What is baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning is a way of introducing solid foods that allows babies to feed
themselves - there’s no spoon feeding and no purées. The baby sits with the
family at mealtimes and joins in when she is ready, feeding herself first with her
fingers and later with cutlery.
* allows babies to explore taste, texture, color and smell
* encourages independence and confidence
* helps to develop their hand-eye coordination and chewing skills
* makes picky eating and mealtime battles less likely
All healthy babies can begin to feed themselves from about six months. They just need to be given the opportunity.
Why baby-led weaning makes sense
Baby-led weaning is based on the way babies develop in their first year.
Babies’ immune and digestive systems aren’t ready for other foods until they are about six months old - breastmilk or formula is all healthy babies need until then. At six months, a baby is able to sit upright, pick up pieces of food, take them to her mouth and chew them - in other words, she can feed herself. In the past, when babies were started on solid foods at three or four months, they had to be given purées because they were too young to feed themselves. If you’ve waited until your baby is six months to introduce solid foods you’ve skipped the purée stage, so there’s no need to start that way.
How do we get started?
* Sit your baby in a highchair. Make sure she is steady and can use her hands and arms freely.
* Offer your baby food, rather than give it to her - put it in front of her, or let her take it from your hand, so that the decision is hers.
* Start with foods that are easy to pick up - thick sticks or long strips are best at first. Offer only a few pieces at food at one time, do not give her a whole plate of food, it will overwhelm her.
* Remember babies don’t need teeth to chew, she can eat many foods using just her gums
* Try to eat your meal at the same time as your baby so she can copy you and feel she is joining the family meal.
* Carry on giving formula feeds - this is still your baby’s main source of nutrition until she is a year old.
* Offer your baby water with her meals so she can drink if she needs to.
* Don’t hurry your baby or distract her while she is handling food - allow her to concentrate and take her time.
* Expect some mess! Don’t get stressed about dropped food or a dirty face or hands. Remember she’s learning. Babies love dropping things on the floor!
* Keep it enjoyable – for all of you. Make sure that meal times are always relaxed and enjoyable and you will encourage your baby to explore and experiment at her own speed. If you do this, she will have a positive attitude about trying new foods and she will always look forward to meal times.
* Remember it will probably take your baby around two months of playing and learning before she really starts grasping her food and swallowing it smoothly. That is normal.
Things NOT to do
* Don’t put food into your baby’s mouth for her or try to persuade her to eat more than she wants.
* Don’t give your baby food when she is hungry for a milk feed. Always give your baby her milk feed first, then her food meal about half an hour to one hour later. She should not be very hungry when she starts her food meal, otherwise she will more likely get frustrated.
* Don’t expect your baby to eat much food at first. She doesn’t suddenly need extra food just because she has reached six months. As she discovers that food tastes nice she will begin to chew, and later to swallow. Many babies eat very little for the first few months. Mealtimes at this age are for play and learning - she will still be getting all her nourishment from her milk feeds.
* Especially for the first two weeks, your baby will not swallow much food, this is totally normal. She may put food in her mouth and then it will drop out of her mouth because she has not yet learned how to move food from the front of her mouth to the back of her mouth. Let her take her time.
* Resist the urge to stare at your baby for her entire meal or give her pressure to eat more quickly.
* Resist the urge to constantly wipe her face and hands during her meal. Let her play and be messy. Clean her up after the meal is finished, which may be 40 minutes after she starts!
* Do not worry about giving your baby meals at the same time each day, or even every day. Some days your baby may not be interested in food at all. She will start eating meals regularly, every day after a few months.
* Do NOT say “duo chi yidian” EVER!!! Trust your baby knows how much she wants to eat (even if it’s very little or nothing). Trust her to know her own appetite. Do not give her pressure
about how much to eat, or how quickly to eat.
What are the main points of BLW?
The biggest component of BLW is in its name, baby led. This means the parent does not feed the child, the child feeds themselves from the start. Parents offer table foods in manageable pieces and the child gets to explore and eventually eat. You will often hear the word “offer” in discussing BLW instead of “feed”.
What’s wrong with spoon feeding?
