How to Master Baby Led Weaning
Is your little one ready to add food to their milk-dominated diet?
If so, you're at the right place!
Take a moment and pat yourself on the back to making it past the first few months of motherhood, now it's time for the next AMAZING milestone. This milestone is very exciting but can also make a lot of mamas anxious. With the fear of choking, this comes as no surprise--we mamas do tend to worry about everything.
Have no fear mama, we are going to cover all the basics of baby-led weaning such as:
- How to avoid choking
- When to start baby-led weaning
- Proper foods to use when baby-led weaning
- Some product recommendations to help with this process
So, what exactly is baby led weaning?
Baby Led weaning is simply letting baby feed themselves, allowing them to control how they eat. This allows them to explore foods instead of spoon-fed typical purees. Nothing is wrong with purees at all, babies fed puree foods go on to eat successfully as well. But today we are explaining baby-led weaning for all mamas interested in learning.
Remember, you don't have to give up formula or breastmilk--this simply is an addition to their breastmilk/formula intake.
Some benefits of baby led weaning include positive eating experience, baby learns correct way of swallowing and chewing food and more!
When can you start this process?
You can start this process as early as 4 months old (which is recommended by most pediatricians if baby is ready). However, most mothers seem to start baby led weaning around 6 months old.
But how do I know if my baby is ready?
- The tongue thrust reflex should be gone-every baby is unique, but this reflex usually goes away around 4-6 months of age.
- Strong head control-baby should be able to hold their head up with no support, baby will be sitting up to eat so you want to make sure they have good head control.
- Baby should have interest in eating, you never want to force your baby to eat- if they reach for food/spoon or seem interested watching you eat they are interested
How to avoid choking when eating?
First, let's define the difference between choking and gagging.
Choking=something is trapped in their airway, which makes them unable to breathe (I know, so terrifying!)
Gagging=coughing up food is baby's way of learning their eating limits
*Choking is doesn't involve coughing up, so you need to act quickly
Learning what to do in these situations is vital, learn how by reading this article by healthline--click here.
If you're like me, I have mistakenly thought my baby was choking when he was really just gagging or coughing up his food. You're not alone, a lot of mamas make this same mistake.
When babies eat only pureed foods, they don't get to learn their limits when eating. I learned this with my son-- I did not do baby led weaning; we did purees. When we did move onto solid foods, he would take huge bites and have trouble eating those bites. I started baby-led weaning later than I should have but doing this helped him learn what he can control with his chewing and swallowing.
Essentially, you want to provide baby with age-appropriate foods that baby can learn to chew and swallow safely.
What are good baby-led weaning foods to try?
Try to choose foods that baby can easily break down with their gums. Foods with soft chunks are great because it teaches baby to chew down those chunks before swallowing.
Here are some great options we recommend:
- Sweet Potato or Russet Potato
- Carrots (cooked)
- smashed blueberries
- thinly sliced strawberries
- smashed peas
- smashed corn
Also, the puffs (cereal like pieces) dissolve quickly and are great for baby to chew on
When baby is eating, they can swallow a piece of food that is too big which will cause them to gag--this is okay. As we discussed before, this is their way of learning their limits. Always be close by but let them learn to eat.
Once baby is older, you can try giving them small portions of what the family is eating that day. (Such as spaghetti, mashed potatoes. grilled veggies, soup and so on)
If you want to know which foods to avoid, see our list here.
How do I start?
You are going to want to start slow. Milk should be their main source of nutrients for the time being. You will gradually increase how much food you give your baby as they signal, they are wanting more. At about 8 months they should be enjoying an array of different foods throughout the day.
When baby is trying different foods and textures, it allows them to enjoy the process and enjoy the different foods. This will help your child become less picky with food as they get older.
Down the road, your child will soon eat the same meals that you and your family eat. So, when doing baby-led weaning, you're going to want to have baby try foods that you are eating.
It is important to note that you won't want to give them too many new foods to try at once. You will want to spread out new foods by a couple of days, doctors and nutrition experts will recommend different rage of days. But I'd stick to 2-5 days between foods depending on your baby. This is important because in the event your child has an adverse reaction to a certain food, you will know which food has caused it.
- Silicone Bibs- I talked about this in my baby must haves, but need I say more. They are easy to clean and catch most food spills. It's a no-brainer. I highly recommend Mushi Silicone Bibs, they are excellent. Shop them right here on our website.
- Silicone/Plastic Suction Tableware- Silicone ones are again easy to clean, the plastic ones are good too they just require more cleaning at times. Suction tableware is so helpful because babies love to play and move bowls, plates and dishes around while eating.
- Utensils- You can get utensils in silicone, plastic/stainless steel combo or plastic. I think they do what they are supposed to do, any option will be great for baby. I recommend Munchkin, NumNum and Itzy Ritzy
- Cups- This would include cups for water to have at meals, or other liquids as they get older. Cups with straws are great for cup beginners, we loved the TommeeTippee Straw cup. Another great cup for learning is the Munckin 360 Trainer cup, I love that it is non-spill and teaches little ones the drinking from a cup motion. For open cups there are a lot of good brands such as: EzPz, Mushi and Munchkin
- Snack Cups are great for one the go, but also great for at home. They are non-spill and teach baby how to reach in and grab the snack from inside the cup. It will take a little bit for baby to learn how to do this, but they will eventually learn. Recommendations would include Munchkin, Skip Hop, and Mushi.
The end goal of baby led weaning is for baby to enjoy eating a balanced meal and for baby to be able to chew + swallow properly while enjoying many different flavors + textures in the process.
If you have made it this far, thank you so much reading this blog all about baby-led weaning. I hope that this milestone journey goes smoothly and wish you the best of luck in your journey. Leave a comment below on your thoughts and what baby's favorite food has been thus far--I can't wait to see what the favorites are. I know for my son, is favorite was bananas. (He still loves them!)