice for Baby-Led Weaning

You may be skeptical that your baby will be able to handle the whole piece of food right off the bat. But, we’re sure that your baby’s ability to chow down will amaze you. If you've decided to start your baby on solid foods with the baby-led-weaning method, follow these basic principles:

Have a Bib

Consider dressing your baby in just a diaper and covering your baby with an oversized bib or smock. Because babies drop a lot of food while eating, so having a bib can prevent most of the food from getting down to the high chair or their clothes. We recommend using waterproof bibs with a food catching pouch.

Continuing to Nurse or Bottle-feed

Keep up the same nursing or bottle-feeding frequency, since your baby gets the majority of nutrition from breast milk or formula throughout the first year.

Skip the Feeding Schedule

You may have heard that you should put your baby on a feeding schedule that incorporates breast milk or formula plus three meals of solid food a day. But if you choose baby-led weaning, simply offer solid foods at mealtime and let your baby decide.

Cut Food into Sticks or Strips

You should slice foods up, so your baby can hold them in their fist and chew from the top down instead of eating tiny bite-sized pieces. Also, a crinkle cutter might come in handy because the crinkle provides more surface for your child to grab.

Start Slowly

In the beginning, you only need to place one or two pieces of food in front of your baby at mealtimes. Offering a lot of foods in a meal may overwhelm your baby with too many choices.

No need for Plates and Bowls

Your baby will toss them on the floor anyway. So, you can just place your baby’s food right on the table or high-chair tray, and let the party start.

Have the Same Menu

There’s no reason for you to offer your baby a totally different food instead of the one in your meal unless it’s not safe for them. Eating should be a social activity, so let your child see what you do with food and give them a chance to mimic you. Therefore, if your baby wants your toast or reaches for the banana you’re snacking on, offer them a portion as long as it’s suitable.

Make it more Fun

You can think of your baby’s mealtime just like a playtime when your baby explores different textures and experiments with tasting and chewing. Baby-led weaning is all about getting comfortable with various foods. So, you just need to sit next to your baby and maybe ask about how it tastes or do they like it with funny voices after they finished a bite.

Offer a Variety of Foods

Over time, let your baby experience a wide range of choices to help them develop their taste and make them less likely to be a picky eater in the future. Also, you can try to serve up foods of different colors (roasted tomatoes, steamed green beans, or sweet potatoes) and different textures (smooth avocados, crisp watermelon, or even tender cooked pasta).

Don’t Force the Issue

Since your baby is getting the nutrition they need from formula or breast milk, don’t be surprised if your child eats very little in the first few months. Let your baby set the pace. As your baby gets more proficient and starts to eat more, they will gradually consume less milk in favor of the solid foods they love.

Understand the Difference between Gagging and Choking

Gagging happens especially in the first few weeks of baby-led weaning as your baby tries to maneuver unfamiliar lumps in their mouth. Remember that gagging is actually a safety response to food traveling too far back into the mouth. Unlike choking, which is completely silent.

When babies gag, they're handling the problem themselves, and it's best to just stay calm (or at least look calm) and wait until it passes. The gagging will ease up as your baby learns to cope with the solids and the lumps. That said, click here if you want to know more about the difference between gagging and choking. Or, if you want to know more about weaning, here are some useful information you need.

Baby-led weaning might be a new experience for you and we know that you may have many concerns about this method. However, it has been proved and used by many moms. So, don’t worry too much, your baby is going to be fine. Let us know if you have more questions about baby-led weaning in the comments!