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Baby-Led Weaning: Getting Started

Updated on June 19, 2013

What is Baby-Led Weaning

Baby-Led Weaning is a method of weaning babies on to solid food. It has been around a few years now and is gaining popularity. In truth before it was called Baby-Led Weaning I’m sure there have been mothers all throughout history who have used this method. Baby-led Weaning basically involves waiting til your little one is at least 6 months to begin introducing solid food. You follow their lead (hence the name) and offer real solid food. That means no mush, no purees and most importantly no pre-packaged, blended beyond all recognition baby food. Your baby eats real healthy food with you. You simply put the food in front of your baby and let him decided what, when and how much he is going to eat.

To find out more about Baby-Led Weaning and to discover the many benefits to this method of weaning read my other hub- What are the Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning?

Getting Started

There is a book that accompanies this method of weaning written by the woman who popularised it called Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapely. I would recommend you buy this as a good place to start. You should be able to find this book in your library if you don’t want to splash the cash.

Ideally you should read the book a few months before you wish to start to get you prepared. However it’s never too late to start Baby-Led Weaning. Even if you have already started traditional weaning you could switch to Baby-Led just pay extra care as your baby will not be used to chewing before they swallow at first.

The second great resource for Baby-Led Weaning is the internet. There are now quite a few good websites, forums and Facebook groups that are free and provide a wealth of information on Baby-Led Weaning. Forums and Facebook groups are great for been able to ask a question at the drop of a hat and to also get reassurance and advice from other parents. The Baby-Led Weaning communities I have joined have all being really friendly and helpful.

You may also wish to see some baby-Led Weaning in action. Many people new to the method find it hard to believe that a baby as young as 6 months old can feed themselves and that they don’t need to have their food mashed up. You tube has loads of videos of babies doing Baby-Led Weaning so this might be worth a watch if you are still unsure.

Recipes

The great thing about Baby Led Weaning is that you can feed your baby normal food so after the initial first tastes period you can just give them whatever family meal you are making. Obviously you have to make sure the food you serve is healthy and low in salt and added sugar. That said it’s always nice to get ideas and inspiration, especially when it comes to making food that is healthy for babies and easy for self-feeding. There are a number of good resources when it comes to recipes.

There is an official Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook that accompanies the method as well as blogs by mums who are baby-led weaning.

What Equipment Will I Need?


Really all you need is a baby 6 months plus and lots of nice healthy food to offer. However there are a few things that will definitely come in handy when Baby-Led Weaning. I run a website called www.blwequipment.weebly.com. This gives a detailed list of useful equipment with links to buy products. It also has a regularly updated blog and links to articles on Baby-Led Weaning. This is a good first place to start.

The main things you might like to help you with Baby-Led Weaning are:

-A wipe clean high chair without too many nooks and crannies for food to get stuck in. I use a safety first booster seat and just pop it on top of the table- It’s great and was only £18.

-A floor mat to catch all the inevitable food that falls on the floor

-A table mat- these are especially useful if you are eating out and are conscious of the table being clean or your little one making too much of a mess. The Tiny Diner ones are the best

-Full sleeved bibs that wipe clean. Because your baby will be feeding themselves Baby-Led Weaning is a little bit more messy than traditional weaning. Invest in a few easy to clean cover all bibs

-Cloths to clean up baby and the high chair. It is probably more economical and definitely more environmentally friendly to use reusable cloths as you will get through a lot of wet wipes. I actually use muslins. This works well because most people have plenty left over from when their baby was very young.

-A really useful piece of cooking equipment is a crinkle cutter. A lot of food that is good for a baby to gum and chew is not good for a baby to grasp. Think banana, avocado, kiwi fruit etc. All nice and soft but very slippy. A crinkle cutter creates grooves in these foods making them easier for your baby to pick up and grasp.

- A steamer is handy as some fruit and veg is too hard to offer raw in the early stages. Carrots and apples and such like should be lightly steamed.

-The other type of steamer that people often recommend is the one that cleans your floor. If you can afford one a lot of people swear by them to help clean up the mess involved with Baby-Led Weaning, or for that matter children full stop.

-Cutlery and Crockery- to start with you let your baby finger feed. Most parents choose to serve food straight onto the high chair tray or on a table mat- baby’s at this age tend to pick up any bowls and throw them. You can however get special bowls that suction themselves to the table.

-Many people also offer food on a loaded spoon. This way you can still give healthy foods that can’t be eaten with fingers- like porridge and yoghurt for instance. With a loaded spoon you simply load the spoon and hand it to your baby to feed themselves. For this you want to use short spoons- traditional weaning spoons tend to be long and thin and are not ideal for self feeding.

-Finally cups and beakers- this isn’t immediately to do with Baby-Led Weaning but many parents who choose this method are also conscious about what vessel to offer water in or expressed breast milk and formula. The recommendations by both health visitors and the dental profession are to offer liquids in a free flow beaker after 6 months. Some good cups are the Tommee Tippee First Beaker or the revolutionary Doidy Cup that is a completely open beaker designed with an angle for use from 3 months.


