Once your baby hits 6 months of age, it’s time to start thinking about real foods! It’s hard to believe that your precious little one is already at this stage already! It’s so exciting getting to see your baby’s reactions to his/her first solid foods, but it can also be a little overwhelming!
You may be asking yourself…What should I feed them? How often do they need to eat? Is there such a thing as feeding them too much? What if they’re allergic to something? These are just a few of the thousands of questions that may be racing through your head when preparing to start your baby on solids!
In recent years, there has been a new and highly popular trend of transitioning your baby to solid foods. This new trend is called baby-led weaning, and today, we’re going to be exploring what exactly it is and whether or not it’s the right choice for you and your baby while also looking at some awesome resources and recipes!
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What is Baby-Led Weaning?
In a nutshell, baby-led weaning (BLW) is a way to transition your child from solely breast milk to solid foods by allowing your little one to feed himself. Instead of offering the traditional baby purees, your child will be exposed to real foods in the form of finger foods where they can physically pick up their food and eat it themselves.
It’s a very simple concept, and many new moms swear by this technique! Here are a few things to remember if you’re considering introducing foods in this way…
6 Months Old
Depending on your pediatrician, some recommend babies can begin trying food at four months, while others recommend waiting until six months of age. For this strategy, specifically, it is essential that you wait until your baby is at least 6 months old and can sit up, unassisted. Your baby also needs to be able to have good control of his/her head and neck while sitting up in order to start feeding himself.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s all about real, whole foods. While of course you may be steaming foods to make them softer or cutting them up into tiny bites, the whole idea is to ditch the “mush” that people traditionally feed babies. BLW is all about real finger foods and less about purees and being spoon fed.
Milk/Formula Primary Food Source
Breastmilk or formula will still be your baby’s main source of nutrients and calories. Using this form of food introduction does not mean ditching the bottle right away! When starting with this type of feeding (or any type,really), you should not change your baby’s bottle feeds at all. The food is more about experimenting and playing with food, and less about actually providing calories.
Pros of BLW
If you’re considering giving it a try, it’s important to weigh both the positives and negatives for this technique. The following positives include…
Fine Motor Skill Development
As opposed to traditional feeding where the parents spoon feed the baby purees, this strategy allows babies to feed themselves. By learning to feed themselves early on, babies are developing fine motor skills and the pincer grasp by grabbing foods and then learning how to get them to their mouths.
The pincer grasp is an important skill for development in which babies grab things with their index finger and their thumb. It’s a very critical fine motor skill to have, and by allowing them to feed themselves, babies will get a great deal of practice earlier on.
Independence for Baby
Not only will this allow your baby to develop their fine motor skills, it will also give them a great deal of independence and choice. With the practice of this method, it is important that parents are in charge of what the baby is eating, but they allow the baby to decide how much they will eat. It gives babies time to be independent and experiment with different textures and tastes on their own terms.
Both parents and the baby will be actively engaged with meal time with this method. BLW is a fun and experimental approach to food that makes meal time more engaging! Instead of just shovelling spoonfuls of various purees that all have the same texture and look, babies are more engaged through being exposed to a great variety of textures, colors, tastes, and more. It’s fun for everyone!
Easier Transition to “Normal” Food
As stated above, simply providing your baby with purees will limit your baby’s exposure to different food textures and styles. Because this is a strategy in which you feed the baby real foods, it will make it a great deal easier to transition to normal, table food. Most importantly, they’re transitioning easily because they’ve been used to it all along! They’ve just had much smaller portions and smaller pieces!
Cons of BLW
Now that we’ve explored the great things about this strategy of introducing solids, it’s also important to weigh the cons before deciding if this is right for you! Potential cons for include…
Potential Choking Hazard
Choking is scary, and many moms have a great deal of anxiety around their baby choking. If you are starting your 6 month old out by eating real foods (even if they are cut up into age-appropriate sizes), it can be incredibly scary at first. Choking shouldn’t be taken lightly, and it’s important to know and understand how to cut up your baby’s food if you are going to use this for your child.
It is very engaging for your baby, but it is important to know that it can be quite time consuming. Depending on what you are preparing for your precious little one, you will probably need to cut up and prepare the food, which can take a lot of time. With purees, you can simply make the purees ahead of time or buy them at the store. This is not the case for BLW.
Whenever you give your child freedom to explore anything, really, they are bound to make a mess. This definitely rings true by letting your child eat independenly.As stated above, it can be very time consuming to prepare with this method, but this can also be true for clean up! If you’re considering baby-led weaning, be prepared for lots of little chunks and slices of food covering your floor, your baby’s high chair, and your baby.
Of course any form of eating for a 6 month old will be messy, but it is easier to control the mess when you are doing the feeding!
Best Foods for BLW
Now that we’ve explored what BLW is and what the benefits and drawbacks are to using this form of feeding, you may be wondering…So, what do I feed my baby?
