Baby-Led Weaning: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents
Many parents are choosing to wean their babies naturally rather than using purées, commercial baby foods, or spoon feeding. Advocates gush over its numerous advantages, which include making feeding times easier for parents, improved hunger control, less fussiness with food, and prevention of obesity in later life.
But the real question that parents have is whether or not it is right for their child and what to expect as they start their baby-led weaning journey.
This article looks at the advantages of baby-led weaning, the most recent research on it, and how you can apply it safely with your child.
The Baby-Led Weaning Process
Babies can learn to chew before swallowing via baby-led weaning, commonly known as BLW. Since infants are in charge of how much food they put in their mouths, it also discourages parents from forcing food on them and lets children learn how to stop eating once they are full.
How to Start the Baby-Led Weaning Process
It will take your baby some time to learn to eat solid foods, so in the interim, breast milk or formula will still be the primary source of nutrition for them. BLW sessions may emphasize play and discovery. To prevent your baby from being disappointed, it may be preferable to feed them a bottle or breastfeed them before introducing solid food if they are hungry.
Messy BLW is possible and most likely going to occur frequently! A big bib will help you control the mess. Cleaning up can also be made simpler by putting a mat underneath your baby's highchair.
Make sure you or some other adult is constantly keeping a close eye on your child throughout meals and is prepared to help if necessary. BLW doesn't increase the risk of choking as long as you monitor them. The safest option when feeding your infant is to sit up in a highchair without leaning back.
Instead of giving your bite-sized infant food, give them soft, well-cooked food cut into pieces or slices that are as least as long as their fist. They'll probably initially try to smash the food into their mouths while holding it in their fists. They'll eventually develop the ability to control the food with their thumb and index finger.
Avoid giving your baby things like almonds, grapes, popcorn, and foods chopped into coins, such as sausages and hot dogs, that can cause choking.
The Squish Test
Make sure the food you give your infant can withstand the "squish test" by using your tongue to press it against the roof of your mouth. Thus, no raw vegetables, hard fruits, or citrus fruits are permitted. The exception is food that is sufficiently big and fibrous, which prevents little pieces from breaking off when it is sucked or chewed. For instance, cheese sticks are acceptable, while soft-cooked beef is not
Put food immediately in front of your infant on the table or highchair tray. If your infant can handle it, you can consider putting the foot onto plates or in bowls for them to use. We suggest silicone versions of dishware to make it easier for your baby to handle and easier for you to clean up.
Silicone variants of dishware encourage your child to practice self-feeding and baby-led weaning because, as the parent, you can watch over them from a distance letting them do this process naturally. You won't have to worry about your child breaking silicone dishware, and most of these products come with some sort of suction base which keeps the dish from moving. This all means more freedom for your baby to experience meal time in a way that’s natural to them.
One at a time, introduce new foods. Wait 3 to 5 days after adding a new food before actually trying the next one, just like when spoon-feeding. If your infant experiences an allergic response, you will be aware of the likely triggering food.
As much as possible, have family meals. Babies pick up the habit of eating by watching and copying their family members. Additionally, family meals can give your infant a sense of community.
Gagging vs. Choking
According to research, choking risk is not increased by baby-led weaning. Baby-led weaning is safe as long as you supervise your child while they eat and give them simple meals.
No amount of crying, coughing, or gasping can stop a youngster from choking. When they open their mouth, they might make strange noises or nothing at all. You might need to use chest thrusts or back strikes to remove the obstruction. A newborn first aid course is a fantastic option if you want to be prepared if your child chokes.
Gagging, instead of choking, is a reaction that forces food that hasn't been eaten thoroughly toward the front of the mouth where it may be. Coughing, sputtering noises, moist eyes, or a terrified expression on the baby's face could be the results. Additionally, your infant may be actively yet discreetly trying to advance food through the mouth. This behavior may terrify parents, but it is natural as they discover how to feed themselves.
Good Foods for Baby-Led Weaning
The baby-led weaning menu includes any meal as long as it is soft, chopped into bite-sized pieces, and not on the list of items that pose a choking danger.
Do your best to provide a balanced diet throughout the first few months, and talk to your infant's pediatrician if you have worries about how much or little your infant is eating. To ensure your baby is eating the nutrients they need, concentrate on providing a variety of foods from several food groups each day.
Options include some of the following:
- slices of a banana
- strawberries sliced thin
- green beans steamed
- thin pieces of tomato
- sliced hard-boiled eggs
- flaked fish with the bones removed
- smashed beans
- pita chips made of whole grains
- cottage cheese
Why is Baby-Led Weaning Necessary?
Giving your baby a variety of meals to choose from and allowing them to feed themselves are the main components of baby-led weaning. Baby-led weaning is a lot about babies learning to self-feed themselves, which includes throwing foods and letting them experiment.
Using baby-led weaning to introduce your infant to solids gives them the freedom to explore, choose which they pick up, and consume it. They have a higher chance of learning to properly take food into their mouths, move it around, and swallow it.
