Baby-led weaning. The name alone is confusing. Every time it comes up in conversation with a group of moms, someone inevitably says something like, “I believe in extended breastfeeding” (the assumption being that baby-led weaning is the succession of breastmilk). But the two actually have nothing to do with one another. In fact, baby-led weaning has nothing to do with breastfeeding, bottles, or formula at all!
Baby-led weaning simply means that you feed your baby food from the table. No store bought baby food. No homemade baby food. Just food food.
The first time I heard of baby-led weaning I was both intrigued and terrified. It seemed nifty (and easy) to give your baby some of your dinner, but how on earth would a baby not choke? But then it dawned on me that baby food is a fairly modern invention. The first canned baby foods, made of purees, didn’t come around until the 1920’s. And many countries still don’t use baby food because it is considered a luxury. So what do those people do? Feed their baby table food, of course!
So I bought The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook. You can look at it and read about it, but honestly, I felt like it was a waste. Baby-led weaning is simple, and you don’t need a fancy cookbook to help you. Just feed your baby whatever you are eating as long as it is real food. Eating Cheetos? NO! That doesn’t count! REAL food!
But beyond that, it is important to keep some guidelines in mind.
Baby-Led Weaning Guidelines
First and foremost, wait until your pediatrician has given you the okay to introduce foods other than breastmilk and formula into your baby’s diet. Most pediatricians say to wait until your baby is 4-6 months. Our own pediatrician said he would disown me if I started feeling J solid food before six months.
Start with simple foods. One food at a time. Bananas and avocados are good starter foods. Pick one. Just cut it into slices and hand it to your baby.
Wait a couple of days and see how your baby responds before introducing another food. Other good starter foods include sweet potato, butternut squash, cooked broccoli, strawberries, etc.
Make sure you wait till your child is at least a year old before you introduce some foods: egg whites (egg yolks are okay though and make an awesome first food!), citrus, and nuts.
Always cut your baby’s food into manageable pieces, being even more diligent about doing so when they are younger. If you cut the slices too big, they will be too cumbersome for your baby. If you cut the slices too small, you’ll notice that your baby’s thumb and pointer finger (pincher) motion hasn’t developed enough for them to be able to grasp the food and put it in their mouth. For example, we found that at 6 months of age, cutting a banana into three pieces and handing them to J one piece at a time worked better than handing her a whole banana or smaller slices.
Accept the fact that baby-led weaning is messy. It’s your baby feeding themselves. Also accept the fact that when your baby first starts out, more food will end up on them than in them. Every time I fed J an avocado, I had to remind myself that many spas use it as a face mask, and it was okay if she did the same.
That’s it. Those are the tips! But why would someone want to practice baby-led weaning? Genevieve over at Mama Natural has a great article that you can check out here, but here are the three specific reasons why Erik and I decided to practice it:
1.) It has been suggested that BLW babies prefer the different textures and flavors of food and have a higher level of acceptance of foods. This was incredibly important to us. We didn’t want a picky eater on our hands. So far, guess what J refuses to eat? Nothing!
2.) BLW babies feed themselves when they are hungry and stop when they are full. From the beginning, they are learning to regulate themselves. One study showed that they, therefore, have a greater chance at having a lower BMI as an adult.
3.) But the most interesting reason came from this video. It is almost fourteen and a half minutes long but definitely worth watching:
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