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All About Baby-Led Weaning & Best First Foods

As a parent, introducing solid foods to your little one is always an exciting moment. Along with deciding what foods to feed your baby, you’ll also need to determine how to feed them. While many parents opt for purees and mashed foods, there is another option.

Baby-led weaning (BLW) allows babies to self-feed with solid finger foods. If you aren’t familiar with this method, don’t worry. We’re going to uncover some of the mystery surrounding baby-led weaning and provide you with a list of first foods.

What is Baby-Led Weaning?

When it’s time to transition from breastmilk or formula to solid foods, many parents turn to jarred baby food or homemade purees. They load up baby spoons with these soft-textured foods and fly them into their baby’s mouth.

While this is a perfectly acceptable way to introduce new foods, there is another option that more parents are utilizing.

Baby-led weaning skips over these mashed foods and moves straight to small pieces of solid food. With this method, your baby can pick up his or her food and feed themselves (with your supervision, of course).

There’s no rule saying which method of weaning is best, and you can surely combine the two! You know your baby best, so don’t be afraid to do what works for your unique situation and relationship.

When Should I Start Baby-Led Weaning?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you can start introducing solid foods to your little one once they reach a few milestones. These include:

  • They weigh at least 13 pounds and have doubled their birth weight.
  • They can lift and control their head.
  • They can sit unsupported in a feeding chair.
  • They show interest in food when you are eating.

These milestones often occur around four months, but each baby develops at a different pace. So don’t just follow what your friends are doing — let your little one guide the process.

Is Baby-Led Weaning Good or Bad?

Like many things involving babies and parenting, baby-led weaning isn’t all good or all bad. It’s simply one option you can use to introduce solids to your baby.

Baby-led weaning works great for some babies and flops for others. Remember, there’s no one correct way to introduce solid food to your infant. The most important thing is that you’re safely providing food.

With that said, many experts and parents alike tout the benefits of this baby controlled type of feeding.

  • Babies control what they eat, which can start the process of intuitive eating early. In other words, they have control over what and how much they eat.
  • Littles ones get to explore new textures on their own! Some parents say this helps their infants enjoy the eating process.
  • Your baby gets early exposure to sitting and eating with the family, rather than being fed.
  • Your baby can enjoy some of the same foods you’re eating for dinner.

And remember, you’re welcome to incorporate spoon-feeding and BLW when you start feeding your baby solids.

Baby-Led Weaning First Foods List

Once you’ve decided to give BLW a try, choosing the right foods is essential! While there are a wide variety of foods you can offer to your baby, they all have some of the same traits.

All foods should be soft, and your baby should not need to chew any food. If you’re thinking this list of foods is small, think again! There are a wide variety of foods that you can offer to your baby.

Vegetables

When offering vegetables to your baby, make sure they are soft. Steaming veggies is a great way to make them appropriate for your little one.

  • Steamed broccoli
  • Avocado
  • Steamed green beans
  • Steamed cauliflower
  • Steamed or roasted zucchini
  • Steamed or roasted butternut squash
  • Steamed spinach
  • Roasted or steamed sweet potato

Fruits

Since some fruits are soft when raw, it is okay to feed them to your baby. For harder fruits, try baking or steaming.

  • Ripe bananas
  • Ripe peaches
  • Ripe pears
  • Ripe mangos
  • Baked or steamed apples
  • Strawberries
  • Sliced blueberries
  • Ripe kiwi

Protein

You can offer both plant-based and animal proteins to your baby. Remember that even after you start offering solids to your baby, you should continue feeding with breast milk or providing formula.

  • Lentils
  • Hummus
  • Cooked fish, including salmon
  • Roasted chicken to suck on
  • ​Pieces of beef to suck on
  • Nut butter, including peanut butter
  • Soft cheese
  • ​Boiled or fried eggs
  • Soft tofu

Starches

  • Small bits of toast dipped in water
  • Quinoa
  • Soft cooked pasta
  • Whole-grain crackers

How to Offer Foods

Now that you have a list of foods you can offer to your baby, let’s cover some items you should keep in mind when practicing baby led weaning.

Choose the Right Size

You might think you should cut your baby’s food up into tiny pieces, but this won’t do you much good. When babies are 4-6 months old, they haven’t developed the ability to pick things up with their thumb and pointer finger (aka the pincer grasp). This means they can’t pick up tiny pieces of food!

To help your baby eat on their own, cut food into long strips or pieces that your baby can pick up with their whole hand. They will be able to suck on these larger pieces. And yes, babies can eat even though they don’t have teeth. Their gums are stronger than you think.

Avoid Choking Hazards

We know we’ve already said this before, but we can’t overstate the importance of avoiding foods your baby may choke on. Skip hard, sticky foods and large pieces until your baby is 18-24 months old.

Some common foods you should avoid feeding include:

  • Whole grapes
  • Whole cherries
  • Hot dogs
  • Raw apple slices
  • Raw hard vegetables including carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower
  • Nuts (except nut butter)

Always Supervise

This should be obvious, but never leave your baby unattended while they are eating! Even if you provide the proper foods, they may still choke.

Additionally, it’s important to include your baby in mealtimes so they have a healthy relationship with food.

Offer a Wide Variety of Food, One at a Time

While you may be tempted to provide your baby with ten different foods at once, don’t!

By introducing one new food every few days, you’ll allow your baby to develop their tastes. Introducing one new food at a time also allows you to notice any signs of food allergies.

Even though you should only introduce one new food at a time, you should offer many healthy foods over time. This allows your baby to taste nutritious foods and develop healthy food preferences.

Listen to Your Little One

As you offer a wider variety of foods, you’ll likely see that your baby loves some foods and turns their head up at others. This is okay! Never force your baby to eat when they are not interested, as this can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.

Also, don’t be scared if they’re not eating much food at first. They will likely just taste a lot of different foods, and that is okay. As they become more comfortable with solid foods and continue to develop, they will begin eating more. Just be patient!

If your baby doesn’t seem to be getting the nutrition they need, you should consult your pediatrician for professional advice.

Enjoy the Process

No matter where you are on your journey with baby-led weaning, make sure to enjoy watching your baby taste and eat new foods. Introducing solid foods can be a slow and frustrating process, so take a deep breath and try to be patient. And remember, you know your baby best, so do what works for you!

By Briana.Y for SGBabyReview