What Parents Must Expect With Baby Led Weaning
When you think of weaning your baby, you may only be thinking of your baby weaning off of breastmilk or formula to go to regular milk and solids. However, that is not the only time that the term 'weaning' is used for your baby. In fact, think about when your baby no longer needs you to spoon feed them or to give them a bottle. That will be the time when your baby feeds themselves independently.
The transition from you feeding your baby to your baby eating on their own independently is known as baby led weaning. That is one major milestone that parents of infants look forward to as that is just a sign of the baby gaining some independence. In fact, when your baby is ready to make this transition, the baby purees are no longer necessary and they can start eating soft finger foods. This is quite beneficial for infants.
Why Is Baby Led Weaning Helpful?
Baby led weaning is an important part of the infant's development because it helps to support their eye-hand coordination development, dexterity, chewing skills, as well as healthy eating habits. Additionally, babies have the opportunity to explore the foods they eat through the color of the food, as well as the texture, smell, and taste. That opens up another brand new world in addition to the other new worlds that babies are finding on their own.
Another benefit of baby led weaning is that infants begin to regulate themselves with eating. They stop eating when they are full. Infants that are spoon fed will keep eating even if they are full. Maybe they will push themselves away from the spoon to make it known they cannot eat anymore. However, that is not always the case, and oftentimes there are consequences from it. The consequences are that the baby gets sick or puts on weight too quickly. Therefore, baby led weaning can promote awareness of food intake. It encourages good eating habits later in the child's life as well for this reason. However, you want to introduce baby led weaning at the right time.
What Is The Best Age For Baby Led Weaning?
In most cases, the average infant that is six months old is at the optimal age for baby led weaning. At that point, they can sit unassisted in a high chair, have strong neck muscles, they can grasp onto foods, and have lost the tongue-thrust reflex. However, that is only relevant to infants that are developmentally on par. Babies that are six months old that have special needs, neurological issues, or are developmentally delayed are not like the average six-month-old infant. In fact, they should begin eating solids the traditional way as they would not be capable of feeding themselves until much later.
However, even in some cases, the typically developing infant may not always be able to begin baby led weaning at six months. Sometimes their chewing skills are further behind and may not always come in until around nine months. The essential thing to do for any parent that wants to introduce baby led weaning to their infant is to talk it over with the baby's paediatrician. Even if the baby is developing as expected, there may be still reasons that the paediatrician may want the parents to hold off on it for some time.
However, even with babies transitioning from eating pureed foods that are spoon fed to them to independently eating solids - they still require nutrients from breastmilk and formula until around 12 months. The next thing to know is what foods are appropriate for baby led weaning.
What Are The Recommended Foods For Baby Led Weaning?
You already know that foods that are soft so the baby can chew easily and cut up in small pieces to drastically reduce the risk of choking are ideal finger foods for an infant. That means foods such as moist chicken strips cut up, egg yolks cut into pieces, sliced apple without the peel, cut up banana, as well as a cut-up avocado are ideal. Steamed vegetables such as carrot slices and broccoli florets with a stalk are also good starter finger foods. The paediatrician will be able to give parents the rundown on the foods to start with and the foods to avoid.
The important thing to remember is to cut the foods up to the point that they are the same sizes as nickels. They can pick the pieces of with their palms so they can feed themselves. Once the baby has been able to get the hang of baby led weaning and can tolerate the food given, you can mix up different dishes. Give your baby a piece of meat, a vegetable, and fruit. You can give them crackers or cut up pasta for starch as well. They need the calories and nutrients to grow.
What Else Is There To Expect With Baby Led Weaning?
The first thing to expect is to be present with your baby at all times as he or she feeds themselves. There is always that risk that your baby could choke or fall off of the highchair if unsupervised. Once you give your baby dinner on the plate on the highchair table, don't leave the kitchen. Have a snack at the same time while you watch your baby eating. The least concerning thing to happen without your presence would be your baby dropping the plate of food onto the floor. That means you will have a big mess to clean up.
Speaking of messes, you have to expect some big messes to happen as your baby begins eating independently. Be sure to keep a large bib on your baby to catch all of the droplets of food pieces. Plenty of it will be dropped and will cover up their clothes otherwise which increases your laundry load.
It is natural for parents to be nervous about baby led weaning. It is a big transition, and any new milestone that children meet is exciting and nerve-wracking. As mentioned, talk to your baby's paediatrician before beginning the process. Then start out slowly until your baby is used to eating solids independently, and that you have gotten comfortable with the change. Your baby's meals will keep evolving from there.