Posted on behalf of Zayaan Schroeder who is a mother to two kids and is passionate about making their childhood memorable and happy. She has been a parenting journalist for 10 years and also runs a parenting blog called Surviving the Madness dedicated to making things easier for moms. You can follow her on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/survivingmadness/
What is baby-led weaning?
When most parents think about starting their baby on solids, they think jars of purees or spending time at the stove making purees for baby’s first taste of butternut. With baby-led weaning baby is in charge, kind of. The idea is that you present your baby with finger foods that they feed themselves.
The concept might be slightly wild and out there but this method has long been used by cultures around the world. It became popular in the UK in 2008 after Gill Rapely and Tracey Murkett published a book on the subject.So why would you choose to go the baby-led weaning route over traditional purees? According to registered dietician Clancy Cash Harrison it can help fine tune motor development, "Baby-led weaning supports the development of eye-hand coordination, chewing skills, dexterity, and healthy eating habits," she says. "It also offers babies an opportunity to explore the taste, texture, aroma, and colour of a variety of foods."
Another benefit of baby-led weaning is that your child learns to stop eating when they’re full. Often with spoon feeding the parent feeds their baby until they think baby has had his fill, usually trying to get a few spoonfuls more in after baby has indicated that they don’t want anymore.
When is my baby ready for baby-led weaning?
You shouldn’t start baby-led weaning before your baby is 6 months old and has reached all of the following milestones:
• Be able to sit unassisted.
• Have good neck strength.
• Lost his tongue-thrust reflex (automatically pushing food out of his mouth).
• Has developed adequate hand-eye coordination to put food into his mouth.
• Shows interest in joining family meals.
Be CPR ready
One of the things that you should definitely do if you haven’t already is to do a course in infant CPR and First Aid course. When you know the difference between gagging and choking you will be less panicked when your baby gags the first time and you’ll also be prepared in the off chance that choking does occur.
What’s the difference between choking and gagging? Choking is when the airway is blocked causing you to stop breathing. Gagging is often confused with choking and is actually totally normal and to be expected when a child begins to eat solid food. It’s quite the opposite of choking because gagging is the body's defence mechanism against choking.
Gagging is caused when a baby either has too much food in their mouth or if the food starts to go too far back before they have chewed and broken it down sufficiently. With babies their gag reflex is much farther forward and even though it seems scary, parents should just let baby work it out for themselves.
What do you need to get started?
Unlike with spoon feeding you don’t need a whole lot to start with baby led weaning. You’ll need an easy to clean high chair because one of the downsides of baby-led weaning is that it can get very messy. That means bibs are essential if you don’t want baby’s clothes to get dirty at every mealtime. The full sleeved apron bibs are the best for this type of thing. Or if it’s summer time, just strip baby down to his nappy and let him at it.Shop our range of high chairs.
At first you can place baby’s food straight onto the high chair tray if it’s plastic and easy to wipe down. Otherwise invest in some suction plates and bowls to try to minimise the mess. At first your child will eat with their hands but soon he will need spoons and forks to learn those skills.
Tips for successful baby-led weaning
Family meals: Try to have at least one meal of the day be with the whole family at the table.
First foods: Should be a selection of fresh fruits and soft cooked vegetables. Cut them up into thick, finger shapes so that baby can grip them easily.
Avoid: Salt, sugar, high choking risk foods like grapes, cherry tomatoes or nuts, honey.
Embrace the mess: Place a plastic sheet or some newspaper around baby’s high chair to catch the inevitable mess.