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Baby-led weaning: Where to start

Baby-led weaning: Where to start

Is your baby constantly looking at your delicious meal at the dinner table? Or do you want to see if you have a small gourmand over there? In that case, you may be heading towards a point where you want to introduce your baby to solid foods, but aren’t completely sure where to start. In this blog we’re going to look at baby-led weaning, what it means, and where to start.

What is baby-led weaning? 

There are three main approaches to weaning: baby-led, spoon-feeding, and combo feeding.

Baby-led weaning (baby-led feeding or BLW is what it’s sometimes known as) is the method of offering your baby finger food and letting them feed themselves from the start, rather than spoon-feeding. Spoon-feeding is when the parent offers mashed or pureed food on a spoon. Combining parts baby-led and parts spoon-fed is called combo feeding.

Some parents prefer baby-led weaning or solely spoon-feeding, while others mix in a bit of both. There's no right or wrong way to introduce solid foods- it is what works for you and your family. The most important thing to think about is introducing your baby to a wide variety of food, textures, and tastes. 

When can babies start baby-led weaning? 

Recommendations differ from country to country, but the average recommendation is around the six month mark. Your baby will need to be able to grasp chunks of food and be able to bring them to their mouth. Some ideal signs of readiness for baby-led weaning are:

  • Ability to sit up independently

  • Ability to bring toys/objects to their mouth

  • Shows an interest in food or people eating around them

  • Loss of tongue thrust reflex i.e. when offered food on a spoon they don’t instinctively push it back out with their tongue.

What are the benefits of baby-led weaning?

There are so many great benefits to baby-led weaning- here are a few examples:

Motor skills: Hand-to-mouth coordination is a skill to master and baby-led weaning will encourage practice and repetition of their fine motor skills. You can offer a range of small, finger-sized pieces of food for them to grip and hold. 

Independence: They learn to pick and choose what they want to hold, taste and eat- helping them gain independence.

Variation: Baby-led weaning can promote and expose babies to a variation of textures, colours, and smells. Research suggests it can make children less fussy around food choices if they do baby-led weaning, but more research is needed to support this fully. 

Play: Baby-led weaning can make mealtime fun! Of course, this comes with mess for the parent, but playing and feeling the food can make a much more relaxed and pleasant experience for the baby and parent. 

What is the 4-day rule for baby-led weaning?

This is a popular method to try at the beginning of the feeding journey and more so if you have a history of allergies in the family and would like to introduce certain foods slowly to test for allergies or digestive issues. For example, you could offer them cheese on Monday and then wait until Friday to test a new food. That slow introduction takes the guesswork out and helps you pinpoint what foods are triggers.

What do we mean by finger foods?

When we talk about finger foods, we’re not talking about the sausage roll kind of finger foods. Baby-led finger foods are soft pieces of food that can be mashed in a baby’s mouth without teeth or chewed or sucked on. It’s very much about getting food in as it is exploring textures, tastes, and smells. Some great examples are steamed carrots, cooked sweet potatoes, and bananas. You want to cut them so they are around the size of your small finger, so when they hold they hold the food, there is some food sticking out over the top of their hand.

This is a small introduction to baby-led weaning and like all parenting routes, we encourage you to decide how you feed your baby and not let external pressures make you feel there is a ‘right way’ to do it. Do what feels right for you and your child. 

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