How To Do Baby Led Weaning Safely And Effectively
Have you ever heard of baby led weaning?
Do you feel like the idea of baby led weaning is a good one, but you have a lot of concerns about the safety issues and risks that may be associated with it?
Are you the kind of parent or caregiver who’s always paying attention to your child’s safety and trying to think ahead about potential problems?
If any of these are true of you, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll address the topic of baby led weaning safety and give you plenty of information to help you make an educated decision about whether or not this process is right for you and your child.
The baby led weaning method isn’t for everyone, but when you understand the process and the areas of concern you might want to focus on, you’ll be better able to figure out if your child is a good candidate for this type of weaning. This is an important decision that could make a big difference in your child’s weaning success, too.
We’ve got plenty of tips for first-timers as well as safety suggestions to improve the baby led weaning experience for you and your child right away. Check out our baby led weaning advice and the timetable we’ve put together to let you know what to expect from your child every step of the way, too. No matter what information you need to feel better about baby led weaning, we hope to cover it here.
Read on to discover more!
What is Baby Led Weaning?
If you catch yourself asking, “What is baby led weaning anyway?” then it’s a good idea to get started from the ground up. Understanding what the baby led weaning process means can provide you with the basic framework to help support your little one throughout the different stages he or she will experience.
Basically, baby led weaning is the process of skipping mostly liquid and pureed foods when feeding your baby. Parents who practice this method move straight to offering babies solid foods. They also skip the stage of putting food in a spoon and feeding it to the baby, and instead wait for the child to learn how to use a spoon for self-feeding instead.
However, this doesn’t mean you’ll be handing your baby whole chicken legs or anything like that. You always want to offer your child solid foods that are safe and don’t pose any choking hazards. This means you’ll need to prepare these foods by steaming them, mashing them, or otherwise cooking and serving them in a way that keeps them soft enough for babies with no teeth to process easily.
You’ll also need to pay close attention to the size of the food pieces you offer your child. Younger babies cannot handle larger pieces of food, and anything bigger than a piece of cereal should be cut smaller or even mashed before giving it to your child. Although mashed food may seem similar to purees, there’s a big difference in terms of texture, and your baby will get a head start on learning to eat solids by getting started with mashed foods.
Baby led weaning means your child will be in charge of what he or she eats. This may sound like a lot of responsibility for a little baby, but you may be surprised at how well your little one takes to the process!
How to Do Baby Led Weaning
When you know how to do baby led weaning, you can make sure your baby is going to do well and be safe the whole time, too. You can’t expect your little one to know everything about the weaning process without some assistance, and although baby led weaning is very hands-off in comparison to parent-led weaning, you’ll still need to be there to help guide your child and keep a close eye on every meal to make sure things go smoothly. Below are some tips that can help you learn more about how to go about the baby led weaning experience.
- Make sure you’re always offering foods of the correct size. You should always be completely sure your baby is capable of handling the bite-size pieces of food you serve. This means cutting everything into smaller pieces than you would for the rest of the family, even if it’s something soft like noodles.
- Try to stay away from unnecessary dishes and utensils until your child is ready to use them—or at least to try. You may want to let your baby play with bowls and spoons before you actually try to teach him or her how to use them. Many parents prefer just putting the food directly on the tray of the baby’s high chair to avoid dishes getting thrown around the room.
- Be prepared for a big mess. Most baby led weaning parents put down tablecloths or towels under the high chair during mealtimes, especially at first. Expect that you’re going to need to do some cleaning after every meal, and make sure you have time to take care of this.
- Don’t be afraid to give your baby the same thing everyone else is having. Baby led weaning is all about your child enjoying the same foods as the rest of the family as soon as possible. There are some spices, fats and other ingredients you should stay away from serving a younger baby, however, so you may need to make some modifications to your baby-friendly foods if you do this.
- Don’t give your child too much food at once, especially in the beginning. This will encourage overeating and may become a problem later on in your child’s life.
Baby Led Weaning Timetable
With the right baby led weaning timetable, you won’t have any false expectations of what your child should be capable of at any stage of the weaning process. Remember, though, that every baby is an individual, so you can’t hold your child to this schedule too strictly. It’s just a guideline to help you better figure out baby weaning step by step. If your child is a little behind or a little ahead of the schedule, don’t worry! Just be sure you’re not rushing your baby through the process and everything will be fine.
- Some parents begin the baby led weaning process at four months, but most babies are likely to be ready around six months. Baby led weaning is all about not forcing your child to begin weaning until he or she is ready, so be sure you wait until you’re noticing some signs of weaning readiness in your little one before you begin.
- Week One: Replace one meal during the midmorning or afternoon with a small amount of a very safe and simple first food.
- Many parents feed normal breast milk or formula meals at waking, mid-morning, mid-afternoon, evening, and before bed. They then replace the lunch feeding with a simple food, such as mashed banana or very small pieces of soft steamed carrots.
- Other parents find it works better to keep waking, lunchtime, and bedtime the same, and try changing out a mid-morning or mid-afternoon meal instead.
- Week Two: Replace a second meal with a simple first food. This could be a mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or evening meal, but leave waking and bedtime meals as-is for now.
- Week Three: Continue the same process. By now, your baby should be having solid foods for all but three meals per day.