The problem many have when they go the puree route is that when a baby eats pureed food they swallow, not chew. Then when they are given food with more texture they can’t handle it because they want to just swallow it. Another reason is that the baby is not in control. They can’t decide how much to eat or how fast to eat it. This inhibits their ability to sense when to stop because they are full.
Is my baby getting all the nutrition they need?
From birth to 6 months, all a baby needs is breast milk or formula. After 6 months, very gradually your baby will start needing more from food. Between 6 and 9 months their milk intake should remain mostly the same. After that, baby may choose to decrease milk feeds, but the main source of nutrition should still be breast milk or formula for the first year. Remember to let the baby have as many milk feeds as they need.
What should I expect in the first few months of BLW and how should I begin?
When you begin BLW, it is all about exploration. Remember, the baby has never seen, tasted, or smelled foods before so it may take them some time. In letting them explore, you are teaching them that they are free to take their time to understand and practice and you will not rush them or try to do it for them. They are learning that mealtime is an enjoyable time, not a stressful time.
Since babies of 6 months use their whole hand to pick up food, offer it in about 2 inch sticks. Soft fruits or vegetables can be offered raw; most vegetables will need to be cooked. Make them soft enough for them to bite, but not so soft that they will fall apart. If your baby rejects a certain food, it doesn’t mean they will never like it. Offer it again another time.
Won’t my baby choke? The difference between choking and gagging
Ah, the most popular question! Many people get unnecessarily scared away from offering solids to their baby because they don’t understand the difference between choking and gagging. Most likely there will be some gagging. It is a normal and natural part of learning to eat. When a baby is gagging they make coughing noises and may lean forward and spit the food out. It is the baby’s way of protecting their airway from pieces of foods that are too large. If your baby is gagging, try not to intervene. Let them cough up the food by themselves. It is a learning experience. Most times they are not bothered by it at all and will happily continue eating!
Choking is when the baby’s airway is blocked. Your baby will not be able to make any sounds or coughs, her face may turn red or blue. Choking is rare. If you put your baby in a leaning back position or put food in their mouth for them, the choking risk is increased. The best thing to do is never leave your baby unattended and take an infant CPR class so you feel prepared.
Whether your baby is choking or gagging, it is important to remember not to put your fingers in your child’s mouth. It can push the food farther down and cause the blockage to be even more severe.
What size should I offer the food?
When beginning, offer food in slices, sticks, or large pieces. Babies of this age use their whole hand to pick up food. They use the bottom to hold on to the food and munch on the top. Once your baby develops their pincer grasp, you can begin offering smaller pieces.
What do I do at mealtime?
Just relax! Eat your meal and model appropriate eating. Treat your baby like they are part of the family meal. Remember not to stress! Remember not to force your baby to finish a certain amount. They could eat a ton or none and either would be ok. Don’t try to “help” them by putting food into their mouth!
When should I offer meals?
Start with a meal every few days. Skipping a day here and there is fine. As you feel your baby is ready you can begin to slowly offer meals more often. Remember make sure that your baby is still getting sufficient milk feeds.
What are good starter foods?
Many people start with avocado slices, banana, or cooked sweet potato sticks. For slippery foods, you can leave some of the peel on the bottom for them to hold onto.
Why is there food in my baby’s diaper?
This is very, very common. Babies take a while to learn how to chew and eat food, and for their digestive systems to adjust. Many times you will find food in their poop- very similar looking to how it went in! Don't worry, it's completely normal.
Good foods for baby
*steamed, boiled and roasted vegetables such as: sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrot, pumpkin, basically any vegetable is fine
*raw soft vegetables such as cucumber
*all kinds of fruits
Foods to avoid
*Salt is bad for babies kidneys. Babies of less than a year should avoid salted foods
*Sugar and sweet foods have low nutritional value, can cause cavities and are best kept to a minimum
*Whole nuts are a choking hazard and should not be given to babies until they are around 3 years old
*Small round fruits like grapes and cherry tomatoes should always be cut in half to avoid baby choking
*Cow’s milk: babies under 1 year old cannot easily digest cow’s milk
*Juice should never be given unless diluted at least 50% so it is not too sweet
*Honey should never be given to babies under one year old due to a bacteria that can grow in honey