The Ultimate Guide to Baby Led Weaning
Its feeding time and you are down on your knees trying to be at your baby’s level to feed them that banana purée with the imaginary airplane spoon, while making announcements and sound effects that come from cockpit. This is much more difficult because your baby keeps throwing that purée at your face.
A picture-perfect family scene: The baby is given a special place at the table and has a selection of finger foods on their tiny table. Here, they choose one food item all on their own and proceeds to it with much enthusiasm.
Of course, the second scenario sounds and looks much more appealing. So, it’s time to stop giving your baby the mushy stuff you have been buying at the supermarket. If your baby is six months old, then it’s time to bring out the big guns meaning: It’s time to introduce your baby to solids.
What Does Baby Led Weaning Mean?
The practice of baby led weaning has been on the back burner for too long. It’s mostly because mothers are afraid to give something to their baby that would cause harm to their health. It was Gill Rapley, a public health nurse that coined in the concept of baby-led weaning in today’s world.
The practice calls for skipping the spoon-feeding phase and going straight to natural finger foods. The philosophy of baby led weaning is that babies have the timeframe down to walk, crawl, cruise or grip on their own pace, then why not give them the added benefit of eating at their own pace too.
Weaning Allows Your Baby to Experiment with The Same Foods That Reaches Their Diet Through Breastfeeding
Of course, breastfeeding is the most nutritious food source for the baby but weaning is not far behind. The baby gets familiar with various flavors through the breast milk, which helps in the weaning phase. Introducing foods early allows the baby to develop a palate of their own and it increases their acceptance to those foods more easily. You can always continue with baby formulas alongside the solid finger foods.
How to Know That Your Baby Is Ready for Weaning
Solid food should not be given to a baby before six months. In some cases, even eight-month-old babies are not able to handle solid foods. It’s usually because their digestive system has not matured yet. You can always consult a pediatrician to know more about your baby’s health, in the meantime, look for the following signs before starting your baby on solid foods:
- Baby can sit up straight without any support
- Baby is no longer doing that tongue-thrust reflex (an action where your baby pushes out food with the tongue)
- Baby has developed pincer grasp (baby picks up food with thumb and forefinger rather than the palm and fingers)
- Baby is trying to chew the food first instead of just swallowing
- Baby is interested in grabbing food from your plate to eat
Pros and Cons of Weaning
While weaning is all about the baby, it also involves some (mainly pros) for the mother. The biggest benefit, as a mother that you will get from weaning is that you will have more time on your hands. No more mess and clean-up after feeding your baby and less stress during mealtime. In addition, it gives you the satisfaction that the baby is eating all on their own. Might we say, a proud accomplishment for the mother and the baby.
- The baby learns to self-regulate, which can lead to a healthier BMI
- Self-selection allows the baby to eat on his own pace, which gives him the ability to taste new foods and develop a liking to the ones that taste familiar
- It develops their motor skills, which gives them more hand to mouth coordination and firm grasp
- They learn to handle food in a safe manner. The texture of the food allows them to know to first chew and then swallow
- They can manage different types of food per their taste, size, texture and shape
- By giving your baby a chair of their own, you encourage them to observe and copy eating habits. This gives them the opportunity to learn more about food
- The biggest drawback of weaning is that you never know if the baby is getting all the nutrients. When a baby is six months old, he/she needs more iron from food. By cutting short on breast milk and focusing solely on solid foods, you might be depriving your baby of the necessary nutrients that the body requires
- It is hard to keep track of how much the baby is eating because most of the food might end up on the floor. Remember, their motor skills need a little fine tuning so, it is possible that they might lose their grip on the food
When starting on weaning, it is important to remain by your baby’s side always. Just because they can sit straight all by themselves does not mean you can turn your back for a few minutes. Following are some safety tips that you need to follow for weaning:
- Avoid foods that your baby might choke on such as whole grapes, nuts, cherries, apple or cucumber with skin, etc.
- Make sure that the baby is always sitting straight
- Stop giving those foods that show an immediate allergic reaction
Tips for Success
Always Remain by Your Baby’s Side: Just because you have eaten does not mean you are off the hook. Whenever it is your baby’s mealtime, sit down at the dining table and interact with your baby. This will encourage them to eat well.
Go for Easy Grasping Foods: Give the foods a unique shape by cutting them in thins strips, coins or with crinkles. This helps the baby to grab the food easily.
Start with Soft Foods: Puffed cereals, cooked egg yolk, shredded and moist meat, cooked vegetables and ripe fruits, these are some of the food types that you can introduce your baby to. They are softer than raw vegetables and allow the baby to become familiar with the food’s texture. Once they can easily chew and swallow these foods, you can give them hard food.
Many mothers are quite concerned on when to take the weaning step. It all depends on the baby’s motor skills and hand to eye coordination to determine whether the baby is ready for solid food or not. The bottom line is that it is better to introduce your baby to solid foods after six to seven months because by then, they will have a larger appetite and this will encourage them to eat better. In the long run, they will be able to maintain their weight and have a healthy grasp on their diet.