Baby Led Weaning– giving your child the opportunity to feed themselves whole foods.
Key words: feed themselves. Baby led weaning is a great way to allow your child to explore different flavors and textures of food. We began this type of feeding when Luca was about 5 ½ months old. He was showing a lot of interest in food, reaching for food on our plates, and was able to grasp objects in his hand and bring them to his mouth.
Why I love babyled weaning.
It allows me to eat at the same time as Luca. Instead of needing to feed Luca and then feed myself, we get to share mealtimes together.
It is fun! Sure, Baby Led Weaning is messy, but I just love watching Luca explore and learn about food. Seeing him develop preferences for flavors and textures at such a young age is so exciting as a new mom.
He learns so much. Watching videos from the first day about a month ago, up to now, I see how much he has learned and developed. He is so proud of himself too, which is a huge bonus point in my mama book!
It saves time. Instead of needing to prep food the night before by steaming and pureeing, I am able to simply cut slices of fruits of vegetables we have on hand in the house and offer them to Luca during mealtime.
As much as I love Baby Led Weaning, it can be messy and sometimes frustrating.
With that said, here are my Top Ten Tips for Introducing Baby Led Weaning.
- Have fun. First and foremost, enjoy the process. Yes, food is going to get everywhere. Yes, you may feel like you end up wasting a lot of food. Just focus on the goal at hand- your baby learning to feed himself while exploring the joy of food while developing his gross and fine motor skills!
- Keep a few damp washcloths close by. As we are introducing Baby Led Weaning, I usually use about three wash cloths during the course of our meal. One to scoop up the food that is strewn across the table, one to wipe down Luca’s tray once we are finished, and one to wipe down Luca. This will save you money on paper towels or baby wipes.
- If the weather allows, get naked! I’ve discovered it is easiest to explore mealtime in a diaper (just Luca of course!). This makes cleanup a lot easier. After a super messy meal, I am able to just carry Luca in his Bumbo seat, directly into the sink or shower. Can’t get naked? Try having baby wear a plastic or silicone bib with a pocket to catch any food that falls from his mouth. These types of bibs are easy to rinse off and hang to dry… ready for the next meal.
- Cut food into slices similar to the size of a thick French fry. You want the food to be easy to handle by your baby grasping it in their tiny hands. The idea is for baby to pick up the food directly from his tray or plate and place into his mouth.
- Leave on the skin. Wash your fruit or vegetable whole. When slicing a piece, leave the skin on. This will make it less slippery for baby to hold onto. He will spit out anything he doesn’t want to swallow or anything that is too tough to “chew”.
- Expose your child to one fruit or vegetable every three days. This will allow you time to see if she is intolerant or has any sort of allergic reaction to something she’s eaten. Once you’ve exposed baby to a variety of food, have fun mixing it up! Offer two to three foods during a meal. Let your child choose which ones she likes best.
- A quick sauté goes a long way. Sometimes, if a fruit is too firm for Luca to chew on, I simply sauté it on the stove with a little bit of olive oil until it is soft enough for him to safely eat. He loves apples prepared this way. (Roasting works great as well).
- Stay alert. Babies are naturally skilled eaters. Their gag reflex point is even farther forward on their tongue than an adult’s, in order to help prevent choking. However, there is always a risk of choking when a baby or child is learning to eat. Make sure your child is sitting up straight in a chair or swing. Be sure to supervise your child while he or she is eating. Stay calm if he is coughing or gagging to encourage him to develop these reflexes. However, be sure to educate yourself on the tongue sweep to remove a blockage and find a Baby First Aid and CPR class in your area to educate yourselves on other life-saving tools.
- Mash it up. Sometimes, I want Luca to practice using a spoon. In these cases, I mash up fruits or vegetables in a mug or bowl, but keep the food slightly chunky so he is still learning to “chew” his food, rather than just swallowing. He loves feeding himself with a spoon! *OMGSoyPadre tip- keep two spoons on hand. One for you to slyly feed baby a few scoops of food and the other for baby to hold onto while he learns to feed himself.
- Do what works for you. Baby Led Weaning can be time consuming and messy. Some days you just aren’t able to do it. Do what works for you and your baby. Maybe it is a combination of styles of feeding. Maybe one day, you feed your baby purees and the next day you explore Baby Led Weaning. There is no “right” way.