Jan 19th, 2021
Introducing solid foods to your baby is an important milestone in your little ones nutritional journey.
With so many different options out there it can overwhelming trying to decide how to start solids. Baby led weaning is one method that ca be a great way to start introducing solids. A lot of parents have questions about this process though; when can I start baby led weaning or what are the best baby led weaning foods? We hope to help provide some answers and help you on your feeding journey in this guide.
In a nutshell, BLW is the process of allowing your little one to feed her/himself solid foods at their own pace.
For many this means skipping the typical baby foods (purees and mashed up foods) and going directly to baby sized pieces of foods that you would eat. The method is simple, you allow your baby to choose what healthy foods they want to eat (the baby led part), typically the same foods the rest of the family would have at the dinner table. This process was popularized in the UK but has quickly started becoming a more popular approach to starting solids here in the US.
This is the biggest question most parents tend to ask. 6 months minimum is a general rule of thumb for the absolute youngest age your baby should be to start the process. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends this to start solids, because at this point most babies this age will be able to sit up unassisted and also have outgrown their tongue-thrust reflex (the reflex where young babies push food out of their mouth).
Of course, no baby is the same, so see if your child is interested in eating but never try to force them if they don’t show interest in food.
Healthy Habits – One of the biggest benefits from this approach is the healthy eating habits that are instilled at an early age. Because baby led weaning involves so many different foods, babies are exposed to a huge variety of flavors, textures, and aromas, whereas the typical puree approach doesn’t allow for this variety of foods.
Self Regulation – Puree feeding puts the parent in charge of when the baby is done eating, which can lead to over feeding. Baby Led Weaning puts the baby in control of of their meal. This allows the baby to self regulate their meals and stop eating when they are full. This ability to self regulate at an early age has been shown to be a key fact in helping to prevent obesity at a later age.
Dexterity and Oral Development – Because baby led weaning requires babies to feed themselves, they quickly develop fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. Since normal food is used for this method, babies quickly learn how to chew and safely swallow their foods compared to puree feeding, which requires no chewing. The lessons learned in chewing at this early stage can help with digestion and also leads to less gagging and choking as they continue to eat different foods.
What are the best baby led weaning foods? Start with easy to chew soft foods. Great candidates for starting foods are; ripe fruits, cooked ground beef, well done pastas, and cooked veggies are some great first solids. Looking for more ideas? The key to choosing foods is to make sure its easily able to be chewed and doesnt pose a choking hazard (grapes, hot dogs, nuts, large chunks of meat or cheese or other foods on this list).
To start off with (before they have developed their pincer grasp), babies will need to be able to grab foods with their hands easily, so cut foods into easy to hold pieces such as long strips or use a crinkle cutter. Once they have developed their pincer grasp or can use baby led weaning utensils you can start giving them smaller more bite sized pieces that they can grab.
Try to incorporate high protein and nutrient dense foods, think things like meats or healthy veggies like avocados and sweet potatoes, and avoid processed or prepackaged foods that tend to be devoid of good nutrients.
The most important thing is to introduce healthy foods that will help your baby to develop good eating habits. Don’t be discouraged if your little one doesn’t want a certain type of food or wont eat very much at a time, this is a learning experience and your baby is in charge, sometimes it can take many introductions of a certain type of food for your baby to like it.
Because you are allowing your baby to feed themselves, there will be some food flinging and throwing, its going to happen. Try to prepare for the mess and invest in a good easy to clean highchair, think something like an ikea Antilop chair. The most simple and easy to clean the better, no fancy pads or lots of bells and whistles needed here.
Like anything in life, their will be ups and downs in your baby led weaning journey. Maybe it’s not working for you and your little one, and that’s ok. Or maybe you combine it with spoon feeding, tons of people do that as well, where they will offer foods for their baby to feed themselves and then follow up after or in between with spoon feeding. The important thing to do is to make sure you are helping build healthy eating habits and providing a positive eating experience, how you do that does not matter as long as it is happening.
Here at eztotz, we take pride in manufacturing baby products using manufacturers here in the USA. We have some great tools to help you on your BLW journey, like our soft silicone starter spoons or our safe easy to grip utensil set with a built in chokegaurd. Unlike the other 99% of baby companies out there, we design/manufacture/test every one of our products right here in the USA using the safest materials.