What is Baby-Led Weaning?

For your baby, every experience is new and exciting. From their first words to their first steps, every moment is filled with the joy of discovery.

That’s especially true with food! 

All babies start with breast milk or formula, but sooner or later, they will start showing interest in solid foods.

In fact, there’s a good chance that your baby will soon be ready to start spoon feeding. Most parents know that soft, mushy purees and canned baby foods are a great way to introduce your child to more grown-up foods.

Baby-led weaning is a new approach to infant feeding that lets your baby start experiencing solid foods at their own speed.

If you’re interested in learning more about baby-led weaning, UpwardBaby is here to help!

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

Simply put, it's a weaning style that puts your baby in charge at mealtime. Unlike other feeding methods, it lets your baby decide – at their own pace – what they’re ready to eat.

You may have already noticed your little one paying attention to your grown-up food. They may even be reaching out for it during meal time. 

This is very normal. Your baby wants to eat the same good stuff that you get to eat.

In 2001, Gill Rapley first suggested that we allow infants to explore grown up food at their own rate. Since then, countless experts have embraced this idea.  

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should immediately give your baby anything they show interest in. Every piece of food you give your baby should be safe, healthy, and age-appropriate. You should always carefully monitor your baby when introducing solid foods.

Instead of coaxing your infant to eat mushy baby food, you'll let their natural curiosity take the lead. 

What Are the Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning?

Baby-led weaning doesn’t just give your baby more agency and control over how and what they eat. It also encourages them to explore adult foods at their own pace. 

Baby-led weaning can help make your baby less picky. Your child will be introduced to a more diverse selection of foods at a younger age. This will help them develop healthier eating habits as they grow. 

Babies who explore a wide variety of textures and flavors are less likely to refuse food. They are also less likely to say ‘no’ to food that they have picked for themselves! 

Once your baby adopts baby-led weaning, you might even be able to say goodbye to the airplane spoon and mealtime cajoling in general. 

Baby-led weaning also gets the whole family involved. When starting solids, your baby will not immediately understand how to feed themselves, which means the whole family can engage in the learning experience. 

Parents and even siblings can work together to make mealtime fun, offering positive social and developmental opportunities for your baby. 

Imagine a big sister or brother helping their baby sibling out at mealtime, reinforcing their family bonds, and learning from one another!

Baby-led weaning can also help your child improve their fine motor skills. Offering them baby-appropriate utensils and dinnerware like the kind you’ll find in the UpwardBaby Led Weaning Collection is a great way to start! 

As your baby practices using these soft, baby-friendly utensils, they’ll take an important first step in understanding their own independence. Our soft, silicone bibs also feature a pocket at the bottom to catch any food your little darling inevitably drops! 

Practicing simple tasks like using a baby-friendly spoon to lift food from a soft, silicone bowl is great for your baby's growing brain. It also takes some of the mealtime pressure off parents.

Led weaning is often more affordable than feeding your baby store-bought baby food. Once your baby fully embraces baby-led weaning, the need to buy pricy baby foods and formulas will decrease. 

If you’re a parent who makes their own baby foods and purees, you’ll be able to save time by simply preparing a single meal for the whole family. 

When you’re a parent, every dollar and free moment counts!

How to Start Baby-Led Weaning

Babies can start experimenting with baby-led weaning around 6 months of age. If your child can sit up on their own, grab objects, and (most importantly) is already interested in adult food, they’re probably ready!

However, all children are unique, so be sure to check with your pediatrician before diving in.

Make sure your baby is seated upright and well-supported. It also helps to have a UpwardBaby food-catching placemat to help contain and control baby messes. 

Start soft. ‘Finger foods’ are perfect for babies. That means small, bite-sized pieces that can be smashed with your fingers or easily dissolved. Think mashed potatoes and banana chunks.

Avoid harder, crunchy foods like raw apples or carrots. Anything with added salt, sugar, honey, or animal milk should also be avoided.

As a parent, your instincts are your best friend during baby-led weaning. Keep a close eye on your baby as they experiment with food. If anything seems too challenging or frustrating,  don’t hesitate to take it away. Be aware of choking hazards. If it looks like your baby is choking, step in immediately. 

Baby-Led Weaning Cheat Sheet

Not sure which foods are okay for your baby? No problem. Here’s a handy list to get you started, plus some things to avoid. Remember to cut everything into pieces that can easily fit in your baby's hands.

Baby Safe Foods

  • Steamed carrots
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Cooked sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Peas
  • Hard-boiled or scrambled eggs
  • Avocado pieces
  • Banana pieces
  • Tofu strips
  • Mango slices
  • Ground, soft meat

Foods to Avoid

  • Peanut butter 
  • Sticky foods
  • Chewy foods
  • Products that contain milk
  • Honey
  • Raw, crunchy fruit like apples
  • Added salt
  • Added sugar
  • Nuts
  • Crackers

Take it Slow

Most babies don't eat very much in the early stages of self-feeding. However, as they encounter more options, they will start to develop their very own food preferences.

Be sure to continue nursing your baby while they ease into baby-led weaning. Your baby will still need to get the majority of their nourishment from milk or formula, especially early on. 

It's up to you to discover how best to feed your baby. Most parents find success with a mixture of nursing, baby purees, and baby-led weaning. 

If your baby loses interest in solid foods after a few minutes of baby-led feeding, offer them another option before cleaning up. It's possible they're simply tired of practicing with challenging foods and want something easier.

As with everything, if you're not sure, ask your pediatrician. They'll be able to evaluate your child's developmental level, as well as test for possible food allergies.

You can learn even more about baby-led weaning by reading this excellent article from the Cleveland Clinic. 

Happy weaning!

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