Baby-Led Weaning

By Deborah Lee MS, OTR/L

What is baby-led weaning? Is a popular approach to starting solid foods. It skips over purees and jumps into finger foods that baby can self-feed. While it is inevitable and common for parents to spoon-feed their babies until a certain age, baby-led weaning places the independence on babies to take charge of their own meals and mealtimes. By approximately 6 months old, babies will attempt to reach for finger foods, even though they may not have the grasping skills mastered. Baby-led weaning also places an importance on family meals. When preparing foods for baby-led weaning, you are not necessarily buying or creating separate meals for the baby but instead you are preparing the same foods for the entire family to enjoy altogether, maintaining eating as a positive and interactive experience.

What are some of the benefits of baby-led weaning for families/parents?

  1. It can save a lot of time and money during meal preparation tasks.
  2. Provides an opportunity and exposure to social interactions. For instance, during mealtimes, your baby can observe you chew and swallow foods, which allows them to learn how to eat and engage with foods through modeling.
  3. Exposure to diverse foods. Baby-led weaning allows babies to explore soft to hard textured foods as well as potential potent flavors of foods.
  4. Assists with honing their developmental skills. This can include developing your child’s fine motor skills of utilizing a neat pincer grasp to grasp finger foods and utilizing utensils to feed self. In addition to promoting regulation, to ensure no overstuffing of the mouth since they are in control of their food.

As mentioned previously, babies will attempt to reach for foods typically around 6 months; however, it varies per child. For example, if your child was born prematurely, they may require a longer time to begin this process. With baby-led weaning, safety is always of importance for parents as well as knowing the signs and symptoms of choking and aspiration. First and foremost, before starting solids your child should be able to demonstrate stability and maintain a supported or independent seating position so that there is less movement involved. Beginning with “hard munchable” foods, which are long and thick foods such as raw carrot sticks, celery sticks, jicama sticks, and pineapple cores are the safest to start with, as it is impossible for children to bite off a piece and choke on it. Hard munchable foods are also great tools to assist with your child’s oral motor skill development.

Parents are encouraged to take a CPR course if they do plan on beginning baby-led weaning to cover choking management in the case of any worst-case scenarios.   

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