What is Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning involves listening to baby’s signs and cues, noting readiness to eat solid foods. In this model, parents let babies lead their feeding journey, allowing them to self-feed.
Key pillars of baby-led weaning include:
- Feeding baby solid foods (instead of sticking to purees exclusively)
- Allowing baby to feed themselves
- Exposing baby to a variety of foods, flavors, and tastes
- Serving baby what the rest of the family is eating (cut up small and/or mushed for little tummies)
- Modeling how to eat by eating with baby at mealtimes
As a result of baby-led weaning:
- Babies have increased self-regulation, meaning they are better able to listen to their hunger and fullness cues
- Babies develop increased fine motor skills
- Babies have decreased risk of picky eating later in life
- Parents save time and money by only cooking one meal at mealtimes instead of cooking or buying separate “baby food”
The main concern with baby-led weaning is that babies often gag while eating. Gagging and learning how to chew and swallow is an important and essential skill, but sometimes this can be frightening for parents. For helpful resources on baby-led weaning, check out Solid Starts and Feeding Littles.
What about Purees?
Purees are the more traditional route of incorporating baby foods. These foods include fruits, vegetables, and even meats blended until completely smooth. This is often the format in which you will find baby food for purchase.
Many parents feel most comfortable starting with pureed foods before progressing to solid foods. Whether these are store-bought or homemade, baby purees are perfectly safe and appropriate for feeding your little one.
Can you incorporate both?
If you are on the fence and not sure which method to incorporate, the good news is, you do not have to choose. Many parents like to try a mix of both techniques.
What’s best for my little one?
As always, consult with your pediatrician to discuss which option is best for your little one and when to start feeding solid foods. If necessary, you can work with a registered dietitian nutritionist in a one-on-one setting to individualize you and your babe’s needs.