Have you heard about baby led weaning and are deciding if it’s something you want to try? Or, even if you stumbled across this and want to know more, keep reading to find out everything you need to know about baby led weaning and their first weaning foods.
The baby led weaning process and their first weaning foods
What is baby led weaning?
Baby led weaning, also called BLW for short, is an increasingly popular self-feeding method - a style of feeding that allows infants to feed themselves right from the start. This will be with finger sized foods that they can grab onto easily and chew (or gum) without choking. There are many different recommendations for baby led weaning, and if you ask 100 different people, they will probably all say something different, however, there is no right way, it is pretty much down to your little one.
What are the advantages of baby led weaning?
Baby led weaning can be much easier because often you won’t need to cook entirely separate meals, or buy baby foods
It sets a precedent to let them eat intuitively from the start, e.g., what, how much, and how fast
Your little one will become less likely to eat foods for reasons other than hunger
It will encourage them to become more familiar with a wide variety of flavours and textures earlier on – this allows you to also test for allergies (discussed later)
It promotes fine motor skills development, hand-eye coordination, and manual dexterity as they learn to grab foods and put it in their mouth
When should I start baby led weaning?
Your little one must be developmentally ready to start baby led weaning, this is usually around 6 months old. There are a few key signs/milestones to notice, but if you’re ever unsure, always ask your doctor for advice as babies can all develop differently.
They have at least doubled their birth weight
They can hold their head well and can sit upright unsupported
They are showing signs of being interested in food
They are able to move food around in their mouth without spitting it out – this is called the tongue thrust reflex and it is simply where babies tend to push foreign substances out of their mouth (which is fully understandable!)
How should I start and what are the best first weaning foods?
To start with, try introducing baby led weaning once a day and keep up their milk intake, breastfeeding or formula, to ensure they’re stilling getting the necessary nutrients. With this, try and introduce water to them so they can learn to drink alone while trying new foods – Sippy cups are an easy and convenient method!
To begin with, around 6 months, you will want to introduce a combination of fruit and veg, all cooked until soft, but not mushy so they can easily grab on to it. Those that are light and easy and mild in taste are great to start with, for example: sweet potato, banana, and broccoli. Chop them up into finger sized slices and let them figure it out.
Once you reach around 7-9 months, your little one should start to get used to 3 meals a day, still with supplementary milk feeds, and you can introduce meats into their diet. Ensure that the meat is cooked through and is soft all the way through. Beef is a great place to start because it is rich in iron and other important minerals.
By 10-12 months, 3 meals a day should be the norm and you can even try them on mini portions of your family meals.
Then after 12 months, 3 meals a day and the option of 2 snacks throughout the day should be around about where your little one is at. It’s important to remember that some days they’ll eat more, some days they’ll eat less, and some days they might not want to eat at all, you will need to stay patient, this is perfectly normal, they are just figuring it all out and getting used to it in their own time.
Are there any safety concerns with baby led weaning?
Worrying about choking & gagging
You should always sit with your little one when they’re eating so you are there in case there are any incidents, however, it’s important you know the difference between choking and gagging because gagging is very common at the beginning of baby led weaning. Your little one will be trying to get used to unfamiliar lumps in their mouth and using their mouths at the same time, sometimes the food may travel too far back in their mouth, and this will cause them to gag. As long as you are sat with them and watching there are no safety concerns.
What about allergies?
As we mentioned before, with baby led weaning it gives you a great opportunity to test for allergies. If you introduce single foods at one time you will be able to test and track if anything does give them a reaction. The symptoms of an allergic reaction can occur minutes or hours after digesting the food, and here’s what to look out for:
Difficulty breathing or swallowing
Any itchiness or rashes
Foods to avoid\/
As long as your foods are soft but not mushy, and cut into finger sizes so they can be grabbed and chewed on, there isn’t lots you need to exclude, but here are a few:
Hard, sticky, or crunchy foods
Foods with added salts – they are unable to process it and it can cause kidney problems
Slippery foods they cannot hold – you don’t want to frustrate them and risk them losing interest in the baby led weaning process
Honey – it can produce toxins in their intestines which leads to a serious illness called infant botulism
Top tips for you
Deciding what is best for your little one can be very daunting, especially when everyone you ask and every article you read will tell you something else is right, so here are a few top tips for you to remember to get you started on your baby-led weaning journey.
Be patient and flexible
Don’t force anything – let them be in control of what they eat, how much, and how fast
Encourage mealtimes to be fun to keep them interested
Invest in a big bib – it’s going to get messy!
Plates and bowls are not a must and they’re bound to end up on the floor anyway, but if you want to get them used to using plates and bowls, suction cups are a great way to ensure they stay on the table rather than being frisbeed around
We hope this has given you the information or advice you were looking for regarding baby led weaning and their first weaning foods. Baby led weaning can give your little one more independence at meal times and maybe even help them to become more adventurous when they’re older – but it may not be for everyone, if they don’t seem interested or willing then that’s ok, you can experiment with different procedures that works for you and them, or even give it a break and try again another time.
Be sure to keep your cameras close by for their first few self-feeding experiences as we can guarantee they will be messy! Snap some great photos and tag us on Instagram @tiny.dining, we would love to see!As always, thanks for reading,
Love, the Tiny Dining Team