When Do You Start Baby Led Weaning?

A parent’s beginners guide to baby led weaning

When do you start baby-led weaning - Latinx Montessori

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When do you start baby-led weaning?

Baby led weaning typically starts when babies are around six months old and showing signs of being ready to start solid foods, such as sitting up with support, having good head and neck control, and showing interest in food.

As a new parent, I had many questions about baby led weaning as well: is it safe, what foods can my baby eat, and what foods should I avoid?

In this article, you will learn the basics of baby led weaning, including:

Difference between baby led weaning and spoon feeding

When starting baby led weaning, you may wonder how it differs from spoon feeding. Baby led weaning and spoon feeding are two different approaches to introducing solid foods to infants. While both methods aim to help babies develop healthy eating habits, they have some fundamental differences in their approach.

Spoon feeding

Spoon feeding is a traditional approach to introducing solid foods to infants that involves feeding them pureed or mashed foods with a spoon. Caregivers typically choose the type and amount of food that is offered and control the pace of feeding. The baby is usually seated in a high chair, and the caregiver places a small amount of food on a spoon and feeds it to the baby.

Baby led weaning

Baby led weaning, on the other hand, is an approach that allows babies to self-feed and explore a variety of healthy foods from the beginning which has so many benefits. Instead of purees and spoon-feeding, baby led weaning encourages babies to self-feed using their hands and mouths. 

Caregivers offer a variety of healthy finger foods, and babies choose what to eat and how much to eat. The focus is on providing babies with a range of nutritious foods and allowing them to learn how to eat at their own pace.

Major differences between baby led weaning and spoon feeding

One of the biggest differences between baby led weaning and spoon feeding is the amount of control the caregiver has over what and how much the baby eats. 

With spoon feeding, the caregiver chooses the foods that are offered and controls the pace of feeding. With baby led weaning, the baby is in control of what they eat and how much they eat. This can help promote self-regulation and prevent overfeeding.

Another key difference between baby led weaning and spoon feeding is the type of foods that are offered. With spoon feeding, the foods are typically pureed or mashed and offered on a spoon. 

With baby-led weaning, the foods are typically soft, easy to chew and swallow, and offered in small pieces that are easy for babies to grasp. This allows babies to practice their fine motor skills and encourages them to explore a variety of textures and flavors.

What are the benefits of baby led weaning?

One of the biggest benefits of baby led weaning is that it allows babies to explore and enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods from the very beginning of their solid food journey. By self-feeding, babies are able to control their own intake and learn to recognize their own hunger and fullness cues. This can help prevent overeating and promote healthy eating habits for life.

Another benefit of baby led weaning is that it can help promote a baby’s development in a number of ways. Self-feeding encourages the development of fine motor skills as babies learn to grasp and manipulate food. It can also promote the development of hand-eye coordination and encourage sensory exploration.

In addition to the physical benefits, baby led weaning can also have positive mental and emotional effects. Allowing babies to make their own food choices and explore a variety of flavors and textures can help promote a positive relationship with food and encourage a sense of autonomy and independence.

 

When can my baby start baby-led weaning?

benefits of baby led weaning

The ideal age to start baby-led weaning varies depending on the individual baby. However, it is generally recommended to begin introducing solid foods when the baby is around six months old, and showing signs of readiness. Here are some baby led weaning tips to help you determine if your baby is ready to start baby led weaning:

  1. Your baby can sit up on their own: Before starting baby-led weaning, your baby should be able to sit up and support their head and neck. This will help them sit upright and safely explore different foods.
  2. Your baby shows interest in food: If your baby is watching you eat, reaching for your food, or showing other signs of interest in food, this may be a sign that they are ready to start exploring solid foods.
  3. Your baby has lost their tongue-thrust reflex: The tongue-thrust reflex is a protective reflex that helps prevent babies from choking on foreign objects. If your baby has lost this reflex, they may be ready to start exploring solid foods.
  4. Your baby is able to grasp and bring food to their mouth: Baby led weaning involves offering soft finger foods that babies can grasp and bring to their mouths. If your baby is able to do this, they may be ready to start exploring solid foods.
  5. Your baby is no longer satisfied with just breastmilk or formula: As your baby grows, they may start to show signs of hunger more frequently and may no longer be satisfied with just breastmilk or formula. This can be a sign that they are ready to start exploring solid foods.