To help their babies best feed themselves, parents choose which meals to provide, when to offer them, and how. The youngster then decides what to eat, how much, and when to eat it.
What Are The Advantages of Baby-led Weaning?
Advocates of BLW approaches assert that their use gives infants:
- increased control over how quickly food is introduced
- improved long-term appetite regulation
- a diet with more variety
- longer-term, healthier weight
- fewer picky eaters as toddlers
- exposure to family meals that are healthier than baby foods that have been prepared
- a more affordable method of eating complementary foods
There isn't much reliable research to back up or contradict these statements. There is proof that responsive feeding techniques can lower the incidence of obesity and assist with developing good long-term eating habits. However, research on responsive eating and BLW is scant. Furthermore, there is little proof that BLW children have lower BMIs throughout childhood. If this is the case, the connection may also be brought on by prolonged breastfeeding.
Small studies indicate that infants receiving BLW and regular feeding consume nearly the exact amounts of calories and macronutrients. There is, however, little proof that BLW reduces picky eating or broadens the range of foods a youngster will eat.
What Products can Help with Baby-led Weaning?
At around six months old, babies can eat a range of foods through baby-led weaning. Your infant can benefit from the nutrients in avocados, yogurt, tofu, eggs, carrots, meat, and fish, as well as apples, sweet potatoes, and oats, to promote their rapid growth and development.
Parents can get several products to help them and their babies with baby-led weaning. You want to get dishes and tools that will give you and your baby more freedom to self-feed and not require you to oversee them as much. Also, having a hands-off approach and not having to hold a plate for your child is an added benefit.
Silicone products like those from Mommy's Ark are perfect for baby-led weaning. These types of products can be thrown by babies and allow them to hold them easily. They also are easy to clean and are portable so that they can be used in any place. Mommy's Ark silicone products let you supervise your child from a distance while they practice baby-led weaning, all without having to worry about your dishes breaking or being thrown from highchairs. Silicone dishware is durable and often made with suction cup bottoms to help keep them on surfaces while your child eats.
What Pediatricians Say About Baby-Led Weaning
Currently, pediatricians advise introducing regular food at six months. Most babies can pick up food at about six months old, bring it to their lips, chew it, and swallow it. These abilities allow infants to feed themselves more independently as they wean from breast milk or formula.
Is baby-led weaning scientifically proven?
Research has linked baby-led weaning to babies' capacity to discern when they are satisfied and being less fussy with their food, despite unfounded claims that it can increase a baby's agility and confidence. For some parents, this makes it a tempting option.
Do doctors like baby-lead weaning?
Children free to choose their food are also thought to avoid developing picky eating habits as they would readily eat fruit and vegetables. However, medical professionals do not advise the technique because BLW's advantages have not been thoroughly investigated.
When should I stop spoon-feeding my baby?
After six months, you should cease spoon-feeding your infant, according to professional advice. You should gradually let your bay handle food and try to feed itself. Babies are typically prepared to begin self-feeding by the time they are 6 to 9 months old. This is when you can start baby-led weaning with your child.
Baby-Led Weaning vs. Purees
There is no one right approach to weaning a baby onto solids; there are numerous weaning techniques to choose from. However, baby-led weaning and purees frequently receive the most attention. Since it was developed, baby-led weaning, which replaces the conventional puree method, has grown in popularity.
How long should my baby eat purees?
Parents used to be advised to begin feeding their infants when they were four months old. Babies, it was discovered, are not developmentally prepared to handle food and feed themselves at that age. The only risk-free method for adding complementary meals was to spoon-feed blended food. You can provide your baby purees starting at four months old and then continue as long as needed to wean them into solid foods, usually around six months or so.
Can I start with purees and then use baby-led weaning?
After introducing purees to your baby, you can use baby-led weaning. In fact, doing so is frequently the simplest method to introduce solid foods to your child.
Solid food chunks will always seem strange to your infant when all they have ever known is milk, whether it be breast milk or formula; frequently, newborns do not like it at first. This is a normal response, and they will adapt as they are exposed more regularly to solid foods.
Some children can transition from milk to solids more quickly if you start them on purees because it is still primarily watery but also solid. It has the smoothness of milk and of finger foods combined flawlessly.
This means that starting your baby on purees and switching to baby-led weaning with finger foods is an acceptable alternative, whether it was your original intention or you just changed your mind about your process after trying baby-led weaning with solids for the first time.
Which is better baby-led weaning or traditional weaning?
There is no one best approach to feeding your infant. Both baby-led weaning and traditional weaning have advantages and disadvantages. You should use the method you feel the most secure and at ease. A baby will be more comfortable if its parents are at ease, confident, and comfortable.
The most crucial aspect of introducing solid foods to your infant is to meet their nutritional demands while fostering a positive food environment.
Knowing the benefits and challenges of all the approaches to introducing your child to solid foods, including baby-led weaning, is the best way to make the right decision for your child. And with the help of the right tools such as silicone dishware and patience, your child will eat solid foods in no time!