This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.I am—thankfully—past the baby phase in life. (I really didn’t like the baby phase much at all). I love having youngsters that I can talk with, joke with, or play a board game that I’ll actually enjoy with (Uno anyone?) Being a new mom gave me a million opportunities to fail. It forced me to realize that there was no right way to do things, which, for someone who always tries to do things correctly, was tough. Most of the things that served me well with my first child were completely useless when I had the second one. (They are so different in everything, it’s almost like they’re messing with me). One thing I did successfully with both boys, however, that I recommend to all my mom friends, is baby led weaning.
What is baby led weaning?Baby led weaning is a process of introducing solid foods into your child’s diet which skips the puréed food stage. From the time your little squish is about six months old, you give her pieces of food that she feeds herself.
What are the benefits of baby led weaning?Like every question involving my kids, I basically researched this one to death. Yes, there are benefits for the kids, but mostly, there are benefits for YOU. You’re probably here because you like to do things better. You’re likely considering making your kid’s baby food with organic veggies from Whole Foods in a $100+ baby food maker. You’re planning to sit next to your little sweetie at mealtime lovingly spooning mouthfuls of your organic goodness into his mouth while your own lunch languishes untouched. I don’t know about you, but after a solid six months of basically no sleep, plopping some easy-to-cook food down on my kid’s tray and watching him mess with it while I ate a sandwich was a lot more appealing. There are lots of benefits for your kiddo, too. Your baby gets motor skills practice and learns to chew right away. He gets to eat as much as he wants and stop when he’s full. Your baby will learn to appreciate different textures of food right from the beginning, which MIGHT make him a less picky eater later. (Or, he might grow to be a seven-year-old who watches the Food Network and critiques your meals like you’re a contestant on Chopped.)
How does baby led weaning work?The process is pretty simple. You cut up food into a long stick or a chunk that will fit inside a baby’s fist. (Baby won’t develop the pincer grasp that allows her to pick up really tiny pieces of food until 8-12 months old). If it’s a soft food, you’re done. If it’s a harder food, you can toss it on a tray in the oven for a bit to roast it and soften it up. Now you sit at the table with squish and enjoy your own meal while watching him enjoy his.
Some concerns you might have about baby led weaning:
How will my kid chew? He doesn’t have teeth.Those little gums are pretty tough. My older son didn’t have a single tooth until he was 10 months old. Here he is at 8.5 months eating a calzone.
When can I start?Kids should be at least six months old, able to sit up without assistance, and able to hold on to small pieces of food before beginning baby led weaning.
Won’t my kid choke?The risk of choking is no higher than it is with spoon feeding. In all of the meals I fed my two kids, I literally only had one time that I jumped up and pulled a kid out of the high chair because I thought there was a problem. (There wasn’t). Our gag reflexes are pretty strong, and it’s important to note that you might hear a little gagging at the table while your kiddo is working out how to coordinate all this (ain’t motherhood grand?) The likelihood of choking, though, is really small.
How do I know what foods to give him?As you probably already know, some foods are easier on your baby’s system than others. Some are more likely to cause allergy than others. I stuck with plain fruits and vegetables at first and introduced one food at a time, usually sticking with it for about three days before trying something different. I loved Momtastic’s list of which foods to introduce at which age. It hung on my fridge for years. I usually cooked my kiddos the same foods that the adults were eating, especially as the boys got to be around nine months old. I did alter seasonings when necessary.
What if my child doesn’t eat enough?Repeat after me, “Food is fun until age one”. Your baby is still getting milk from somewhere, whether it’s someone’s boob or formula. That is providing baby’s nutrition now. This is just getting your little one used to sitting at the table and eating, experimenting with new tastes and textures, practicing some new movements like grasping and chewing, and hopefully sucking down a few extra calories so he’ll sleep longer. Especially at the beginning, I usually fed my children with breast milk (or formula) before each meal so they weren’t hangry and frustrated with the process.
Won’t baby led weaning be messy?Yes. Sorry. If it’s any consolation, it’s good practice for the coming years, which will continue to be messy. At least when the kids get to be preschoolers, they can start cleaning up a bit of the dining mess by themselves. For now, you’ll want a great high chair, a great bib, and a great floor mat among other things. I’ve got some suggestions for essential baby led weaning gear listed below.
Tools you need for baby led weaning:I consider Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett to be the experts in this field. Their book, Baby-Led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food was a great resource when I was getting started. They also have a cookbook.
I had two of these chairs, one for each of my kids. The chairs sit on top of your regular dining chairs, and the trays are dishwasher safe. My boys sat in them for every meal from 6 months through 4-years-old or so. (Well, the oldest kid did. Little brother didn’t want to use his anymore once big brother gave it up.)
The seats came with us to friends’ barbecues, to dinners at Grandma’s house, and on restaurant outings. They are one of the most useful things I got for the kids and I can’t imagine that I would have liked anything better. Although I always dreamed a little about this chair.These bibs are wonderful. They have fun, bright patterns, and they wipe clean easily. I loved having long sleeves to protect my boys’ clothing as the food really does get everywhere. My first apartment had carpet in the dining room. You’d better believe I researched the best mat to cover the floor. We loved this one, which was a thick, durable enough plastic that I used it under two high chairs and still use it as a waterproof liner for messy projects today. replaceable so that I didn’t have to buy a new cup whenever a teething child destroyed one by chewing on it.
A crinkle cutter isn’t absolutely essential, but it does help if you’re feeding your kid something slippery like peaches or cooked zucchini. With crinkles in the surface, pieces are much less frustrating for little, uncoordinated hands to pick up.So there you have it, all the ideas I have for baby led weaning. Enjoy those diapers. Someone has warned you about the fun new diapers on the way, right?