How safe is baby led weaning?

Baby led weaning can be a safe and healthy way to introduce solid foods to infants when appropriate precautions are taken. 

While some parents may have concerns about the risk of choking, research has shown that there is no significant difference in the incidence of choking between infants who are spoon-fed purees and those who participate in baby-led weaning. 

With appropriate supervision and safety measures, baby led weaning can be a safe and enjoyable way for babies to explore a variety of healthy foods and develop self-regulation and fine motor skills. 

Choking and baby led weaning

It is normal for parents to have choking concerns when starting baby-led weaning, as babies are learning to manage solid foods and may gag or choke occasionally. However, it is important to understand that gagging is a normal part of the learning process, and is not the same as choking. 

Gagging is the body’s natural defense mechanism that helps prevent choking by pushing food forward and out of the mouth. It is important to supervise your baby during meals and be prepared to respond in case of a choking incident. 

By taking appropriate safety precautions, such as offering appropriately sized and soft foods, monitoring your baby during mealtime, and learning the signs of choking and how to respond, you can help ensure a safe and positive baby led weaning experience for your little one.

Pros and cons of baby led weaning

Baby led weaning has gained popularity in recent years as a way to introduce solid foods to infants. Like any feeding method, it has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here are some pros and cons of baby led weaning:

 

Pros of baby led weaning

  1. Encourages self-regulation: Baby led weaning allows babies to take control of their own eating, and can help them develop healthy eating habits and self-regulation skills.

  2. Offers a variety of healthy foods: With baby led weaning, babies can explore and taste a wide range of healthy foods, which can help them develop a diverse palate and make healthy eating a lifelong habit.

  3. Promotes fine motor skills: Baby led weaning involves grasping and manipulating food, which can help babies develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

  4. Can be cost-effective: Baby led weaning can be cost-effective, as it involves offering soft, age-appropriate foods that can be shared with the rest of the family.



Cons of baby led weaning

  1. Risk of choking: Parents may worry about the risk of choking during baby-led weaning, as babies are learning to manage solid foods and may gag or choke occasionally.

  2. Messy: Baby led weaning can be messy, as babies may enjoy exploring and playing with their food. Parents should be prepared to clean up after meals and provide appropriate bibs and high chairs.

  3. Slower introduction to solids: Baby led weaning may result in a slower introduction to solids, as babies may take longer to develop the fine motor skills necessary to manage different foods.

  4. Nutritional concerns: Some parents may worry that baby led weaning may not provide adequate nutrition for their baby, particularly if their baby is a picky eater or has dietary restrictions.

Ultimately, the decision to start baby-led weaning is a personal one, and parents should carefully consider the pros and cons before deciding what feeding method is best for their baby. It is important to talk with your pediatrician before starting baby-led weaning, and to closely monitor your baby’s growth and development as they transition to solid foods.



Best first foods for baby led weaning

Baby led weaning has so many benefits when done right.  When you understand the main differences between traditional weaning and baby led weaning, you and your child will have a great positive experience. 

