Starting your baby on solid foods, also known as "weaning" or "complementary feeding" is an exciting milestone for both baby and parents. However, it can also be overwhelming to navigate the different methods and options available, such as baby-led weaning.
When it came to weaning with both my boys we opted for mostly baby led weaning and it was one fun messy ride!
What is baby led weaning?
Baby-led weaning is a method of introducing solid foods to a baby's diet that allows them to feed themselves, rather than being spoon-fed by a parent. The approach emphasises the importance of following a baby's natural cues and allowing them to explore and experiment with food at their own pace.
Here are a few tips for starting baby-led weaning and a list of the best foods to start with, and foods to avoid:
Wait until your baby is ready: The ideal age for starting solids and baby-led weaning is around 6 months, but it's important to follow your baby's cues. Signs that your baby is ready for solid foods include being able to sit up unassisted, showing interest in food, and having lost the tongue-thrust reflex.
What are the best foods to start with?
Some of the best foods to start with include
- Soft fruits and vegetables such as banana, avocado, sweet potato, and pumpkin. Offer them in small pieces and let your baby explore and experiment with different textures.
- Bread with crusts removed. Avoid breads that have seeds or nuts as these can be choking hazards. Offer bread in squares of fingers slices that are easy for your baby to hold.
- Eggs. Offer them hard boiled or scrambled
- Tofu slices
- Cooked pasta. Offer small well cooked past such as spiral pasta that is easy to pick up.
Soft fruits and vegetables can be steamed or roasted to make them soft and easy for your baby to grasp. They can also be mashed or pureed for babies who are not quite ready for textured foods yet. Meat is best slow cooked with all bones removed. You may also give you little one a chicken leg to suck on since they are easy to hold and the meat will be very soft. (ensure any skin is removed before serving)
Foods to avoid:
It's important to remember that foods must be soft and appropriately sized to keep you little one safe. Avoid hard or round foods like nuts, popcorn, grapes, and hard or uncooked fruits and vegetables as they can be a choking hazard. Also, avoid foods that are high in salt, sugar, and added fats.
Gag reflex vs choking:
When it come to baby led weaning some parents can be nervous about choking. I get it and I remember well the first time I saw by little one gag when eating solids. It's important however to understand the difference between a baby's gag reflex and choking.
A baby's gag reflex is a normal reflex that helps prevent choking and it's important to let that develop while exploring food in a supervised environment. It's triggered when food touches the back of the throat, and it causes the baby to push the food out with their tongue. Choking by comparison is when a baby cannot breathe because food or a foreign object is blocking their airway and while you should always watch for this and never leave your baby alone while they are eating it's important to remember the difference.
Be prepared for mess:
Baby-led weaning can get messy, so be prepared with bibs, wipes, and a change of clothes! There are some great handy helpers on the market such as splat mats and high chair covers to make clean up time easier which are well worth the investment.
Most of all don't rush it
Be consistent: Offer a variety of healthy foods and keep offering them even if your baby doesn't seem interested at first. All babies are different and your little one will let you know when they are ready to try new foods. If they reject a food try offering it again in a week or so or in a different way.
Consult with your paediatrician. Before starting baby-led weaning and introducing solid foods, it's always a good idea to consult with your paediatrician or maternal health nurse to ensure that your baby is developmentally ready and to address any concerns you may have.
When it comes to starting solids, the key is to follow your baby's lead, be patient and always supervise during mealtime. By providing a variety of healthy options, avoiding foods that are a choking hazard and allowing your baby to explore and experiment with different textures and flavours, you can make the transition to solid foods a fun and enjoyable experience for both you and your little one.