Baby led weaning, the introduction of complementary foods in the form of chunky foods, not mashed foods. In addition, according to this approach, parents do not spoon feed their babies. Rather, it is the baby who takes the food with his hands and brings it to his mouth himself.
1. Is baby led weaning recommended?
As baby led weaning is a relatively new approach, few studies are concerned with the subject. Despite everything, it has several advantages.
For example, baby led weaning enables a child to:
- Discover the colors, textures, flavors, smells, and shapes of different foods;
- Eat the same foods as other family members, which makes meal preparation easier and faster for parents. On the other hand, some family meals may not be suitable for babies (e.g., certain pieces of meat, savory or sweet dishes, fried food). In these cases, you should plan another meal for the baby;
- Develop fine motor skills and eye-hand and hand-mouth coordination;
- Respect his hunger signals more naturally. The baby eats at his own pace and at his hunger. When spoon-feeding him, it can sometimes be tempting to force him to eat more.
On the other hand, baby led weaning is sometimes better for some babies who refuse purees. Besides, it meets the child's need for autonomy. It also allows parents to eat while their babies are feeding on their own in their company.
2. How do I start baby led weaning?
You can start the baby led weaning from 6 months old when your child can sit up on his own. Indeed, it is very important that this criterion is respected because the baby has to swallow pieces. The baby must be properly seated in a chair with his back straight.
Each day you can present him with different vegetables and/or fruits. At first, your child will have a little trouble catching food, but gradually he will assimilate the gestures to adopt. You should always cut the food you give into chunks large enough, if not larger than his own fist. As with a classic diversification, you will introduce proteins and starches gradually.
Baby led weaning can even be done with babies who have no teeth. To start, the pieces should be very hard or tender. With his gums, the baby will be able to chew. Regurgitation reflex is very present in children. If the piece is too big, the baby will automatically spit it out. This considerably reduces the risk of taking a wrong turn (more frequent with smoother materials such as mash).
3. What foods do you start with for baby led weaning?
The favorite foods vary from a person to another. There is no wrong or right answer as long as the given food is tender and easy for the baby's little hands to handle. With practice, focus on foods that have a certain firmness so as not to completely crash as soon as the baby closes his hand on it, such as steamed zucchini and a bunch of broccoli.
For a safe baby led weaning, it would be better to avoid hard and round foods and foods with a sticky texture. Imagine the texture in your own mouth if you didn't have teeth. If it comes apart easily with the tongue, it is a suitable texture for the baby to eat this food.
Some good foods to start with:
- Bunch of steamed broccoli, cooked for 4 minutes.
- Orange quarter.
- Sweet potato or squash fries. Bake in olive or avocado oil for 30-45 minutes.
- Quarter of very ripe honeydew melon or cantaloupe. By keeping the skin on, it is less slippery. Wash and rub the peel well before cutting.
- Banana and avocado, much easier to take with the peel on.
- Piece of tenderly cooked meat.
4. Some tips to get started with baby led weaning:
First of all, about cleanliness. It might help to have a small vacuum cleaner or a tablecloth that you can place under the baby chair. Just like the long-sleeved bib that prevents soiling and staining your clothes. The baby should be strapped in but not too tight so that he is free to move around and can bend over in particular. Be careful not to put fatty substances on solid foods at the start to prevent them from slipping out of your baby's hands.
If you want to supervise your baby while eating, you can always eat at the same time as him or her. He can also learn by watching. Your child will learn and reproduce what he sees.
And above all, be ZEN! Let go of the quantities in particular and trust him! Nothing worse for a baby to see his parents stressed. Once you take your marks, you will enjoy meals with the baby while watching him evolve and gain autonomy. You can only be proud of your little one!