Baby-led weaning can be misleading to some parents as the name suggests that babies are beginning to be tapered off, or weaned, from breastmilk or formula. In reality, baby-led weaning is the method of introducing solid foods into a baby’s diet while skipping pureed food and spoon-feeding. That’s right, no more trips to the store to buy baby gruel. Your baby can begin to eat the same things you eat at mealtime. Cherish the small freedom you are about to receive.
To begin reaping the benefits of baby-led weaning you will need to check for signs that your baby is ready to feed itself. Caution should be taken with certain foods. However, the day-to-day routine is rather easy.
There is a cute saying that parents love to parrot over and over, “Food before one is just for fun.” Meaning, solid food is not necessary for babies as they are still getting their nutrients from breastmilk or formula. It does help to ease the never-ending stressors put-upon parents to be superstars. Some babies are ready to eat food at 6 months old. Others may not be reading until closer to being one year old. A perk of baby-led weaning is that your baby will let you know when they are ready. The first sign of readiness is that your baby can sit up on their own without support. You will also begin to notice your baby’s interest in what you are eating has increased. They may even begin to try to grab food from your plate. The last sign of readiness is when your baby has lost their thrust reflex. Their body is ready to swallow food when their tongue stops automatically trying to push food out of their mouth. Most of these signs present themselves around 6 months.
When your baby is ready for solid foods there are some foods to be cautious about.
Honey should be avoided until after age one because it can cause botulism in babies. Your baby’s gut is not mature enough to handle honey until the age of one. Often parents will choose to give their baby bone broth to help protect and enrich the developing gut. Milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, soy, and wheat are the top eight allergens. Consider your family history of allergies before handing one of these foods to your baby. Your baby will sometimes avoid foods that don’t agree with them so put a little faith in the human you’ve made. In that same breath, new foods often need to be introduced multiple times before a baby will acquire a taste for them so keep pushing those veggies.
Here comes the easy part. You can begin to give your baby food that you are already preparing for yourself. Size is the most important factor so you might have to put some ingredients of your dish off to the side for your baby before mixing it all together. Don’t listen to your hyper-nosy mother who keeps shouting for your baby to, “be careful!” because she thinks that they will choke.
Babies that are allowed to do baby-led weaning learn for themselves that a bite they’ve taken is too big. Surprise, surprise, they will spit it out. If your baby’s face is red and they are noisy, coughing, then they are not choking. Again, red and loud means not choking. Let your baby try to work it out. If they are silent or turning blue it means they are choking and you should intervene immediately. “Didn’t you say this it was the easy part? This just sounds like the terrifying part…” It’s not! When you are first introducing solid foods be sure to cut your baby long spears of food. Ta-da! Problem solved. Tiny bites will come later but in the beginning, your baby will need to be able to hold the food in a tight grip and bite it. Bananas work perfectly for this.
Baby-led weaning is a great way to work on hand-eye coordination as well as fine motor skills. Your baby will be able to learn how much their stomach can hold without stretching it out and overeating.
Baby-led weaning lets your baby explore their world of new sights, flavours, and textures. Offering up the right sized food and keeping a watchful eye guarantees a positive experience for you and your baby.
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