What is Baby-Lead Weaning?

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Baby-led weaning means letting babies eat finger foods by themselves, right from the start i:e at about 6 to 7months of age. It enables your baby to be in control of how much and whether they want to eat at all. This process gives them the opportunity to eat till they feel comfortably full, which enables them to believe in their instincts when it comes to hunger or feeling full.

Baby-led weaning is nothing but foregoing or skipping the process of feeding purees with a spoon to babies and letting babies feed themselves finger foods right from the start, from about six months of age.

The benefits of baby-led weaning are great:

  • It aids to fine-tune the motor development in your child. Baby-led weaning enables the growth of chewing skills, hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and healthy eating habits.
  • It offers babies a chance to discover the texture, taste, color, and aroma of a variety of foods.
  • It is also an early and important step for babies to learn about self-regulation, which is learning to stop eating once they feel full.
  • Let us not forget the benefits it has for you. You will not have to spend time blending homemade baby food or spend money to purchase those little jars of food.

Experts have noted that baby-led weaning has a lasting effect on a child’s eating habits, food preferences, and palates.

Note: Baby-led weaning might not be suitable for every baby. Babies with neurological issues or developmental delays should start solids more traditionally.

When can I start with Baby-Led Weaning?

To start with this process, you must wait until your baby is ready. The following signs give you an indication that your baby is ready:

  • Your baby should be able to sit in a high chair unassisted.
  • The child needs to have good neck strength.
  • The child should be able to move food to the back of her mouth with up and down jaw movements.

Most babies over 6 months of age are able to self-feed; however, in some children, strong chewing skills may not be fully developed until 9 months. The baby-led weaning process enables to develop of those chewing skills.

Recommended Baby-led Weaning Foods

Most experts suggest starting slowly. You must start with single-ingredient foods; doing this enables you to pinpoint any allergies your baby may have. Some great examples of first finger foods are:

  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Steamed broccoli florets
  • Baked sliced apples without the peel
  • Moist and shredded meats
  • Boiled Pasta
  • Omelets cut into pieces.

Food cut in thin, long strips, or also coin-shaped are easiest for your kid to handle. Once your baby develops the pincer grasp (thumb and index finger), which is around 8 to 9 months, serve food cut into small pieces. Examples are cooked beans, ripe mango chunks, pieces of pasta, and chopped steamed spinach. Once you have tried several single-ingredient foods, you can start offering mixed dishes to your baby. Ensure to offer high-calorie foods and foods rich in iron, protein, zinc, and healthy fats on the tray. It is also a good idea to cook with little or no salt as a baby does not process sodium well.

What can I do if My Baby Chokes?

Most babies can manage finger foods quite well, however, gagging is quite common in the early days of eating. It is a normal and reflexive safety mechanism that causes watery eyes, sputtering or coughing. Thus, parents should get rid of the food that the baby might find a bit challenging. On the other hand, choking occurs when food gets stuck in the windpipe or throat, thus blocking airflow. On choking, a baby probably won’t make sounds or move air effectively. Avoid this by keeping your baby away from choking hazards such as hot dogs, raisins, grapes, raw vegetables, popcorn, and sticky nut butter. To be safe, follow these rules:

  • Always be with your baby while she eats.
  • Ensure your baby is sitting up while eating.
  • Serve soft foods. Raw apples are considered one of the biggest choking hazards for babies.
  • If possible, take an infant-first-aid class, just for you to be prepared.

Pointers to Make Baby-Led Weaning a Success

  • Be prepared for a mess. The aim of baby-led weaning is to enable your child to discover food at her own pace, so that will mean a whole ton of smashing, smearing, and dropping food. That translates to a mess at every meal.
  • You can opt for a mixed approach. If spoon-feeding is something your baby and you are very comfortable with, then do not abandon it altogether before introducing finger foods to your baby. For the first couple of months, your baby will probably do a lot of licking and tasting but not actual eating.
  • Dine together. Let your baby eat at the table along with you as a family. Even better, try and offer your baby the same ingredients that are on your plate.
  • Let your baby use safe utensils: This is the key to encourage your baby to start self-feeding from early on. Allow your child to reach for the spoon and then put it to her mouth, either with or without your help. Encourage your child to lead the process. Allow your baby to start managing a kid-safe fork and spoon, but do not expect much food to make it to the spoon or rather to the mouth.
  • Be assured that your baby is getting enough nutrients. Your baby will still be getting most of her nutrition from breast milk or formula. So, there is no need to be concerned if she is not swallowing a whole lot of solids. If the child seems frustrated by her meals, consider giving her purees instead of finger foods until she gets used to self-feeding.
  • Do not get upset or emotional. Eating should be considered as a natural and an expected part of the day. Thus, there is no need to praise, scold, or pressure a child with regards to eating.

Once your baby has accomplished the art of self-feeding, you will no doubt feel relieved and have a whole lot of time on your hands to accomplish other tasks. However, till your baby achieves this milestone, there is no need to get anxious or frustrated. Remember, each baby is different, and they all achieve their goals eventually.

Also Read:
Baby Growth Milestones and Common Signs of Delay in Baby Growth
Signs That Your Baby Is Ready To Walk Plus How To Encourage Him
Leaving your little one behind is not at all Easy!

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