Photo by Scott Sherrill-Mix & Devinf via Flickr Image altered.
Hopefully you have read 3 Reasons Not to Spoon-Feed for an overview on baby-led weaning. Now onto the next! The following is an easy to read, condensed version of how to begin with baby-led weaning.
Up until recently, it was recommended that babies begin cereal at 4 months. Now, it is known that holding off until around 6 months is preferred for a multitude of reasons including, but not limited to, possible allergy prevention, healthy microbiota development and to prevent intestinal discomfort ( 1). If your baby is near 6 months old, look for these three criteria:
If all the above are true, your baby is likely ready to start baby-led weaning (2).
First things first, always remember to wash your baby’s hands before each meal.
Before eating, your baby should be in a fully upright sitting position, preferably in a highchair.
Start baby off with one food at a time; it’s a good idea to begin slow, with one ‘meal’ a day for the first few weeks or so. Ideally, wait a couple days before introducing another new food. Be observant for rashes that may indicate a food allergy. Gradually work up to providing a few different options at each meal.
The first time, he will likely fumble around, attempting to pick up that slippery morsel, but once he gets it, he’ll bring it to his mouth and suck on it. Gradually, sucking will turn into gnawing and gumming.
The beginning of baby-led weaning is about learning how to chew and getting baby comfortable with the idea of food in their mouth, not about the actual act of eating.
If he manages to take a bite into his mouth, more than likely, he will spit it out. For the first couple weeks not much food will be “eaten”. This is normal. At 6 months, baby doesn’t need more than breastmilk or formula anyhow, so don’t fret over how much he is eating at this point in time. The beginning of baby-led weaning is about learning how to chew and getting baby comfortable with the idea of food in their mouth, not about the actual act of eating. Let them go at their own pace. If your baby doesn’t seem interested, or isn’t bringing the food to his mouth, he may not be ready. Try again in a couple weeks.
Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods - and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater suggests to start with “finger” food, as in foods that are cut into the shape of a finger. Prepare fruits, vegetables and breads into slender pieces, finger size, so it’s easy for baby to hold. At this point your little babe has not developed her pincer grasp skill yet, so all foods must be big enough to hold in the palm of her hand and long enough to have some hanging out to be able to put in her mouth. Prepare the food fingers at least 2 inches long. Slippery foods like banana and avocado may be easier to hold if a piece of the skin is left on for grip. Just be sure to wash with soap and water before handing it over.
There are some foods that require the use of a utensil like whole-milk yogurt and unsweetened applesauce. Load the spoon with a small amount of food and place it in your baby’s hand. Assist her in guiding it toward her mouth the first couple times, then let her do it. Quickly she will learn how easy and fun it is, because she now gets to swallow a mouthful! So invest in a set of bendable plastic spoons, these are the easiest for her to handle.
Your baby will likely gag himself by sticking the food into his mouth too far or by sticking too much in. This is good; it’s trial and error. Eventually, he will learn how far is too far and how much is too much. Gagging is different from choking. Baby is choking if food blocks the trachea (windpipe); aspiration into the lungs may or may not occur. Gagging is a spasm of the throat in attempt to prevent choking. Some babies gag a lot, others learn quickly and don’t do it much. Some great videos to watch on infant choking are here.
Mom and Dad (and anyone else eating with baby) need to be relaxed. It is normal to be full of worry when starting baby-led weaning. The best thing to do is to be confident by diligently preparing their food and supervise with a smile, don’t show your baby your uneasiness. Take a baby CPR class or watch videos online what to do in the event choking occurs. (All parents and caregivers should do this anyways, despite beginning baby-led weaning!) Research baby-led weaning, watch videos, become part of a support group to ask questions, don’t just jump in unprepared. Learn all about baby-led weaning and know why you are doing this approach.
So baby has been doing baby-led weaning for more than just a few weeks and is now biting off big chunks of food, regularly… now what? Be sure to read:
And if you haven't already, 3 Reasons not to Spoon Feed and FAQ on Baby-led Weaning are great reads, especially when talking to others about why you have chosen baby-led weaning. If you are looking for some great recipes, follow our Baby-led Weaning Pinterest board!
Disclosure: Any links to outside products are affiliate links and I may be marginally compensated if purchased. Don't worry though, I'd never promote something I dislike or wouldn't purchase myself.
THE INFORMATION PROVIDED DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. All content information is intended to be for general informational purposes only. Please see your doctor with regard to information attained from the above article if you are concerned with the health of your child. The content above is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. NEVER NEGLECT YOUR DOCTOR’S PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ.
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