There are so many decisions that come when you have a new baby. One that I hadn’t anticipated was how I would feed my baby once ready for solid food. I just thought I’d prepare baby food and that was it. Then one of my friends whose child was a few months older than mine gave me a book on baby-led weaning.
What is baby-led weaning?
Baby lead weaning is a way to introduce your baby to solid food once they display signs of readiness like being able to sit unassisted, showing interest in food when they notice others eating and being at least 6 months of age.
Instead of the parent controlling the spoon and feeding baby, whatever is being served for the meal is given to baby. At first, food should be cut into strips that are 2 inches thick and long enough for the food to stick out of the baby’s fist so it can be eaten. Runny foods like yogurt can be offered on a preloaded spoon placed on their plate/tray so baby is in control of getting the food to their mouth. Once baby gets older and can pick things up with their fingers in the pincer grasp, food can be cut into smaller pieces.
The idea is for baby to be part of meal times and try many different foods with different tastes and textures. When baby is experimenting with food, they are also developing the coordination needed to chew, swallow and even speak.
What about choking?
The biggest concern parents and caregivers have about baby-led weaning is that baby will choke.
Many babies will gag, but this shouldn’t be confused with choking. The gag reflex in a young baby of 6 months is actually quite close to the front of their tongue and gradually moves back. When baby gags, the mouth opens and the tongue thrusts forward to try and get whatever is in their mouth, out. If they repeatedly gag as a result of putting too much food in their mouth for example, they will learn not to do that.
Of course, there is a chance that baby can actually choke on food and require intervention. For this reason, it is a good idea to take a first aid course to learn what to do in the case of choking.
While baby-led weaning can be VERY messy (our wipes make fantastic wash cloths!), it was one of the best decisions I made for my children. Meal times were a lot of fun while my children learned what foods they liked (and didn’t) and it fostered the feeling of meal time being quality family time now that my children are older.
Fav recipe for quick breakfast
Quick Oatmeal Fingers
3 level tablespoons of quick-cooking oats (not instant oats)
3 tablespoons of milk
In a bowl, soak the oats in the milk until you have a mushy mixture.
Press the mixture into a small, flat bottomed microwave safe dish/bowl using the back of a spoon
Cook in microwave for 2 minutes on high
Cut into fingers while still hot and serve when cool
We liked to press dried fruit like raisins into the fingers before they were completely cool or spread peanut butter and/or jam on them to change it up!
If you’d like more information about baby-led weaning, Baby-Led Weaning: The essential guide to introducing solid foods by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett is a fantastic resource.
Written by Jennifer Smith