Seeing your baby eat solids for the first time is such a magical feeling. It is both a wonderful time for both the baby and the parents. But when it comes to the first food intake of your child, what are the best baby led weaning foods?
Perhaps most of you will agree when I say that weaning is a bittersweet moment. You find it exciting because your baby can now eat solids – the usual type of food that we eat, but at the same time, there’s that feeling of sadness because you will realize your once little darling is no longer little. Your baby is now entering a major milestone in his or her life.
I remember the first time my baby ate solid food. I was feeling a mixture of emotions. I was smiling at the same time tearing up because I was happy, at the same time, I felt like my baby is already a grown-up. I know, that sounds crazy. But I guess, many moms will understand, and probably have experienced the very same feelings I did.
But you know, preparing for solids, and weaning is really a thrilling time not just for the baby but for parents too – especially mommies! We spend time researching the best baby led weaning foods, making sure that we are doing right, and giving our little ones the best option possible.
While knowing what is the right baby led weaning foods are is important, as parents (especially moms), it is also vital that we understand the process. It is, as I mentioned a while ago, a major milestone for our little ones. We owe it to our babies to make their first solid intake experience memorable.
All About Baby Led Weaning
Baby led weaning refers to the kind of approach used in introducing solid food to your baby. It was first coined by authors Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett in their book entitled, “Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods”.
In a baby led weaning approach, instead of receiving purees using a spoon, the baby is allowed and is encouraged to self-feed solid finger food.
Furthermore, in baby led weaning, babies are:
– encouraged to join the family during mealtime, and eat finger food on his own
– allowed to choose what food they want, how much, and how fast or slow they want to eat
– free to explore new tastes and textures – babies are not pressured to finish off any specific type or amount of food
– still allowed to nurse or feed using a bottle as often as they want to. Solids will just serve as a complementary food to milk. Also, baby led weaning is about trusting the baby when he or she wants to increase his or her solid food intake and decrease or lower down his or her milk (which usually happens on the later part of your baby’s first year)
The Best Time to Start Baby Led Weaning
Generally, experts agree that babies are must start taking solids when they are six months or older. Experts believe that when the baby hits six months, it is when his or her digestive system is more mature. Although in some cases, some babies start a little earlier than 6 months, while others delay it for a little while – until parents see that the baby is ready. Usually around 8 months.
As parents, it is important that we understand that babies are unique. They are different from one another. If your friend’s child starts eating solids at 5 ½ moths, it doesn’t mean that your baby should also eat at the same age. You have to be mindful of your baby’s readiness for solid foods.
Some of the common signs that you should watch out for to know whether your baby is ready for solids are the following:
– Your baby sits up well already without any support.
– Your baby lost the tongue-thrust reflex (which basically refers to when the baby automatically pushes solids out of his or her mouth).
– Your baby has already developed the fine motor skills to feed him or herself. Usually, pincer grasp development or the baby’s ability to pick up food between thumb and forefinger (not the palm or fingers) happens at around 6 months. Although, in some cases, it can be a little later at one-year-old.
– Your baby shows a willingness to chew regardless if he has few or no teeth at all.
– Your baby shows interest in joining mealtime. Usually, you would know this when he or she tries to grab food from your plate and then your baby will put it directly to his or her mouth.
But of course, to be sure, it is best to ask your pediatrician’s advice first before starting your baby’s solid food journey. The doctors are the best people to give us advice on whether or not it’s time for solids.
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
Before we talk about the different baby led weaning foods, I thought it is best also to understand the benefits of baby led weaning, which include the following:
- It helps develop good eating habits.
Through the baby led weaning process, your little one develops the ability to:
– Regulate by him or herself. According to studies, by being able to self-regulate, it helps set the child up for a healthier BMI in years to come.
– Self-select. Studies have shown that when a baby self-selects, it helps increases weight among underweight babies, at the same time, generally, it also supports a healthy weight among babies.
– Explore food choices. The ability to experiment with a variety of healthy food options as early as that helps in improve their food choices as they grow older.
- Baby-led weaning is educational.
Baby led weaning helps babies to learn the following:
– How to safely handle food, and then learn how to chew and swallow after.
– How to manage different types of textures, as well as tastes, sizes, and even the shapes of food.
– Sensitive hand-eye, as well as fine motor skills by learning how to grasp food, and then move it to their mouth.
- Baby-led weaning is easier.
Compared to the usual weaning process, or first solid food intake process, baby led weaning allows you to save time and effort. It definitely is so much easier compared to purees. With baby led weaning, you no longer need to waste time making purees. Instead, all you need to do is adjust what adults are eating to suit the baby.
In addition, when babies feed themselves, mommy and daddy can eat too – at the same time. Baby led weaning allows mommy and daddy to relax and enjoy eating their own food without having to worry about the baby.
Process of Baby Led Weaning
Unlike the usual process of weaning babies, baby led weaning does not need much to get started. All you need to do is remember the following:
- Make sure to establish a safe place for your baby to sit. First of all, you need to find a safe place where your baby can sit and enjoy the food! Most parents would use a high chair for babies. Personally, I love a highchair. It allows you to eat properly, at the same time, your baby learns how to eat independently as well. Although, there are babies who prefer eating while on their parent’s lap, which is also a good choice especially among beginners.
- Make sure to choose the right finger foods. There are so many food available food in the market, but which ones are considered as baby led weaning foods? Well, the rule in choosing baby led weaning foods is that they have to be healthy and appropriate finger foods. Later on, I will be sharing with you a list of baby led weaning foods for your reference.
- Do not hurry, start slowly. This time, you have to wait for your baby’s cues. Never force your baby to eat when he or she is not ready yet. What you can do instead is start offering solids to your baby once a day. Then, you gradually increase the amount of food intake as your baby grows or if the baby shows signs that he or she wants more.
