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What is Baby-Led Weaning? Just how to Help Your Infant Feed Himself

Hands off, mama! With baby-led weaning, your kid is in charge. It may be a good thing to occur in the high chair because the invention of the bib. Below are a few strategies for baby-led weaning success.

It’s a familiar scene: Mom or Dad delivering sweet potato purée into Baby’s wide-open mouth via that special airplane spoon—detailed with sound files and announcements from the cockpit. But also for the parents who practice baby-led weaning, the picture of Baby’s mealtimes looks much different: The youngest person in the family sits in the high chair before a spread of finger foods, trying to transfer the bits from tray to tongue all by himself.

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Popularized in the U.K. with the publication of Baby-Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, this technique has for ages been used around the world. Now, enthusiasm for baby-led weaning is also growing in the United States. It’s especially popular among young parents buying a more natural and family-friendly means of serving solids.

Continue reading to master about the benefits of this feeding method, with methods for how to begin baby-led weaning yourself.

The Advantages of Baby-Led Weaning

The bottom line is, baby-led weaning means skipping spoon-feeding purees and letting babies feed themselves finger foods from the start—at about age 6 months. The huge benefits could be great, says registered dietician Clancy Cash Harrison, author of Feeding Baby.To begin with, it helps fine-tune motor development: “Baby-led weaning supports the development of hand-eye coordination, chewing skills, dexterity, and healthy eating routine,” she says. “It also offers babies a way to explore the taste, texture, aroma, and color of a variety of foods.”

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Additionally it is an early—and very important—step for babies in learning self-regulation: learning how to stop eating when they think full. “Babies who self-feed cannot realistically be produced to eat more than they want since they will be feeding independently,” says Natalia Stasenko, a pediatric dietician and co-writer of Real Baby Food. With spoon-feeding, she says, “Parents can sneak in a few more spoonfuls even though the baby is full. Doing so frequently will teach the child to routinely eat a lot more than he needs and stop regulating his intake efficiently.”

Though few scientific studies have now been conducted on the subject, experts see potential for baby-led weaning to have a lasting influence on a child’s food preferences, eating routine, and palates. Plus, you won’t have to purchase little jars of food or spending some time blending, freezing, and defrosting homemade baby food. (#momwin!)

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It’s important to see, though, that baby-led weaning might not benefit every baby. “Babies with developmental delays or neurological issues should start solids more traditionally,” says Dina DiMaggio, M.D., a pediatrician in New York City and coauthor of The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies & Toddlers.You’ll also need to be extra vigilant about choking and food allergies.

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When Should I Start Baby-Led Weaning?

Wait until your infant is ready. Your child should have the ability to sit in a high chair unassisted, have good neck strength, and be able to move food to the back of her mouth with up and down jaw movements, Harrison says. “Most healthy children over 6 months of age are developmentally able to self-feed; however, strong chewing skills in some children might not be fully developed until 9 months. The baby-led weaning process can help develop those chewing skills.”

Also note that “weaning” is truly a tiny misnomer. “Breast milk or formula will continue being a baby’s biggest supply of nutrition until he or she is 10 to 12 months old,” says Stasenko.

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The Best Baby-Led Weaning Foods

You might see photos on baby-led-weaning Facebook pages of babies chowing down on all sorts of improbable foods, from drumsticks to casseroles. But most experts recommend beginning more slowly. “Begin with single-ingredient foods so you will end up able to pinpoint any food allergies,” says DiMaggio.

Examples of first finger foods include banana, avocado, steamed broccoli florets with a stalk “handle,” baked sliced apple without the peel, moist and shredded meats, poached and flaked salmon, pasta, omelets cut into pieces, or strips of chicken.

Substantial-size pieces—cut in long, thin strips, coin-shaped, or with a crinkle cutter—are easiest for your infant to manage. That’s because very few 6- to 8-month-olds have mastered the pincer grasp (thumb and index finger), so they’ll grab foods making use of their whole palm. Once your infant develops this pincer grasp, around 8 to 9 months, serve food cut into small pieces, like ripe mango chunks, cooked beans, chopped steamed spinach, and pieces of pasta.

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Also understand that texture is key. The food you give your novice eater ought to be soft and simple to smash with gentle pressure between your thumb and forefinger. For instance, you ought to steam fruits and vegetables when beginning baby-led weaning, says Leslie Schilling and Wendy Jo Peterson, both moms, dietitians, and co-authors of Born to Eat: Whole Healthy Food From Baby’s First Bite.

Once your infant has tried and tolerated several single-ingredient foods, you can begin offering mixed dishes. Ensure you will find high-calorie foods and those with iron, zinc, protein, and healthy fats on the tray, advises Stasenko. “It is also advisable to cook with little if any salt since a baby’s body cannot process sodium well,” she adds.

The most comprehensive list of finger foods and first foods for baby led weaning and introducing solids from 6 months – blw tips and inspiration for picky eaters, simple recipes and first foods meals