If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that we recently began feeding Amelia solids using the baby led weaning method. (Or baby led feeding as I’ve also heard it called!) I have recieved a few questions about it, so I thought I would share a little bit more about it here on the blog.
Deciding when and how to start your baby on solid foods is a personal and important decision for every parent. I did quite a lot of reading and research before we started our firstborn, Claire, on solid food.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that babies are ready to start solids any time between four and six month. I wanted to wait until Claire was six months old before starting–which is what the World Health Organization and many other experts recommends–but she was literally begging us to start eating, so we started her a little earlier than planned. I chose to wait until Amelia was six months because she started sitting up later and I wanted to make sure she was truly ready.
Signs Your Baby is Ready for Solids
You baby should have most of these signs before starting him/her on solids, especially if he/she is under six months.
- Is four-six months old
- Acts interested in your food
- Sits up without support
- Is losing the “tongue thrust” reflex
- Effectively grabs things and puts them in his/her mouth to chew
- Wants to nurse/have a bottle more often, especially at night (This is also a sign of a growth spurt that can happen around this time, so only if it last longer than a couple weeks is it a sign your baby is ready for solids)
Why We Chose Baby Led Weaning
When we started solids we decided to skip pureed baby food (for the most part) and go straight to real food for several reason. I had doubts about wanting to start with the conventional rice cereal for awhile. It just didn’t sound very healthy (or tasty, for that matter!). My research on a more traditional, whole foods diet for myself confirmed my thoughts and gave me confidence to go against the grain. Not only that, but it’s easier than making homemade baby food, freezing and thawing it, etc. All we have to do is make sure to include food the baby can eat with our meal. In the end, it just seemed natural. Babies are constantly reaching for our food when we eat so why not let them try it?
Getting Started with Baby Led Weaning
All you have to do to get started is give your baby soft, cooked food that is sliced in easy-to-handle strips (or small pieces if you prefer) or whole pieces of fresh fruit so he/she can feed his/herself. You can expect a little bit of a mess because the baby will mainly just play with the food for the first few weeks.
Every once in awhile the baby will get some food in his/her mouth and happily gnaw and chew (or spit it out!). It is common to have a little gagging at times as this is the bodies natural reaction to bring the food back to the front of the mouth for more chewing. It is best to wait a few seconds to allow the baby to do this before intervening. This is probably the most difficult thing to do, especially for new parents! Obviously, if the baby is struggling to bring anything up or can’t breathe, than you will need to step in.
What foods should baby eat first?
There is a little controversy over what food is best as first foods for babies. Those who follow a traditional foods diet suggest waiting until your baby is at least one year old before introducing grains because they are difficult to digest. Other experts say pretty much every thing is fair game
Either way it is suggested to carefully introduce foods that are considered common allergens, which includes: Milk, Eggs (mainly the egg white), Tree Nuts, Peanuts (which are actually related to legumes), Wheat (or other grains that contain gluten), Soybeans, Fish/Shellfish, Seeds (especially sesame), Strawberries, Citrus fruit, Tomatoes. Doctors recommend that you wait several days after introducing allergen foods before trying a new one to make sure the baby doesn’t have a sensitivity or allergy. Common allergic reactions include, swollen lips, itchy eyes, respiratory problems, rash (especially diaper rash), vomiting and diarrhea. Also, babies should not be given honey until they are over a year old to avoid the risk of botulism.
Since food sensitivities run on both sides of our family, we waited until Claire was nine months to give her grain and most common allergens. We will probably do the same with Amelia. We started both girls with sweet potatoes and then added other nutrient-rich foods like avocado, carrots, broccoli, spinach, etc. every few days. We also are giving Amelia homemade bone broth and she loves to snack on a whole, peeled apple or gnaw on a raw carrot–especially when teething!
What about water or juice?
You can give your baby a little water to drink if you want to, but I don’t recommend fruit juice because it has a high sugar content. (Fresh or cooked fruit is best for the benefits of the natural fiber.) Claire didn’t really drink any water in the beginning, but enjoyed chewing on the cup. Amelia, on the other hand, loves drinking water out of a sippy cup and “asks” for it frequently.
Obviously, at this time, breast milk or formula is still your baby’s main source of nutrition and will continue to be until he/she begins to naturally wean him/herself sometime between nine months and a year old. Or if your baby is breastfed he/she may wean even later than that. Claire didn’t wean until she was two.
We love Baby Led Weaning!
While every family’s (and baby’s) needs are different, we have found that baby-led weaning has worked well for us. I love the simplicity of it and the fact that we are instilling healthy eating habits from the start. My babies seem to enjoy feeding themselves and (so far) are very good eaters. If you have any more questions about it, please leave me a comment!
What is your opinion or experience with baby led weaning?
Baby Led Weaning website
Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby’s First Foods
Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods
The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook
Disclaimer: This post is purely informational and my experience. I am in no way qualified to give medical advice. As always, you should discuss diet changes with a health care professional.