So what exactly is baby led weaning?
It is basically, letting your child choose the foods they wish to eat. There really is no need to cook food, blend it till it resembles a funny coloured liquid and serve it to our little ones on a spoon.
So long as your baby is 6+ months and can sit upright unaided (not slouched backwards), then they are capable of handling real food, just like you and me. Remember they should have full control of any food they put into their mouth, you shouldn’t place food into their mouth for them and never rush them or try to force food on them. There will be days when they want to try things and days when they are just are not interested in eating, that is all completely normal behaviour. My little girl will often tell me she is done eating or not interested anymore, by wiping the entire contents of her tray empty in one swipe of her hand. Remember – milk is their main food source until aged 1, so you really don’t need to worry if they are not eating very much. I love the saying – “food before one is just for fun”
Another one of the great things about baby led weaning, is that your baby can identify the foods they do like and the foods they dislike. However one of the problems with spoon feeding, is all the food you just cooked up, is mushed altogether in a puree. So how on earth does your little one know which food they dislike in that mouthful you just fed them? The answer – they don’t!! The chances are that eventually after a few spoonfuls of food they dislike, they will start to refuse all food that comes towards them on a spoon, because it all looks the same to them. With baby led weaning, you are giving them their food in it’s true form, so if they dislike a food they have tried, they can recognise it the next time, it also works for foods they like of course.
Some great things to read before getting started with Baby Led Weaning are:
and of course the book itself
It may be worth checking out if there are any classes in your area too, with baby led weaning become more and more popular, some countries now run little classes to cover the basic for those mums who are new or nervous about starting out.
So you’ve decided to go down the baby led weaning route with your little one, what are some good foods to start with?
Basically you can give them anything you eat, minus salt/sugar (You should ensure your little ones diet has no more than 1g (1000mg) of salt a day). You also need to avoid things that can become a choking hazard, like whole grapes, popcorn and nuts etc.
Allergies – I didn’t wait several days before introducing new foods, and I also didn’t avoid any foods as there is no history of any allergies in my family. So my little one had peanut butter, dairy etc from the word go. Obviously give what you feel comfortable with and, if there s a history of allergies in your family, speak to your family doctor/health care provider before starting with foods.
But how do I know exactly what size of food to give them?
A rule of thumb is, the food should fit nicely in a closed fist, with bits sticking out for them to gnaw off, as when you start out, your little one won’t have a good pincer grip, that is something they will learn as they go along.
Gagging: That is a scary word right? I know some get quite scared at the prospect of dealing with gagging and I can’t say it won’t happen because it probably will, it is all part of the learning process of how to move food about in their mouths. However unlike adults, their gag reflex is toward the middle of the tongue, not the back like us. Also remember gagging is completely different to choking, choking is silent where they literally cannot breath, gagging is making a sound and means they have complete control over what they are eating. If you are still concerned though, you can always check out a local infant first aid course near you.
Below are some great foods to start off with:
Roasted Veggies (things like carrot, parsnip, peppers, sweet potato, squash (various varieties), potato, eggplant, zucchini, beetroot etc) – cut the chunks a bit bigger than you want them to be, as they will shrink when cooked. – You can cook them with a drizzle of olive oil.
Steamed Veggies (things like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, carrots, suede, cabbage)
Mashed Vegetables – Suede, Potatoes, Squash
Cold Veggies (cucumber, celery (I removed strings when first starting out), peppers
Fruit – Bananas (I peeled back the skin halfway and the snipped off the loose bits with scissors, this means it isn’t too slipper for them to handle), Avocado (may be a bit slippery for them, you can roll in some baby oats to make it easier for them to hold, but I liked to give it to them as it is, as I think it is all part of the learning curve of working out how to handle food), Pear (lovely and soft for their gums when ripe), Apple (the smaller varieties can be given whole with a bite taken out for them to gum at, or you can lightly steam them), some of the juicier varieties are quite soft as they are , Peaches, Nectarines and Plums are also nice and soft when ripe, Melon (various varieties, be sure to remove any seeds – my little one loved melon cold from the fridge, I guess it was soothing on her teething gums), Citrus fruits (probably be a bit too acidic for them when starting out, so I would wait a while before adding them to their diet), Berries, Grapes and Cherry Tomatoes, are great foods for when they start to develop a good pincer grip (I cut mine into quarters),
Cheese – various varieties to let them try
Cereal – Things like weetabix and oatmeal can be made up slightly thicker than suggested, so it is easier for them to grab at. Be warned though it can be messy lol. I also like the organic low sugar wholegrain loops, which are great for when they develop their pincer grip, as well mini shredded wheat.
Grains/Pasta/Beans – Whole grain pasta, Brown Rice, Quinoa, Bulgur Wheat, CousCous, Millet, Lentils all great grains to serve when cooked. Beans (various kinds), Peas and Sweetcorn – are better served when they develop their pincer grip. But my little one like to gnaw at corn on the cob too.
Meat and Poultry – I would serve larger pieces of meat when first starting out, which they can hold easily in the closed fist and gnaw at, smaller pieces especially if the meat is tough, can become a choking hazard. Ground meat is good alternative if you are nervous with serving meat.
Fish – various different kinds out there to try, just be sure to check for any bones and limit fish high in mercury.
Eggs – great as they are or in various recipes, especially french toast and pancakes.
Bakery – so many different bakery items to choose from, just be weary of salt/sugar content. It is so easy to make your own too and bread items are great for topping with mashed avocado, homemade hummus, natural peanut butter, stewed fruit etc
Dips/Sauces – again be wary of salt/sugar. Things like hummus, Pesto and Stock etc, can be easily made up yourself to use in recipes.
What tools do I need? – One 6+month baby, a high chair, some good bibs and lots of yummy food. Oh and if you love your floor. I suggest investing in a mat of some kind to place underneath said highchair. Baby Led Weaning is messy business.
you can see my little girls baby led weaning photo diary here
and lastly – check out my various recipes here: Baby Led Weaning Recipes for more ideas!!!
Baby Led Weaning is fun.