Head off, mommy! Your child is in charge of baby-led weaning. It might be the best thing to do in the high chair since the invention of the bib. Below are some tips for the pro
gress of baby-led weaning.
It’s a classic scene: Mom or Dad feeding sweet potato purée to Baby’s wide-open mouth with such a special plane spoon — full with sound effects and cockpit announcements. But for parents who embrace baby-led weaning, the image of Baby’s mealtimes looks quite different: the youngest family member sits in a high chair in front of the finger food spread, trying to move the bits from the tray to the tongue all by himself.
Popularized in the Uk. With the publication of Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murket, this approach has been used across the world for years. Today, the passion for child-led weaning is also rising in the United States. It’s particularly common among young parents looking for a more natural and family-friendly way to serve solids.
Baby-Led Weaning Benefits
In a nutshell, baby-led weaning involves skipping a spoon-fed purée and making babies eat their finger food right from the start — at around 6 months of age. The results may be huge. First of all, it helps to fine-tune motor performance: Baby-led weaning encourages the performance of hand-eye coordination, chewing abilities, flexibility and healthy eating habits. “This also offers babies an opportunity to experience the taste, feel, scent and color of a variety of foods.
It’s also an early — and really important — step for babies to practice self-regulation: to know how to avoid feeding when they feel complete. Babies who feed themselves can not possibly consume more than they need because they feed individually. With spoon-feeding, parents can put in a few more spoonfuls even though the baby is finished. Doing so also causes the baby to eat more than he wants and avoid controlling his consumption effectively.
While few research trials have been done on this topic, experts see the potential for baby-led weaning to have a lasting impact on the child’s food tastes, eating patterns, and palate. Plus, you won’t have to buy any food bottles or waste time mixing, melting, and defrosting organic baby food.
It is important to remember, though, that child-led weaning will not help every infant. Babies with developmental delays or neurological problems should start solids more traditionally. You’re still going to need to be extra careful for coughing and food allergies.
When Should I Start Baby-Led Weaning?
Wait until your child is ready. Your child should be able to sit unattended in a high chair, have strong neck control, and be able to push food to the back of her mouth with up and down jaw motions. Most stable infants over 6 months of age have a growing capacity to feed themselves; however, good chewing abilities in some infants may not be fully developed until 9 months. The baby-led weaning phase may further improve these chewing abilities.
Do remember that “weaning” is really a bit of a misnomer. Breast milk or formula will continue to be the child’s primary source of nutrients until he or she is 10 to 12 months old.
Healthy Baby-Led Weaning Diet
You can see pictures on the baby-led-weaning Facebook accounts of babies biting down on all kinds of unusual things, from drumsticks to pans. But most experts suggest a slower launch. Start with single-ingredient foods so you’ll be able to detect any food allergies.
Examples of first finger foods include mango, avocado, steamed “hold” broccoli seeds, peeled sliced apples, juicy and grilled meats, poached and flaked salmon, rice, omelets cut into bits or chicken strips.
Substantial pieces — cut in long, thin strings, coin-shaped, or crinkle cutter — are the best way for your kid to handle. That’s because very few 6-to 8-month-olds have perfected the grip of the pincer (thumb and index finger) so they can pick up food with their entire hand. As soon as your kid establishes this pincer grasp, serve food cut into small pieces, such as ripe mango bits, boiled beans, sliced steamed spinach and slices of pasta.
Note that texture is the answer, too. Your beginner eater’s food should be smooth and easy to split with gentle pressure between your thumb and forefinger. For example, before you start baby-led weaning, you can steam fruits and vegetables.
When your child has tried and accepted a variety of single-ingredient foods, you should start serving mixed dishes. Make sure there are high-calorie foods and those of calcium, zinc, protein and good fats on the plate. It’s always a smart idea to eat with less to no salt because the body of a baby can not absorb sodium well.
What if My Baby Chokes?
Most babies are remarkably good at handling finger food, but gagging is still normal in the early days of feeding. It’s a natural and reflexive defense mechanism that may cause watery eyes, coughing, or sputtering. Yet parents will understand that gagging is a natural reflex to get rid of something that is a bit too tough. The infant will benefit from your reaction: if you’re afraid, you’ll get afraid too.
Choking, on the other hand, occurs as food gets caught in the throat or windpipe, preventing the passage of oxygen. If an infant is coughing, it certainly won’t make noise or move air efficiently.
Prevent this by keeping away from coughing threats such as tomatoes, hot dogs, raisins, popcorn, raw veggies, and oily nut butter. It’s always a smart idea to get familiar with the infant-specific Heimlich manoeuvre. For a precaution, just be with your kid while he’s feeding, and make sure he’s sitting up.
To be healthy, obey these rules:
- Always sit with your baby while he’s feeding.
- Make sure the kid is siting up when feeding.
- Serve the food that isn’t too hard. Raw apples are one of the greatest choking risks for child-bearing children.
- Take infant-first-aid lessons, and you’ll be prepared for it.
- Don’t try to comfort your child if she gags. Babies sense parents’ fear and can develop detrimental experiences with feeding. Instead, keep cool and give her time to work it out.
Tips for Baby-Led Weaning Success
Find a balanced solution to this. If spoon-feeding is something you or your child are more familiar with, you don’t have to give that up entirely until you add finger food to your schedule. For the first month or two of self-feeding, the kid will do a lot of chewing, sampling, and exploring — but not a lot of actual food. Purees can help make food more healthy and fuller. Plus, some kids just don’t get ready for finger food for 6 months.
Get set for the messes. The aim of baby-led weaning is to help your little one try food at his own rate, so that means splitting it, cleaning it, losing it, and potentially making a big old mess at almost any meal. It’s part of the feeding cycle to get dirty,. It’s a key step in learning to enjoy a range of healthy products. The floor is likely to see the worst of it. You should put a trash bag or plastic tablecloth under a high chair for quick washing, cover your baby’s bib with an art smock, and combine dirty items with less dirty ones (like dried cereal or toast) while you’re eating.
Dine together. Allow the baby to feed at the table at family meals. Best yet: send your child some of the same ingredients that make up your stew.
Allow your child to use safe utensils. It’s crucial, Harrison says, to encourage your child to start delivering food early. Let your child get a spoon and guide it to his mouth with or without your help, Make sure the child is leading the process.
Let your child start handling a child-safe fork and a spoon, but don’t expect a lot of food to be put on the utensil or in the mouth. Evite toothpicks or other skewers.
Rest assured that your child is having adequate nutrients. The baby always gets plenty of her calories from breast milk or formula, so don’t panic if she doesn’t actually swallow a lot of solids. When she is irritated or disappointed with her meal, try applying purée to finger foods before she is hanged by self-feeding.