First Foods

The main question people usually ask when starting Baby-Led Weaning is what are some good first foods to offer? Well from a nutritional point of view because you have waited 6 months to begin there aren't many foods that are off limits. However don’t give honey til after 12 months. Also avoid too much sugar and salt in your baby’s diet.

Good first foods then are usually based on the texture and ease of gripping. So soft foods are ideal because your little one might not have many or any teeth yet. Harder foods can be offered but these should be softened by steaming or roasting. With traditional weaning many people start with fruit and vegetables and that is also the case for any Baby-Led Weaners . However some parents choose to go straight in with meat or cheese. Below is a list of some good first foods to offer:

  • Steamed/roasted carrot sticks
  • cucumber sticks
  • avocado
  • steamed asparagus
  • steamed baby sweetcorn
  • steamed or roasted courgette/zucchini
  • steamed broccoli
  • roasted sweet potato
  • roasted beetroot
  • roasted parsnips
  • roasted butternut squash
  • pear slices
  • peach slices
  • slices of steamed apple
  • mango slices
  • papaya slices
  • slices of watermelon
  • banana
  • Cooked Chicken- a chicken thigh is ideal as it has its own handle for your baby to hold on to
  • Cooked Beef
  • Cooked Lamb
  • Toast
  • Rice Cakes
  • Pancakes
  • Porridge Fingers

Choking or Gagging

One of the main things that puts people off Baby -Led Weaning is the perceived risk of choking. As a matter of fact what many people think of as choking is really gagging. Gagging is actually nothing to worry about- I know we all do- but it is simply your baby learning how to manage the food in her mouth and chew and swallow etc. Your baby has an amazing gag reflex so most of the time they will be fine without your assistance but of course always be on hand if they do need help to dislodge some food.

In fact some proponents of Baby-Led Weaning claim that there is less of a risk of choking with their method since the baby learns to chew first then swallow which of course is the natural order of things. With traditional weaning the baby first learns to swallow then later, when they are older, they are offered lumpy food that they first have to chew. This unusual lumpy food often causes babies to choke because they are not used to it. Moreover the baby has no control over what is going into its mouth with spoon feeding- some argue this lack of control means choking is more likely with traditional weaning.

Be prepared for quite a lot of gagging to begin with though, as your baby learns to feed himself. This is normal and try not to panic. Do not ever leave your baby unattended when they are eating.

Be Warned


If you like the sound of Baby-Led Weaning and you fancy giving it ago then you need to know that not everyone will support or agree with your decision. Family and friends may worry about the aforementioned risk of choking. They may feel that your baby isn’t getting enough food, some will shudder at the mess and of course a lot of people just like things to be done the way it has always been done. For many of our parent’s age they have all on adjusting to the idea of waiting till 6 months- many women of child bearing age today will have been weaned at 3 months- let alone the idea of letting your baby feed herself!

In terms of the medical profession little research has been done into Baby-Led Weaning. As such advice about it and backing for it is patchy. In some areas Health Visitors are know a lot about the method and are very positive about it- others will advise against it. I believe the situation is the same in the US and many other countries throughout the world.

Do your own research so you are confident and sure in your decision then stick to your guns. Don’t let pressure from anyone else influence the way you choose to feed your baby. It might be useful to direct concerned but interested friends and relatives to some of the information I have mentioned in this article. You may also like to show them my article on the Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning.

Here are some things to consider:

- Concerns about choking- see above section- your baby is of no greater risk from choking using the Baby-Led method than they are from traditional weaning

- Concerns about the mess- you care more about your baby’s health and well-being than a bit of mess! Also all weaning is messy, no matter what method you use

- Concerns about the amount of food being eaten- to begin with your baby will most certainly eat less than their spoon-fed peers. They are exploring and learning and a lot of food will be chewed and spat out, played with and thrown on the floor. A spoon fed baby on the other hand will probably be given the whole bowl of puree – every mealtime, every day. For this reason it is easy to see why people might be concerned but you don’t need to be. I found that after 2 months of Baby-Led Weaning my little one was eating most things he was offered. Furthermore, until a baby is 12 months old food is just for fun- milk, be it breast or formula is a baby’s main source of nutrition. Over feeding a baby is far more likely with traditional weaning and therefore a baby might cut their milk feeds too quickly and thus miss out on important nutrients.

- Traditional Weaning Was OK for You- politely point out that modern scientific research supports that a baby should not be weaned until they are 6 months old. Their bodies are not mature enough for anything other than milk before then. Moreover ever increasing levels of obesity and food intolerance and allergies suggests that the weaning babies at 3 months was not OK.

Don’t forget to check out my article on The Benefits of Baby- Led Weaning

For more information about Baby-Led Weaning, recommended equipment and yummy recipes visit:

www.blwequipment.weebly.com

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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      What an excellent article for young parents who have so many questions about how and when to wean a baby. Your advice is very well said and researched. Voted up!

    • Meg Moon profile image
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      Meg Moon 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you! It's a subject close to my heart :)

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Interesting article. It's a little bit to late for me but who knows...my sons could use it when they will have babies themselves! Voted up and interesting!

    • Meg Moon profile image
      Author

      Meg Moon 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you - maybe it will be more commonplace by then x

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