As a first time mom, I’m always reading parenting books and blogs to find out the best way to parent, but obviously, there is no right way, just what makes sense for you, for baby and for your family. My baby recently turned 6 months and according to the World Health Organization this the optimal time for babies to start solids. I have been exclusively breastfeeding my daughter, so as her 6-month mark was approaching, I began to panic and obviously started googling things and how I should go about feeding her. I didn’t know much about starting solids, but what I did know, is that I did not want to feed her anything store-bought and in a bottle. I wanted to feed her homemade food and preferably organic. That’s when I stumbled on the concept of Baby Led Weaning.
Basics of Baby Led Weaning
When I first stumbled on this concept, I thought it meant that the baby is weaned off breast milk, but it’s a bit of a misnomer. It’s about the baby taking the lead in their food journey, exploring and enjoying healthy family meals from their very first taste of solid food.
Baby-led weaning is the idea that if babies are given the opportunity to handle food at the right time, they will start to feed themselves when they are ready. For most babies, they are ready at about 6 months. This allows the baby to progress at their own pace and cutting down on milk feedings when they are ready. It takes away the puree-ing step that is the conventional approach, so there is no spoon-fed puree’s. Because sucking pureed food from a spoon does not get baby prepared for chewing. The best way to develop chewing skills is to practice them on food that actually needs chewing– so regular, unmashed food!
When to Begin
It was previously recommended for babies to start solids at 3-4 months when they are unable to feed themselves because they are too young, so parents pureed foods and fed it to them. But we now know that babies don’t need solids and their bodies are not ready for it until around six months of age.
At around six months, babies are usually able to sit up with little to no support and have good neck control, they are able to grab things with their fingers and grip them and they are able to bring things to their mouth. With these skills, they are ready and capable of feeding themselves, what smarties! Many parents find a baby of six months refuses to be fed by someone else, they want to handle food themselves because they want to find out about things by testing it out with their hands and mouths. I know my daughter wants to put everything in her mouth, especially our TV remote and our cell phones!
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
- Allows each baby to move on to solid foods at the right time and pace for her developing body, and ensures that primary milk feedings are not cut out too early
- Helps to develop babies hand-eye coordination, dexterity and chewing skills
- Allows baby to each as much as they need in her own time, which can help establish good eating habits that may last a lifetime– which could help to avoid obesity and other food-related problems
- Decreases chances of becoming picky eaters and mealtime battles– because there will be less pressure on babies to eat, so less chance for meals to become a battleground
- Allows babies o explore taste, texture, color, and smell of individual foods
- Encourages confidence at mealtimes and enjoyment of a wide range of food
- Avoids time-consuming process of pureeing foods: Which is a lifesaver for me, because I don’t think I would get anything else done (not that I get too much done right now)
- Allows babies to part of the family mealtimes from the beginning
- It makes exploring food and mealtime FUN!
What to expect with Baby Led Weaning
- The first few months of Baby Led Weaning are about exploring food, not necessarily about eating
- As babies, milk feedings (breast milk or formula) are still providing her almost all of her nutrition until they are about one year old.
- At six months baby’s coordination will be developed enough for them to get things into their mouth more accurately, but won’t treat food any differently from their toys
- They will explore with their hands and mouth and they’ll realize that it has a taste, but won’t really understand what it’s for eating
- The Gag Reflex: Many babies will gag when they are learning to manage solid foods in their mouth, which helps them to learn to eat safely and not to overfill their mouths or to push food too far back before it’s been fully chewed. Some babies gag only once or twice, while others will gag for a few weeks. Both are normal, as all babies develop differently. The gag reflex is babies are very sensitive and is activated more easily. Gagging can be uncomfortable to watch, most babies aren’t really bothered by it. They will usually bring the offending piece of food-forward quickly and either spit it out or chew it and carry on happily. To ensure the gag reflex works properly, the baby must be sitting upright while eating and it is important that the baby foods the food into their own mouths and no one else, so they can have better control of each mouthful.
- It is important to note that gagging is not the same as choking, which occurs when something completely or partially blocks the airway, but a total blockage is rare and babies can usually cough up something that is partially blocking their airway. Choking is no more likely with baby-led weaning than with spoon-feeding.
- Baby-led weaning will allow the baby to be included in family mealtimes, they can watch what others are doing and they are offered the chance to join in
- Nobody “feeds” the baby, when a baby is ready they will start handling food and taking the food to their mouth themselves
- The poop will start to change! It will start to be less liquid and will have more of a smell!
It’s been a few days since we started my daughter on solids, so far she has had some baked sweet potatoes, a bit of Avocado, Banana, Rice, and Apple. And so far, she’s only really eaten the banana, everything else has just mostly been sucked on and nibbled on and she gets it all over her clothes and her face! Each time has been put in front of her, for her to pick up, she looks at it and then picks it up and takes it straight to her mouth. When I first placed the banana in front of her, she looked at it intriguingly and looked quite pleased, but once she put it into her mouth, it was a very funny face that she made, almost disgust, but still quite intrigued. I’m happy to let her make a mess and explore, as I know that she will be getting most of her sustenance from breast milk. However, six months is also when a baby’s gradually are developing a need for more nutrients, such as iron, which is no longer supplied by breast milk. So what are good sources? Obviously eggs, low-fat proteins, such as chicken and fish. But as previously mentioned babies are not really eating at this stage, so what are good alternatives? As mentioned earlier I do not want to feed my daughter any store-bought foods and I want it to be as natural and organic as possible. I have been able to find just that with the Childlife Multivitamin, which I will be supplementing her with.
I would love to know how your baby’s first food journey is going and pictures would be amazing! Let us know in the comments below how the experience has been so far and if you have any tips. Connect with us on Social Media to stay informed about more ways to Live Life Naturally and make sure to comment below to share your thoughts with us!