- Make sure to commit to the process. When baby led weaning, it is highly encouraged that families make family mealtime a habit. Baby learns best by observation and imitation. Thus, when the family eats together and eats the same type of food, your baby will feel included, and mealtime will become a fun and meaningful experience for your child. In some cases when eating together does not work, you can instead consider eating a snack while the baby is eating his or her meal.
Best Baby Led Weaning Foods
Now that you already know what baby-led weaning is all about, and you already understand the importance and the process of baby-led weaning, let’s move on to the most exciting part! I bet you have been waiting for this!
Kidding aside, here are some of the best baby led weaning foods:
- Roasted sweet potato wedges
- Soft cooked or roasted apple wedges, skin on to help them hold together
- Soft cooked green beans with the skins removed
- Roasted or steamed broccoli florets (Make sure they are big enough for your baby to hold.)
- Very ripe peaches and pears, plums, and melon slices
- Soft cooked pumpkin
- Soft cooked or roasted asparagus
- Soft cooked or roasted bell peppers
- Blackberries and blueberries (Make sure to slice them upwards to avoid choking.)
- Brussels sprouts
- Butternut squash
- Soft cooked carrots
- Soft cooked cauliflower
- Soft cooked cucumbers
- Boiled and well-cooked green beans
- Cooked kale
- Soft cooked or roasted potatoes
- Soft cooked or roasted tomato
- Watermelon (You may also create popsicles out of watermelon and other fruits especially when baby is teething.)
- Lamb on the bone (or you may opt for a large piece for your baby to stuck on)
- Well-cooked egg yolk
- Meat or poultry (like dark mean chicken)
- Soft, well-cooked liver
- Slices of sprouted bread, cooked pasta, brown rice
You can basically offer anything healthy – particularly most kinds of fruits and vegetables. To be sure though, consult your baby’s healthcare provider.
Foods That Must Be Avoided When Baby Led Weaning
Meanwhile, when baby led weaning make sure to avoid any of the following:
- Food that is hard, sticky, or crunchy
- Food with obvious pieces that might break off and get stuck in baby’s mouth (which could lead to choking)
- Added salt
- Cow’s milk
- Added sugar
- Honey (Not until your baby reaches one year old.)
- Super slippery foods that would be very challenging for baby to hold
- Wheat (It must be avoided until later in the first year.)
- Unhealthy and processed foods like chips, popcorn, sugar-containing foods, as well as breakfast cereals, gum, and hard candy.
Important Tips When Baby Led Weaning
If you opt to do baby led weaning, please take note of the following very important tips or reminders:
- Do not let your baby get too hungry. Like adults, hungry babies can get fussy and irritated, and when that happens, it’s totally going to be a riot. It would be an unhappy experience for everyone. Thus, make sure to nurse or bottle-feed your baby up to at least an hour before he or she eats solids. That way your baby’s tummy doesn’t get too empty.
- Take loads of patience. Just like anyone, when you are starting something new, it usually takes a little while. All the more when its babies! Be very patient. It can take a while when they are in charge. But do not worry, because eventually, they will get the hang of it, and feeding or mealtime becomes quicker.
- Manage your expectations. Remember, you are dealing with babies. Do not expect them to learn in an instance. Experts suggest to forget about expectation and let it be a learning experience instead – not just for your baby but for you as parents too. At the start, do not expect them to eat a lot, because most likely they won’t and that’s totally fine.
- Expect it to be messy. If there is something that you should expect – that is that it will be messy. Babies will sure mess up and play around with food. So, if you are obsessive-compulsive, this is not the right time for that. Anyway, most parents would let their baby be naked as it is the easiest way to clean them after eating.
- Make sure the food is soft enough. At six months, most likely, your baby does not have any tooth yet. Thus, you have to make sure that your baby’s food is soft enough. The best consistency is when you can smash the food between your finger and thumb.
- Avoid cutting the food too small. Mommies and daddies, please avoid serving small pieces of food. When baby led weaning, it is important that your baby is able to grasp the food. Thus, serve pieces of food large enough instead. Some parents find cutting food using crinkle cutter easier or in some cases, they role pieces of food in oat flour to make it easier for baby to hold.
- Do not overwhelm your baby with food. Do not put too many pieces of food on the highchair or table all at once – just enough to avoid overwhelming your baby with food.
- Start new food a day or every few days. According to experts, ideally, you stick with the same kind of food at least three days. Doing so will help you determine whether or not your baby is allergic to the food. I suggest you come up with a meal plan to make your life easier.
- Make sure to vary the textures of the food you offer. The varying texture will help expose your baby to the different kinds of food there is.
- Solids are not breastmilk or formula milk replacements. It is important that as parents, especially moms, we know that solids do not replace breastmilk or formula. Milk will continue to satisfy your baby’s hunger usually until they reach a year old.
- Consider nutrient intake. Although you can basically pick any ”healthy” food for your baby, experts highly recommend choosing the ones containing high-calorie, iron, zinc, protein, and healthy fats.
- Make sure to wait until your baby is read. As mentioned earlier, when baby led weaning, it is very important to wait until your baby shows signs of readiness. The success of baby led weaning, after all, will depend on your baby’s readiness.
Weaning is should be an exciting time not just for the baby but for the rest of the family. It should be a time to be taken advantage of especially since baby led weaning promotes togetherness. You know, as much as possible you must eat together as a family.
Meanwhile, there really is no specific formula or requirement when it comes to choosing baby led weaning foods. But particularly among first-time-moms, when in doubt, you may always choose to consult with your pediatrician.