What is baby-led weaning?
The term ‘baby-led weaning’ means that children are offered non-pureed food from six months old and left to feed themselves either with spoons, forks, or most often to begin with, hands. When I first heard of baby-led weaning, I did think it sounded a bit crazy letting young babies feed themselves, but there are so many benefits* I was keen to find out more. Here are some of the main reasons to give it a go:
- It enables your baby to develop better hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and even speech
- It allows your child to join in at family mealtimes, creating a closer bonds and learning table etiquette from siblings and parents
- Babies learn to eat safely and may be less likely to choke
- Children learn appetite control early on
Here are the three hot topics we’ve come across when considering baby-led weaning;
If you follow baby-led weaning principles, it means you can offer your child the same food that you have prepared for yourself. Just cut out salt and sugar.
Some vegetables to start with:
- baby corn
- green beans
- Cooked carrots
- chunks of sweet pepper
- cucumber sticks
- Any type of potato e.g. hand cut chips, mash, sweet potato etc.
Most fruit goes down a storm and kids love getting to know starchy foods like rice and pasta, picking them up by the handful and getting them into their mouths when they’re able.
You can also give babies meat. Note; they will suck the juices out of it rather than swallow this food type. Don’t be afraid to introduce spices either.
- Are there any foods babies shouldn’t eat?
Don’t give babies honey, seafood high in mercury (like mackerel and swordfish) or uncooked milk before they are 12 months old. Also, babies should have white rather than wholemeal pasta, rice and bread as their tummies are so small, it can fill them up really quickly meaning them don’t take on board a varied diet and the right calories that they need.
- Should I buy fresh or frozen veg?
Fresh veg is generally easier for babies to eat because it’s firmer and therefore easier for the baby to hold. Try steaming it, that way it is less likely to be over cooked and it’ll retain more nutrients. You can also boil, grill and pan fry too of course.
- Is it best to cut food into small pieces?
Cut food so that they are the size of an adult finger if possible. It is much easier for a baby to get hold of chunks of food rather than small pieces. So it’s best to not introduce peas until around month 9 as they will be really frustrating before then as the baby’s pincer grip won’t yet be that precise.
- Should I start with savoury food then offer something sweet for ‘dessert’?
Don’t worry about the order your baby eats the food in the early days. It’s ok to start with yoghurt if that’s what your baby fancies and then move to baby corn and back again. At this point, it’s all about exploring textures and tastes. Don’t feel you have to introduce ‘if you don’t eat your main course then no dessert’ tactic – this goes against encouraging control of appetite and helping kids understand where their tummies are full, to stop eating.
...Oh and you might find a Long Sleeved Weaning Bib handy when Baby-Led weaning. This is the reason why I invented it! :)
*Source: Baby-led weaning: Helping your baby love good food’ (2008) Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
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