- Week Four: By now, try serving your baby solids for every meal except waking and bedtime. Some babies will be able to wean this quickly and others won’t, however, so don’t force it if your child isn’t keeping up with this fast-paced schedule.
- Beyond the first month: With each new month, you can start offering new and different foods. By the third month of weaning, you can begin combining foods to create small meals. Remember to wait four days in between feeding your baby a new food before you try another new one. This can help you narrow down any food allergies that might arise.
5 Best Pieces of Advice for First-Timers
When you’re new to baby led weaning, you may feel bogged down with a lot of information. You might think people are throwing advice at you from every direction, and in some cases, that’s true! While the people in your life certainly mean well, it can be tough to sift through all that advice and find out what’s most important to focus on. Below, we’ve outlined the five best pieces of advice for parents experiencing baby led weaning for the first time. These tips should give you a solid place to get started.
1. Never force your baby.
Your child should move at his or her own pace and try new foods when he or she is ready—not necessarily when you are.
2. Let your baby hold food and utensils as soon as possible.
This will help your child adjust to holding and manipulating these items with ease later on.
3. Bring your baby to the table with everyone else at mealtime.
It’s important to include your child at mealtime as early as possible so he or she can watch and mimic everyone else in the family and learn how to eat this way.
4. Keep up with breastfeeding and formula until one year of age.
It’s generally advised to supplement your baby’s nutrition with formula or breast milk until 12 months, but after that, you will need to start working toward cow’s milk instead.
5. Offer one food at a time and go slowly.
Don’t rush through the process, and be sure to offer foods slowly enough that any problems will be easy to notice.
5 Important Safety Reminders
Safety is the most important consideration during baby led weaning. While it’s definitely important to monitor your child’s nutritional intake and make sure you aren’t overfeeding too, safety still stands out as the number one concern when you’re baby led weaning. In this section, we’ll outline five of the most important safety tips to remember no matter which stage of the weaning process your child has reached. As your baby ages, you may need to add or change some tips, but these five should always be in your mind as you help your baby wean.
1. Test food textures before you give them to your baby.
Put a bite of the food in your mouth and try to press it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. If it doesn’t mash easily this way, it’s too hard for your baby, and you should cook it longer before serving it.
2. Make sure your baby is sitting fully upright when eating.
Your child should never be fed while leaning back or slouching in his or her high chair. If your baby can’t sit up unassisted yet, do not start baby led weaning until this milestone has been reached.
3. Do not put food in your child’s mouth.
This process is all about letting your baby eat what he or she is comfortable with. Putting food in your baby’s mouth is much more likely to cause choking and gagging.
4. Never walk away from your self-feeding baby even for a moment.
Always make sure a capable adult is watching any time your baby is self-feeding. Although this is a hands-off approach to weaning, you must always be close by in case anything should happen.
5. If a food cannot be served in baby-safe bite-sized pieces, be sure it’s long.
This may sound strange but think about French fries, for example. This is a soft food that many babies can handle well even though it isn’t bite-sized. A French fry is a good size to keep in mind when you’re trying to choose safe foods for your little one.
3 Reasons to Try Baby Led Weaning
So, do you feel like the safety concerns are too much for you to worry about? Have you decided it just sounds too stressful or even scary to try baby led weaning with your child? Don’t let the potential risks make you too nervous just yet! There are some solid reasons why you might want to try baby led weaning, and even if you don’t know anyone else who’s practicing it, you may still want to consider seeing how it works for your child. Many babies respond well to this process, so check out our top three reasons why you might want to try it, too.
- It’s a lot less stressful on you and your child both to try baby led weaning. Babies will enjoy being able to work at their own pace when weaning and not feeling forced into the process by parents who are in a hurry. You’ll feel better, too, since you won’t have to spend a lot of extra time every day preparing purees and mushes for your child to eat. You’ll even be able to save money since your baby should be able to eat at least part of the family’s meal from a very early stage.
- Your baby can develop good and safe eating habits early on. Self-feeding encourages your child to enjoy food but know how to choose what to eat and what to avoid. This method can also teach your child to eat safely and take bites that are small enough to manage. All of this works together to reduce the risk of childhood obesity later on.
- Babies feel like a part of the family earlier on, too. When your baby feels like he or she is part of the family at mealtime, it’s easier for everyone in the family to form close bonds and get to know each other that much more easily. Your baby may learn social skills faster this way, too.
There’s a lot to learn about baby led weaning before you ever get started on the process with your child, and it’s a very good idea to understand the whole process fully so you can ensure your baby’s success and safety at all times. However, by following our baby led weaning guidelines, you should be able to provide your little one the best possible experience no matter what.
If you’re still concerned about baby led weaning and choking hazards or if you’re just thinking about getting started on this process with your baby, don’t forget to talk to your child’s pediatrician for more help and assistance. Your pediatrician will know what your baby needs nutritionally at every stage of development and is a valuable resource for a safe baby led weaning experience.
It’s always important to talk to your baby’s doctor before you make any changes to your child’s lifestyle or diet. This way, you can be better informed and prepared in the event anything should go wrong, and you’ll know what to expect from your individual baby, too.
Good luck and happy weaning!