What is Baby-Led Weaning?

Reaching a milestone such as weaning can be a very exciting time for parents. Today, we're talking all things baby-led weaning.

For first-time parents, it can be quite daunting - even scary - but worry not! We are here today to cover everything about baby-led weaning. 

However, before we get things started you should know timing is everything when it comes to your baby's first foods, textures and flavours.

Babies' guts are precious little organs, that's why the World Health Organisation recommends parents introduce solids when a baby is around six months.

Until then, all your baby's nutritional requirements will be met by either your breastmilk or formula. It is not recommended to start solids before 17 weeks as the baby's gut is not fully mature.

So what is baby-led weaning? 

Baby-led weaning is when you allow your baby to choose what they eat. It is a process of allowing your baby to eat a variety of finger foods right from the first day of weaning instead of spoon-feeding.

With baby-led weaning, there is no faffing about with blenders, spoon-feeding or batch cooking, you can simply give baby whatever you are having to eat. Foods are usually soft and cut into wedges.

What are the benefits of baby-led weaning?

For parents, this weaning method is less time consuming because your baby simply eats what you eat.

There is no mashing, pureeing or batch cooking millions of meals in a Sunday. You simply serve your baby a small portion of whatever is on the menu.

With baby-led weaning, babies get to choose what they eat, how much they eat and when they are full. 

Babies learn to chew first and swallow later - a baby's gum is a lot stronger than you might think. A baby does not need teeth to practice baby-led weaning.

By introducing baby-led weaning, your child will be opened to a whole new world, learning about texture and dexterity. It allows them to explore their food while promoting hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills as they learn to pinch and grasp their food to self-feed. 

Unlike with traditional weaning, food is whole and rich in flavour, meaning your child is more likely to be a better eater and as they get older they will more likely be open to trying new foods. 

What is Baby-Led Weaning

What are the disadvantages of baby-led weaning?

While baby-led feeding has many advantages there is a downside to the whole process, it can be very messy. As a mum of three baby-led fed kids, I highly recommend an active dog to help with cleaning up after mealtimes or invest in a table cloth to fold and place under baby's highchair for easy cleaning because food regularly ends up on the floor. 

What food can I give my baby and how should they be prepared?

Other than the obvious foods that pose a choking risk like whole nuts and grapes there are lots of great first baby-led weaning foods for your baby.

Steamed carrot sticks, small broccoli florets, peas, sweetcorn, banana muffins, oat pancakes, all types of berries, pasta, spaghetti and well-cooked meats are great options.

How do I know my child is ready?

Baby-led weaning follows the same principles as traditional weaning and should start when the baby is roughly 26 weeks old.

Your child should be able to sit up straight in a high chair and be able to control their head movements. Other signs include chewing their fist, demanding more feeds, showing an interest in food and grabbing your food or mimicking chewing or eating. 

Is there anything else I should know?

As a rule of thumb, foods, especially in the early days, should be soft enough to squash using a gentle squeeze of your fingers. 

Honey is a no-no for all babies under one, it can contain a spore of a bacterium called clostridium botulinum, which can cause infant botulism, which can be fatal. 

Regardless of how you choose to feed your baby when preparing meals, it is important to avoid adding salt. If needed, adults can add a little salt to their meals at the table. 

And of course, we all know babies naturally prefer sweet over savoury foods so it is best to avoid is sugar especially when baking or making meals. 

Kellie Kearney

Kellie Kearney is a Dublin mammy of five kids aged newborn right up to nine. She loves coffee, cloth nappies, travel and sharing her every day true to life family moments on Instagram.

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