Baby led weaning involves offering soft, age-appropriate foods to babies, and allowing them to explore and experiment with different textures and flavors. Here is a list of foods for baby led weaning:

 

  1. Avocado: Soft, easy to mash, and full of healthy fats.
  2. Banana: Another soft, easy-to-mash option that is rich in potassium.
  3. Sweet potato: Cut into strips or wedges and roasted until soft.
  4. Carrots: Roasted or steamed until soft and cut into sticks.
  5. Cooked apples or pears: Soft, sweet, and easy to mash with a fork.
  6. Peas: Fresh or frozen, steamed until soft and cut into small pieces.
  7. Butternut squash: Roasted until soft and cut into strips or cubes.
  8. Broccoli: Steamed until soft and cut into small pieces.
  9. Zucchini: Roasted or steamed and cut into sticks.
  10. Green beans: Steamed until soft and cut into small pieces.
  11. Oatmeal: Cooked until soft and served in small pieces or rolled into balls.
  12. Rice: Cooked until soft and served in small pieces.
  13. Soft scrambled eggs: A good source of protein and easy for babies to manage.
  14. Toast: Cut into small strips and served with mashed avocado or nut butter.
  15. Cottage cheese: Soft, easy to manage, and a good source of protein.

Foods to avoid during baby led weaning

While there are many foods that can be safely introduced during baby-led weaning, there are some foods that should be avoided due to the risk of choking or other potential health concerns. Here are some foods to avoid during baby led weaning:

 

  1. Honey: Avoid giving honey to babies under one year old due to the risk of infant botulism.
  2. Cow’s milk: Cow’s milk is not recommended as a primary drink until after one year of age. Small amounts can be used in cooking or baking.
  3. Salt: Babies under one year old should not have added salt in their food.
  4. Sugar: Avoid added sugars and sugary drinks.
  5. Nuts and seeds: Whole nuts and seeds are a choking hazard. However, nut butters (such as peanut butter) can be safely introduced as long as there are no allergies in the family.
  6. Large chunks of food: Avoid giving babies large chunks of food that they may not be able to chew or manage, as this can be a choking hazard.
  7. Processed or fried foods: These can be high in salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats.
  8. Raw or undercooked eggs, meat, or fish: These can carry a risk of foodborne illness.
  9. Popcorn: A choking hazard due to small, hard kernels.
  10. Hard, raw fruits and vegetables: These can be difficult for babies to chew and swallow.



Successful tips for baby led weaning

Here are some tips for ensuring a safe experience when starting with baby led weaning:

 

Offer soft and appropriately sized foods 

Offer foods that are soft and easy to chew and swallow, such as cooked vegetables, soft fruits, and well-cooked meats. Cut foods into small, manageable pieces that your baby can grasp and chew.

 

Supervise your baby during meals

Always supervise your baby during meals, and be prepared to respond in case of a choking incident. Stay within arm’s reach of your baby and be ready to administer first aid if needed.

 

Learn the signs of choking

Familiarize yourself with the signs of choking, such as coughing, gagging, or difficulty breathing, and learn how to respond quickly and effectively in case of an emergency.

 

Avoid high-risk foods

Avoid offering high-risk foods, such as nuts, popcorn, and hard candy, as these can pose a choking hazard.

 

Offer a variety of healthy foods

Offer a variety of healthy foods to your baby, and be patient as they learn to explore and enjoy new flavors and textures.

By following these guidelines and taking appropriate safety measures, baby led weaning can be a safe and enjoyable way to introduce solid foods to your baby. As always, it is important to consult with your pediatrician before starting baby-led weaning, and to monitor your baby’s growth and development closely as they transition to solid foods.

Final thoughts on when to start baby led weaning

Baby led weaning, or BLW, is an alternative method of introducing solid foods to infants that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Instead of purees and spoon-feeding, baby led weaning encourages babies to self-feed and explore a variety of healthy foods from the beginning. 

This approach promotes a baby’s independence and natural curiosity about food, as well as their physical and mental development. Overall, baby led weaning is a safe and effective method of introducing solid foods to infants that can promote healthy eating habits and support overall development. 

By starting when babies are showing signs of readiness, parents can help ensure a smooth and successful transition to solid foods while fostering a lifelong love of healthy eating.

About Leslie - Latinx Montessori

Hello, I am Leslie. I am on a mission to help you support the growth and development of your child. With the right tools and proper guidance, you can navigate parenthood with confidence and assertion! My goal is to equip you with knowledge to help you construct a strong foundation for your child’s life.

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