Have you heard of baby-led weaning? While this method of introducing babies to solid foods is just starting to become popular here in the U.S., it is much more widespread in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The thinking behind this approach is that if babies regulate their own intake of foods, they learn to read their own hunger cues and know when they’re full. This, in turn, may lead to less obesity, less pickiness/food aversion and a healthier outlook on eating in the future. Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group, has written a very informative blog on the subject.
Recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics re: when to start baby-led weaning
The AAP, along with the World Health Organization, advises that infants should be breastfed exclusively from birth until 6 months old and that complementary foods should not be introduced until after that. By 6 months of age, most healthy babies have the gross and fine motor skills to able to eat more solid, larger pieces of food by picking them up on their own. In order to be successful and safe (i.e., not choke), babies must be able to hold their head up well, sit on their own with little or no assistance, no longer have a tongue thrust reflex (where the baby reflexively pushes food out of their mouth) and be able to reach for and grab an object.
Most healthy babies have acquired these skills by around 6 months of age. If not, we at Westchester Health recommend postponing baby-led weaning until your baby does exhibit these skills. Until then, feed traditional purées.
With baby-led weaning, your baby decides what to eat and how much
Here’s how BLW works. Your baby should be sitting upright and always under adult supervision during mealtime. Place appropriate foods in front of your baby but DO NOT FEED HIM/HER. Only your baby actually puts the food in his/her mouth. Be aware that at first, babies may only play with the food without eating much. Also, many foods may need to be presented to your baby up to 10-15 times before he/she will accept this new taste and texture. We urge you to be patient!
What baby foods are appropriate for BLW?
Soft, cooked vegetables cut into sticks and soft fruits such as bananas and avocados in “graspable” pieces are perfect choices for this stage of feeding your baby. Meatballs, meats cooked well and cut into pinky-size pieces, cheeses, well-cooked eggs and fish are also great options. At this stage, we recommend giving your baby water in a straw or sippy cup during meal time.
What foods are not safe to put in front of your baby at this age?
- Babies should not have any raw honey before they turn 1 year old because of the risk of botulism.
- No nuts, raw vegetables or hard fruits such as apples.
- No foods cut into a “coin” shape.
- The AAP recommends that babies and toddlers should not be given fruit juices unless it’s to treat constipation.
These safe-eating rules apply to both baby-led weaning and spoon-feeding
- New foods should be introduced one at a time.
- Wait 3-4 days before introducing another new food. This does not decrease the likelihood of an allergy, but it does make it easier to discern which food a baby has reacted to.
- Babies should not be given foods with added sugar or salt.
- Mealtime should be relaxed and not pressured.
- Ideally, parents should model healthy eating habits.
To learn more
Have questions about when and how to introduce solid foods? Come see us
Knowing when and how to wean your baby from milk, either breast or formula, and onto solid foods can be an anxious time for some parents. We understand, we’re parents too. For information, guidance and support, please make an appointment with Westchester Health to see one of our pediatricians. We’ll share our years of experience with you and answer any questions you may have. All along the way, we’re your partners in raising a happy, healthy child. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.