The Ups and Downs of Baby-Led Weaning

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

Baby-led weaning is when you offer your baby solid food which is softly cooked, cut into bite sizes or mashed; basically, foods that are not pureed. This is usually started at four to six months of the infant’s age. Baby-led weaning gives your baby the opportunity to be in control of when and how much food is being consumed by him or her.

Younger siblings usually tend to observe and imitate their older siblings and instinctively start the weaning process. Mothers with more than one child prefer this process as it gives them free time.

To new mothers, the weaning process can be traumatic. The main concern is about the possibility of the baby choking while eating on his or her own. If the baby is seated in an upright position with ample support and the food is soft, then, the chances of choking are minimal. During the weaning process, all babies will gag, remove food from their mouths or even move it around. Mothers need not be alarmed about this happening. This is all part of the learning process. It is important to ensure proper supervision during meals and to serve food that is soft. Mothers also have to make sure that the food being served is of appropriate bite size and texture.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Baby-Led Weaning

Advantages

  • Improves hand-eye coordination 
  • Boosts self-confidence
  • Builds fine motor skills 
  • Helps the baby identify and learn different textures, tastes, and sizes
  • Gives opportunity to explore and experiment 

Disadvantages

  • Baby-led weaning can be a messy ordeal 
  • Increases food wastage 
  • May lead to decreased intake of meat and foods containing iron, zinc, vitamin B12 as babies cannot chew meat 
  • May create an opposition to using cutlery, later on 

Signs of Readiness

It is important to remember that the developmental rate is not uniform for all babies. You must wait until your baby is ready to begin the weaning process. Here is how you will know when

  • Child should be able to sit on a high chair without any assistance from the parents.
  • Child must have neck strength. 
  • Must be able to have up and down jaw movements which will make sure that the food can be moved around to the front and back of the mouth. 

If you feel your baby is not ready or if he or she is more comfortable being spoon fed, you can combine different styles.

  • Steamed fruits (like apples and pears) or vegetables (like carrots or broccoli).
  • Soft and ripe fruits like avocados. 
  • Soft and plain fish fillets. 
  • Scrambled eggs or omelettes. 
  • Thin cheese slices 

Once your baby gets accustomed to a solid food routine, you can include items like:

  • Cubes of sweet potato 
  • Roasted pumpkin 
  • Corn on the cob 
  • Lamb cutlet
  • Fish fingers 
  • Meatballs 

The aim of weaning is to help your baby discover and explore while fine-tuning motor skills and their development.

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