Many first time parents are clueless when it comes to how and when to start feeding your baby solids.
I know I was!
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Until I came across baby led weaning.
Baby led weaning is basically skipping the spoon feeding with purees and going right to allowing your baby to explore foods with their own hands. Foods are softened and cut into age-specific shapes and sizes to allow for safe exploration and self-feeding.
Some people do a mix of baby led weaning and spoon feeding purees. Some people use purees but continue to allow their baby to eat on their own. This can get messy but is a fun and important sensory experience for your baby!
Do what works best for your family.
In the 1920s commercialized baby food was introduced and marketed. People were told it was better than what you could prepare at home and the convenience of it was pushed.
Prior to that, parents waited until almost a year old to feed their babies anything but breastmilk or formula if absolutely needed. When they did start solids it was a safe form of whatever the rest of the family was eating – soft, cut up foods handed to the baby to taste and explore.
This is where the baby food trend is heading back to today. People are starting to make more of their own foods for their baby, and letting them feed themselves. And the thing is, they are perfectly capable of doing so.
None of this is to stay that spoon-feeding your baby purees is bad! If you and your baby prefer to do so then go for it!
There are so many benefits to doing baby led weaning or self-feeding with your baby.
- Less Meal Prep – Babies eat what you are eating (modified) so you don’t have to make extra food!
- Bodily Autonomy – Babies are born with the ability to know when they are full and when they are still hungry. When babies self-feed this encourages them to listen to their bodies when it comes to food, creating a healthy relationship with food.
- May Reduce Picky Eating – Babies who start eating solids by self-feeding are typically less picky eaters, as they are exposed to a variety of textures, shapes and colors from a young age.
When to Start Feeding Your Baby Solids
You can start feeding your baby around 6 months old, but discuss with your pediatrician what is best for your child. Some start a little earlier, some a little later.
How you cut up your foods and the types of foods you start feeding them depends on the age. I would suggest starting with soft fruits like banana, and cutting them into bigger stick-like shapes for them to pick up and grasp onto easily.
Related Baby Led Weaning Posts
Choking and Baby Led Weaning
Because babies are eating larger foods as opposed to being spoon fed purees a common worry is that babies will choke on the pieces.
The reality is choking during baby led weaning is actually very rare. If you do it properly and safely (which I have no doubt you will since you are here doing your research!), baby led weaning is very safe!
It’s important to know the difference between gagging and choking. Gagging is an important reflex that is not harmful at all and sometimes happens when babies taste something new or a piece of food gets too far back in their mouth. Gagging stops babies from choking.
My son rarely even gagged on anything, but there are videos you can watch so you can learn what it looks like and be prepared.
How to Start Baby Led Weaning
It’s not hard to start baby led weaning at all!
Start with very soft foods like bananas, avocados or raspberries. For general guidelines you want foods that can be squished by your fingers easily, so babies can squish them easily with their gums.
You also want them to be cut in large strips that are too large for your baby to eat whole and easy for them to grasp and bite into. This way babies will learn how to take an appropriate shaped bite to chew.
Avoid raw veggies like carrots. At the beginning avoid small foods like berries and grapes that can be easily choked on. As they get older and more experienced you can serve them safely by cutting them in half so they are less of a choking hazard.
Also avoid honey until one year old, as it is unsafe for baby bodies.
What You Will Need to Get Started With BLW
For anything you want to soften to feed your baby I 100% recommend the Baby Brezza One Step Baby Food Maker. I used this with my son even past the beginning stages and absolutely loved it. It’s a quick and easy way to soften any foods, and if you want to puree them you can do that in the same machine!
Ezpz is my go-to for any type of baby feeding utensils and supplies. They have beginner forks and spoons that are safe for babies and super easy for them to learn on. They have developmentally appropriate suction silicone bowls, mats, plates, and cups that help your baby practice and reach their feeding milestones! All products are designed with a pediatric nutrition specialist, so you know you are getting the best.
My favorite is the Happy Mat! It is a plate with 3 sections and a built in mat to contain the mess for easy cleanup.
You are definitely going to want silicone bibs. They are the easiest to clean and usually come with a pocket at the front to catch spilled food. This can reduce waste and mess! Some are even dishwasher safe!
These are just a few tips and tricks that really helped us while doing baby led weaning with our son. The wonderful thing about it is it’s very customizable for you and your family.