When a baby reaches six months, parents usually introduce foods in the form of pureed or mashed. Moms and dads usually steam veggies or other foods to soften them so they can be spoon-fed to their little ones. Spoon feeding is the traditional way of introducing foods to babies. Have you heard of another form of initiating solids? You may have heard of baby-led weaning but not sure what it is and how you will be able to do it? We are glad to share with you what it is, its benefits, and how you can start to try this method for your little one.
What is baby-led weaning?
The weaning period is a critical stage in a baby's life since it involves rapid changes in growth, weight, food preferences, and eating habits. Weaning is the process of reducing breastfeeding and infant formula feedings to give way to solid foods essential to your child's growth and development. Baby-led weaning has gained popularity for several years and is quite famous for younger parents. Gill Rapley, Ph.D., first used the term "baby-led weaning in 2005. She studied feeding and child development for many years. Baby-led weaning is basically offering a variety of baby fist-sized foods and letting the baby eat with the family. This will enable the baby to have control over his own food, by choosing his preferred variety and how he will eat it.
Although parents are concerned about choking. It is suggested to cut the foods based on their baby-fist size. You can also steam veggies to make them soft or cut fruits into smaller sizes. The goal here is for your baby to easily chew and swallow it as most babies have no teeth or are not complete yet. There is no evidence that baby-led weaning can cause more likely choking than spoon-feeding and many parents opt for this kind of feeding. Remember to follow food guidelines and safely present their food. (not hot, cut to appropriate pieces)
Benefits of baby-led weaning
Learning Independence. Your baby will learn to pick up and choose foods he wants to try, all on his own. As early as 6 months, your little one will start to lean on making choices on his own.
Be familiar with different textures and flavors. Your little one will be able to explore different kinds of foods, their tastes, and their textures. They will soon be able to identify the foods they are eating and maybe have their own favorites. They can also develop their fine motor skills which include holding or grasping.
Less preparation time. Baby-led weaning foods can be from the same meal the family will eat. You will be able to save time and energy.
Parents had observed that babies who eat this way are more open to new foods and flavors and have a lesser chance to become picky eaters compared to spoon-fed.
Being in control of what they eat can also have a lesser chance of becoming obese when they grow.
How to start baby-led weaning?
The appropriate age for baby-led weaning is 6 months when babies are able to hold and grasp things. It is also the stage where their intestines are more developed for solid food and the tongue-thrust reflex is gone.
Make sure your child is sitting upright either on your lap or on a highchair. Try first offering a different variety of foods instead of giving it to them then eventually let them hold their food. Some foods that you can give are steamed or baked sweet potato strips, steamed carrots, broccoli or cauliflower, and thick fruit slices like banana, avocado, and melon. Other than these foods, doctors also suggest continuing their breastmilk, formula milk and make sure not to serve foods while they're hot.
Baby-led weaning could be a lot messier than spoon-feeding but having a mess is normal for an infant this age.