As a first-time mom, I’m always reading parenting books and blogs to find out the best way to parent, but obviously, there is no right way, just what makes sense for you, your baby, and your family. My baby recently turned 6 months, and according to the World Health Organization, this is the optimal time for babies to start solids. I have been exclusively breastfeeding my daughter, so as her 6-month mark was approaching, I began to panic and obviously started googling things and how I should go about feeding her. I didn’t know much about starting solids, but I did see that I did not want to feed her anything store-bought and in a bottle. Instead, I tried to provide her with homemade food and preferably organic. That’s when I stumbled on the concept of Baby Led Weaning.
Basics of Baby Led Weaning
When I first stumbled on this concept, I thought the baby was weaned off breast milk, but it’s a bit of a misnomer. Instead, it’s about the baby taking the lead in their food journey, exploring and enjoying healthy family meals from their first taste of solid food.
Baby-led weaning is the idea that if babies are allowed to handle food at the right time, they will start to feed themselves when they are ready. Most babies, they are prepared at about 6 months. This allows the baby to progress at their own pace and cut down on milk feedings when they are ready. It takes away the conventional approach’s puree-ing step, so there are no spoon-fed purees. Because sucking pureed food from a spoon does not prepare the baby for chewing. The best way to develop chewing skills is to practice them on food that actually needs chewing– so regular, unmashed food!
When to Begin
It was previously recommended for babies to start solids at 3-4 months when they cannot feed themselves because they are too young, so parents pureed foods and fed them to them. But we now know that babies don’t need solids and their bodies are not ready for it until around six months.
At around six months, babies can usually sit up with little to no support and have reasonable neck control; they can grab things with their fingers, grip them, and bring something to their mouth. They are ready and capable of feeding themselves; what smarties! Unfortunately, many parents find a baby of six months refuses to be provided by someone else; they want to handle food themselves because they want to find out about things by testing it out with their hands and mouths. I know my daughter wants to put everything in her mouth, especially our TV remote and cell phones!
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
- Allows each baby to move on to solid foods at the right time and pace for their developing body, and ensures that primary milk feedings are not cut out too early
- Helps to develop babies’ hand-eye coordination, dexterity and chewing skills
- Allows baby to each as much as they need in her own time, which can help establish good eating habits that may last a lifetime– which could help to avoid obesity and other food-related problems
- Decreases chances of becoming picky eaters and mealtime battles– because there will be less pressure on babies to eat, so less opportunity for meals to become a battleground
- Allows babies o explore the taste, texture, colour, and smell of individual foods
- Encourages confidence at mealtimes and enjoyment of a wide range of food
- Avoids time-consuming process of pureeing foods: Which is a lifesaver for me because I don’t think I would get anything else done (not that I get too much done right now)
- Allows babies to be part of the family mealtimes from the beginning
- It makes exploring food and mealtime FUN!
What to expect with Baby Led Weaning
- The first few months of Baby Led Weaning are about exploring food, not necessarily about eating.
- As babies, milk feedings (breast milk or formula) provide almost all of her nutrition until they are about one year old.
- At six months, the baby’s coordination will be developed enough for them to get things into their mouth more accurately but won’t treat food any differently from their toys.
- They will explore with their hands and mouth, and they’ll realize that it has a taste but won’t really understand what it’s for eating.
- The Gag Reflex: Many babies will gag when they are learning to manage solid foods in their mouth, which helps them learn to eat safely and not to overfill their mouths or push food too far back before it’s been thoroughly chewed. Some babies gag only once or twice, while others will gag for a few weeks. Both are normal, as all babies develop differently. The gag reflex in babies is very sensitive and is activated more quickly. Gagging can be uncomfortable to watch; most babies aren’t bothered by it. They will usually bring the offending piece of food-forward quickly and either spit it out or chew it and carry on happily. To ensure the gag reflex works appropriately, the baby must be sitting upright while eating, and it is essential that the baby foods the food into their own mouths and no one else to have better control of each mouthful.
- It is important to note that gagging is not the same as choking, which occurs when something entirely or partially blocks the airway, but a total blockage is rare. Babies can usually cough up something that is partially blocking their airway. Choking is no more likely with baby-led weaning than with spoon-feeding.
- Baby-led weaning will allow the baby to be included in family mealtimes, they can watch what others are doing, and they are offered the chance to join in.
- Nobody “feeds” the baby; when a baby is ready, they will start handling food and taking the food to their mouth themselves.
- The poop will start to change! It will become less liquid and have more of a smell!
It’s been a few days since we started my daughter on solids; she has had some baked sweet potatoes, a bit of Avocado, Banana, Rice, and Apple. And so far, she’s only really eaten the banana, everything else has just mostly been sucked on and nibbled on, and she gets it all over her clothes and face! Each time has been put in front of her for her to pick up, she looks at it and then picks it up and takes it straight to her mouth. When I first placed the banana in front of her, she looked at it intriguingly and seemed quite pleased, but once she put it into her mouth, it was a hilarious face that she made, almost disgusted but still quite intrigued. I’m happy to let her make a mess and explore, as I know she will be getting most of her sustenance from breast milk. However, six months is also when a baby gradually develops a need for more nutrients, such as iron, which is no longer supplied by breast milk. So what are good sources? Obviously, eggs, low-fat proteins, such as chicken and fish. But as previously mentioned, babies are not really eating at this stage, so what are good alternatives? As mentioned earlier, I do not want to feed my daughter any store-bought foods, and I want them to be as natural and organic as possible. I have been able to find just that with the Childlife Multivitamin, which I will be supplementing her with.
I would love to know how your baby’s first food journey is going, and pictures would be amazing! Let us know in the comments below how the experience has been so far and if you have any tips. Connect with us on Social Media to stay informed about more ways to Live Life Naturally, and make sure to comment below to share your thoughts with us!