Well, we’ve compiled the best foods to start out with when trying this approach. We’ve grouped them based on your little one’s age. It’s important to think about age-appropriate foods to try as your baby develops their fine motor skills, chewing skills, and simply gets more teeth.
At 6 months of age, your baby is just now ready to start experimenting with solid foods! It’s important to keep things as mushy and easy to grab as possible. Here are some suggestions including…
- Apple Slices (steamed)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Broccoli (steamed)
After your baby has a little more experience under his/her belt, it’s time to really start exploring different foods. As always, be mindful of the size of the item as well as the texture. Depending on the amount of teeth your little one has at this point, you’ll need to vary the softness of the foods accordingly.
For 7-9 month old babies, here are some foods to consider incorporating…
- Blueberries (cut up)
- Egg (cooked thoroughly)
- Bread and Nut Butters
Not to mention, you can also incorporate other whole foods such as pancakes, muffins, and other soft and healthy baked goods.
At this point, your baby should be eating with confidence. Of course, they should still be monitored closely when eating, but babies by 10-12 months should have plenty of teeth and a great deal of confidence to eat pretty much anything that is cut appropriately.
Some things your child may be ready to try include…
- Green Beans
- String Cheese
As stated above, of course there are more foods to give a try, but these are just the best foods to try baby-led weaning with depending on your little one’s age!
3 Go-to Recipes
While most of this food introduction strategy will be centered around real, whole foods, there are also some amazing and healthy recipes that are perfect for babies learning to eat independently. Here are 3 of our favorite recipes that are not only easy to incorporate into your baby’s diet, but also healthy and delicious!
1. Banana Pancakes
If your family loves pancakes and you want your baby to join in on all of the fun, a health alternative is to try this amazing banana pancakes recipe! You only need 3 ingredients (bananas, eggs, and oats) to make a delicious meal for your ever growing baby! These pancakes are surprisingly delicious and perfect for a baby learning how to eat on their own!
2. Carrot Muffins
Any kind of muffins are great for a baby learning to eat independently. Similar to pancakes, muffins are also very soft and easy to eat. These carrot muffins are an easy way to incorporate some veggies into your baby’s diet with just 5 simple ingredients!
3. Yogurt Drops
If your baby isn’t ready to use a spoon for themselves, but you want them to experiment with yogurt, making yogurt drops is a great (and less messy) option! Simply combine yogurt and a puree of your choice, place them in the freezer, and your yogurt drops are ready to go!
Your baby will not only be trying yogurt, but they will also get to experience cold foods!
Tips for Getting Started
After exploring the pros and cons of BLW, you may still be unsure about whether or not you want to try this approach with your precious little one. There are some amazing benefits to incorporating this into your baby’s life, but there are also some notable potential negatives.
Before getting started with your child, consider the following…
Talk with Your Pediatrician
As with any important decision for your baby, if you’re having any reservations or questions about baby-led weaning, talk with your pediatrician. Every baby is different with different needs and strengths. Just because it is right for one baby doesn’t mean that it will work with another.
Your pediatrician can weigh in on what specific foods they want you to avoid or even offer suggestions on how to safely prepare some that are especially worrisome when it comes to choking. Talking with your pediatrician before starting any feeding regimen will bring a great deal of insight and peace of mind.
Do Your Research
After receiving the green light from your child’s pediatrician, make sure to do your research. We’ve provided the basics, but there are so many resources out there that go more in depth. From amazing recipes to learning more about the practice of introducing foods in this way, do your research before you start with your baby.
If you’re interested in learning more, you may want to check out some of the following:
On top of book resources, there are all kinds of other places to find information on this topic! You could find podcasts, articles, audiobooks, and so much more! With a couple of Google searches, you’ll be on your way to learning more!
Work within Your Comfort Zone
At the end of the day, it’s important to do what is best for you and your family. If starting your baby out on solids makes you feel anxious and uncomfortable, simply don’t do it. Just because you want to do baby-led weaning doesn’t mean you have to commit 100%.
You can always try to blend providing your baby real foods and pureed foods together. Some meals could be one thing while other meals could be the other. Or, if you feel your baby isn’t ready for solid foods, you could start with purees and move slowly towards this food introduction strategy.
You’re the parent and you know in your heart what is best for your baby and your family. If trying this makes you completely uncomfortable and you don’t feel like your baby is ready, then don’t do it. When it is all said and done, your baby is going to grow up eating normal foods no matter which way you choose to introduce foods to them.
Baby-led weaning is a phenomenon that has grown so much in popularity over the past few years. Parents are seeing so many benefits from taking a whole foods and independent approach to introducing their precious babies to solid foods around six months.
While some are hesitant to jump on board with this trend, there are many positives that come from this including: baby’s independence, ease into table food, and more. Whether you’re ready to start this moment or feel a bit unsure, make sure that you talk with your child’s pediatrician, do your own research on the matter, and most importantly, work within your comfort zone!