Now that I have become a mom, I have realized that there are so many different ways to approach parenting, from what diapers you use, to what parenting philosophy you follow, to how your baby sleeps, to how you feed your baby. Being a parent is not easy and I support whatever approach works for your family.
I want to share something a friend told me about years ago. It is called Baby Led Weaning. When she first told me about it, I thought it sounded crazy. How can a baby feed themselves? Then I became a mom and it was almost time to feed my baby solids and my friend’s words kept popping up in my mind, so I did what I always do-Research, Research, Research!
So what is “Baby Led Weaning”, exactly? Many people wonder what it means and many are afraid of it. Baby led weaning is simply a way of eating, in which a baby self feeds themselves finger foods, instead of puréed food or being fed on a spoon by a caregiver, as they start solids. There are many benefits to it, including introducing babies to different textures, not having to purée food, being able to share what you’re eating, eating at their own pace, practicing hand eye coordination and gripping different foods, which improves their dexterity. It also gives them confidence and allows you to enjoy meals as a family. “Baby food” has not been around forever.
The term baby led weaning was coined by Gill Rapley. Gill was a public health nurse for over 20 years, a lactation consultant, midwife, and breastfeeding counselor. She has two books that are very helpful in feeding your baby this way-Baby Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods and Helping your Baby to Grow up a Happy and Confident Eater and The Baby Led Weaning Cookbook. Gill says “We now know that babies don’t need solid foods, and their bodies aren’t really ready for them, until they are around six months old. If you’ve waited until six months to start solids with your baby, you’ve skipped the spoon-feeding stage. At this age babies are quite capable of feeding themselves and they don’t need to be spoon fed.”
According to Wikipedia, “Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is defined as a method of adding complementary foods to a baby’s diet of breastmilk or formula. A method of food progression, BLW facilitates the development of age appropriate oral motor control while maintaining eating as a positive, interactive experience. Baby-led weaning allows babies to control their solid food consumption by “self-feeding” from the very beginning of their experiences with food. The term weaning should not be taken to imply giving up formula or breastmilk, but simply the introduction of foods other than formula or breastmilk.”
When I began researching, I started with the book, Born to Eat by Leslie Schilling and Wendy Jo Peterson. They are both dietitians and nutritionists. In their book, they say, “We are all Born to Eat and it seems only natural for us to start at the beginning—with our babies. When babies show signs of readiness for solid foods, they can eat almost everything the family eats and become healthy, happy eaters in the process. By honoring self-regulation (also an innate skill) and focusing on a whole food foundation, we can foster healthier children, parents, and families.” I learned a lot from this book, especially about what size food I should give to my baby, how long to steam the food, and how to know when he was ready to begin.
I also read the book, Baby-led feeding by Jenna Helwig with Natalia Stasenko. They say that one of the main benefits of self-feeding is the greater satiety responsiveness, the mechanism that allows us to eat until we are full and stop before eating too much. They also say that it boosts oral motor development.
It has been over two months now that my baby has been Baby Led Weaning. He started when he was 7 months old, because that’s when he started sitting up unassisted. He loves to eat and has tried so many foods now, from fruits to veggies to meats. You can see his journey on my instagram. To be honest, I was not confident about Baby Led Weaning when I started, so I took a course with feedinglittles and I am so thankful that I did. It calmed my fears and helped equip me with what to feed my baby and how to decipher between gagging and choking. It is an online course led by an occupational therapist and a registered dietitian nutritionist. For this month only, if you sign up with the promo code LIFEPOINTS, you will receive 10 dollars off their course. I learned so much from this course and also had a few friends I could reach out to for support, when I felt like the only one feeding my baby this way. So feel free to e-mail me with any questions. I have also listed some of my favorite food utensils for babies below. I will say Baby Led Weaning is very messy, but so fun! Happy eating!!
Baby Plate: Avanchy Baby Feeding Bamboo Plate - I love that this suctions to most tables and that it is made out of bamboo.
Spoons: ChooMee Baby Starter Spoons - I preload a spoon with steel cut oats or hummus and my baby loves to use the spoon himself and eat it. He also loves the feeling on these spoons on his gums and they bend.
Crinkle Cutter: This crinkle cutter is great for helping your little one hold on to certain foods. It gives it a different texture and crinkles it. It worked great for steamed apples, pears, and sweet potatoes.
Straw Cup: They say that straw cups are better for oral motor development, so we worked really hard to teach our baby to use one and now he loves to drink smoothies out of the OXO straw cup.
Cup: My baby loves to drink water with his meals with the Munchkin 360 cup.
Bibs: I love these Monkey Moo Bibs. They are made out of silicone and catch most of the food he drops.
Splash Mat: Baby Led Weaning is very messy and I recently discovered the Bumpkins Splat Floor Mat. This way if he drops something, I don’t worry that it is dirty and it all stays in one place.