Baby Led Weaning / Feeding: A How To Guide
Why would you want to?
Baby led Feeding is an emerging philosophy that allows your baby to set the pace of trying their first foods. Food must be pureed for babies under six months because of the choking factor. However, there are no studies that show that pureed food is better for babies. In fact, many doctors who study allergens suggest waiting to introduce solids until around six months. By six months of age, most babies are able to manipulate and chew food well enough to eliminate most of the choking hazard.
Baby led feeding can help baby learn self regulation, since they stop eating when they want. This may set them up for a healthier BMI in the future . Babies also experience a wider range of healthy foods earlier on and may be more likely to enjoy these same foods later in life; setting them up for a lifetime of healthier eating.
Baby led feeding can actually reduce choking by allowing your baby to learn to chew then swallow. By giving them different textures, shapes, and sizes you are helping them practice hand eye coordination and fine motor skills as well.
How do I know my baby is ready?
Many experts agree that babies digestive system is not ready for solid foods until around the middle of their first year. It is important that your baby exhibits ALL the signs of readiness. (If you are unsure, consult your pediatrician for guidance)
- Your baby can sit up without support.
- Your baby has lost the tongue – thrust reflex. (baby no longer pushes food out of their mouth instinctively)
- Your baby had the fine motor skills to pick up food and put it in their mouth using their thumb and forefinger (not grasping with their whole hand)
- Baby can chew (even if your baby has no teeth)
- Your baby shows sign of interest at mealtime. (reaching for food)
What are some good foods to start with?
The best thing about baby led feeding is you can feed baby what you are eating. There is no need to make a separate meal for your baby. Make sure that your baby is seated in a high chair or an adults lap (NEVER leave baby untended). Soft foods are a great starter food if your baby does not have teeth , but older babies can enjoy just about anything an adult can. Below is a list of healthy suggestions:
- Cooked carrot
- Cooked Potatoes (white or sweet)
- Cooked apples or pears
- Ripe (and soft) fruit such as peaches, and plums
- Cooked egg Yolks
- Small pieces of cooked meat
- Pasta , rice, quinoa, or bread (avoid wheat until after babies first birthday)
What should I avoid?
- High choking hazard foods ( grapes, nuts, cherry tomatoes, hot dogs, popcorn, etc)
- Any added salt or sugar
- High Allergy Foods ( Egg whites, gluten, seafood, citrus)
- Stimulants (chocolate or sugar)
- Unhealthy processed foods ( Chips, gum, hard candy, sugared cereal )
Any other tips or tricks I should know?
- Learn to spot the difference between choking and gagging. At first your baby might gag as they learn how to chew and swallow their food. This is OK, they are learning.
- Don’t try baby led feeding if your baby is hungry. They will get frustrated. It should be a fun experience. Let them nurse or take a bottle about an hour before their first time eating.
- It is ok if your baby does not eat a lot at first. They should be getting their main form of nutrients from breast or bottle feeding.
- Prepare to get messy. It will take your baby some practice to learn to eat without making a mess. Many parents find a naked baby easier to clean up afterwards.
- Smaller is not always better. Many parents want to cut food up small so the baby wont choke. Instead serve larger pieces so your baby can grasp them easily.
- Soft is good. If you can smash it between your fingers, it is probably OK for baby
- Don’t overwhelm your baby with options. A few small pieces on their plate or highchair tray will keep them interested.
Have fun !
Baby led feeding is all about a fun learning experience for you and your baby. It is ok if your baby is not interested. Don’t force them. Try again in a few weeks when they seem more interested. If you have any questions, reach out to your pediatrician or postpartum doula for advice and help.