What Is Baby-Led Weaning?February 17, 2021
Baby-led weaning is the practice of introducing handheld finger foods to babies when they start solids rather than spoon-fed purees.
This feeding approach was first made popular in the UK almost a decade ago with the publication of Baby-Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. It has since become popular among new parents who are introducing solids to their children.
Baby-led weaning allows self-feeding right from the start and gives infants an opportunity to develop healthy eating habits early on. It provides the child with the independence to eat at their own pace and control food consumption. By letting babies self feed, they will eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.
At What Age Should I Start Baby-Led Weaning?
Typically babies begin eating solid foods around 6 months old. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a baby is ready to start solids with baby-led weaning when:
- They can sit unsupported in a high chair with good head control.
- They show signs of being interested in food. Your baby may be ready if they watch you eating, reach for your food, and seem eager to be fed.
- When you feed them, they are able to move food to the back of their mouths and swallow it, rather than spit it out.
- They’ve doubled their birth weight.
The Best First Food Options for Baby-Led Weaning
When feeding your baby, pieces of food should be cut finger-sized so they are large enough that your baby won't force the whole piece into their mouth. In the beginning, infants typically have not mastered the pincer grasp (thumb and index finger) and you want to ensure that they can grab pieces of food with their palm.
Here are a few of our favorite foods:
- Roasted sweet potato wedges
- Baked sliced apple wedges without the peel
- Roasted or steamed broccoli florets (big enough for baby to hold)
- Melon slices
- Ripe mango slices
- Banana with some of the peel still on the bottom (this gives the infant something to grip)
- Avocado spears (make sure the avocado is ripe and soft)
- Omelets cut into pieces
- Strips of chicken
Tips for first foods
The texture is important and foods should generally be soft enough to squish between your thumb and forefinger, with the exception of the large pieces of meat.
The Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning
1. Involvement during family mealtime
With baby-led weaning, babies are included in family meals and enjoy social time with parents and siblings. This also offers the convenience of feeding your baby the same food as the rest of the family.
When babies eat with the entire family, they learn about how different foods are eaten. Sharing mealtimes creates a positive environment that fosters family relationships, social skills, language development, and healthy eating.
2. It helps children develop variety at a very early age
Babies who are fed using baby-led weaning tend to be less picky eaters because they are exposed to different food textures and flavors from a younger age. These children grow up eating a greater variety of foods and have shown to be less likely to have food allergies. This may result in higher intakes of healthier foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables and unprocessed foods as the child grows up.
3. Improved long term health
Eating habits that are developed early on can last a lifetime. Babies who are allowed to self-feed at their own pace and decide when they've had enough are less likely to overeat when they are older. By practicing self-regulation at a young age, there is a lower risk of obesity later on in life.
Because the goal of baby-led weaning is to let your little one explore food at their own pace, mealtimes can get pretty messy. Check out our bowl and spoon sets and silicone baby bibs for the perfect mealtime essentials to get started with baby-led weaning.