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How to start my baby on solid foods?

Updated: Jan 15

When it comes to starting your baby on solid foods, there's a trending method called baby-led weaning (BLW) that's gaining popularity. Unlike the traditional approach of relying on commercial baby foods and spoon feeding, BLW allows your little one to explore and feed themselves with regular foods. In this article, we'll delve into the ins and outs of baby-led weaning, discussing its benefits, how to get started, safety considerations, and more.

Daughter eating spaghetti

So, how do I start my baby on solid foods – and what exactly is baby-led weaning? BLW is an alternative approach to introducing your baby to their first foods. Instead of purees and spoon-feeding, BLW involves offering baby-sized pieces of regular foods that your baby can pick up and eat independently. The journey of weaning begins around 6 months of age when your baby is ready to explore the world of solid foods. Strap in, and bring lots of wipes – because it's going to be messy.

The benefits of baby-led weaning are aplenty. One of the significant advantages is that it promotes good eating behaviours. By allowing your baby to choose what and how much to eat, BLW encourages them to become active participants in the feeding process, shaping their eating habits for the future. Research shows that babies introduced to solid foods through BLW demonstrate better hunger recognition and are less responsive to food, reducing the likelihood of childhood obesity

Moreover, baby-led weaning may protect against excess weight gain. The approach allows babies to be more involved in the eating process, controlling their pace and quantity of food intake. Studies indicate that infants weaned using BLW have a higher likelihood of falling within the normal weight range and a lower risk of being overweight compared to those fed with purees.

Daughter eating tomato

My personal favourite advantage of baby-led weaning is its potential to reduce fussiness around food. By introducing a variety of tastes and textures early on, BLW promotes the acceptance of a wider range of foods. Babies weaned with this method are less likely to be rated as fussy eaters and show a decreased preference for sweets as they grow. Esmée will eat absolutely anything, and is alway excited to eat dinner with us. One of my favourite things about her is she's willing to try anything new at least once and always lets us know if she likes it or not. This is how we found out her favourite food in the world is tomatoes – just like her peepaw!

Parents often find that baby-led weaning makes feeding their child easier. With BLW, there's no need to prepare separate purees or worry about purchasing commercial baby foods. Instead, you can offer your baby smaller, manageable portions of the family meals. This method also relieves some pressure from parents, as the child is trusted to self-select and regulate their food intake. It's really nice being able to cook one thing for the whole family, instead of preparing two different meals – saving time and dishes.

To get started with baby-led weaning, it's important to choose appropriate foods that are easy for your baby to handle. Foods like avocado, baked potatoes, banana, beans, ground meat, and soft-boiled green beans make excellent starter options. Remember to offer iron-rich foods as well, as they play a crucial role in your baby's growth and development. While introducing new foods, it's essential to be aware of potential allergens and avoid foods that may pose a choking hazard such as honey which can cause botulism in children under 12. If at first you don't succeed with a food, try, try again. Wait a few days, but prepare the food another way and try again. Give it at least 3 tries before ruling the food out, sometimes Esmée is in a bad mood, isn't feeling her dinner, or doesn't like the way I spiced her meat – but that doesn't mean she doesn't like the food we're serving.

Daughter eating mango

Safety considerations are paramount in baby-led weaning. Ensuring that your baby is developmentally ready to handle solid foods is crucial. Signs of readiness include the absence of a tongue thrust reflex, improved hand control, and the ability to sit up unsupported. Minimizing the risk of choking involves supervising your baby during mealtimes, serving appropriately sized and textured foods, and avoiding certain shapes or types of food that can cause choking. A good rule of thumb is anything smaller than your fingernail, is too small for your little one. Avoid small, sticky, or hard foods that are hard to chew and swallow.

It's worth noting that introducing allergenic foods early on, such as dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish, may actually help reduce the risk of developing allergies later in life. However, if you have a family history of food allergies or concerns about your baby's reaction to certain foods, it's best to consult with your paediatrician before introducing them.

When practicing baby-led weaning, it's important to create a safe eating environment. Ensure that your baby is sitting upright and supervised during meals. Avoid distractions like screens or toys that may hinder their focus on eating. If my fiancée or I are on our phones or get up from the dinner table, our daughter has a hard time finishing her dinner. Set a good example for your child, and eat dinner all together – until everyone's done! Offer a variety of textures and flavours to encourage exploration and sensory development. Remember that babies may initially play with their food and take time to develop their eating skills, so patience is key. We had more than a few meals end up on floor, but I would take cleaning that up over a picky eater any-day.

Daughter eating chicken

As with any feeding method, there may be challenges and potential drawbacks to consider. Some babies may take longer to consume an adequate amount of food, as self-feeding can be a slower process than spoon-feeding. There may also be concerns about the potential for choking, although research suggests that the risk is relatively low when appropriate precautions are taken. It's essential to assess your baby's progress, growth, and nutritional needs to ensure they're receiving sufficient nourishment. One of my proudest moments is when Esmée ate a whole chicken drumstick that I had smoked for dinner – she was so happy with her meat lollipop!

In conclusion, baby-led weaning is an alternative approach to introducing solid foods that encourages independent eating and self-regulation. It offers several benefits, including the promotion of healthy eating behaviours, reduced risk of excess weight gain, and most importantly – decreased fussiness around food. Starting baby-led weaning involves offering appropriately sized and textured foods while prioritizing safety and monitoring for signs of readiness. Remember to consult with your paediatrician and trust your baby's cues and abilities as they embark on their journey of exploring and enjoying solid foods.

Please note that every baby is unique, and it's essential to consider your baby's individual development, needs, and any specific recommendations from your healthcare provider when deciding on the best approach to introducing solid foods. Subscribe today and join the family to be the first to find out about new articles, updates, and our monthly newsletter!

Example of an 8 month old Baby Led Weaning Dinner
Example of an 8 month old Baby Led Weaning Dinner

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