Baby-led weaning is the method of letting your child learn how to feed themselves solid foods, also known as baby-led feeding or self-feeding. There are several benefits of baby-led weaning:
- Improve fine motor skills: hand-eye and hand-mouth coordination
- Oral motor coordination: chewing, swallowing, and using their tongue
- Develop healthy eating habits: new foods, tastes, and textures
- Learn self-regulation: stop eating when they’re full
- Promote healthy appetites: curve picky eating habits
Most babies are ready to start eating solids around 6-months old — when they are sitting up unassisted with good head and neck control in addition to hand and finger skills. If your child is showing an interest in your food and possesses these skills, it may be time to introduce them to solids. Here are three tips on how to start baby-led weaning:
- Choose the Right Foods
Start with foods your baby can easily pick up and chew. Your child should be able to grasp them with their hand, as they are still developing their finger skills. Good choices include mango strips, sweet potato wedges, steamed broccoli, avocado slices, pieces of cooked fish, scrambled eggs or boiled egg slices. Foods to avoid include grapes, apple chunks with the skin, nuts, hot dogs, popcorn or raw vegetables.
- Be Alert
You should always watch your baby while eating to ensure they are safe. Babies are going to gag, it’s a natural reflex and one they need to learn. If you see them gagging, try not to react immediately. You don’t want to alarm your child and cause stress. Give them a little while to work it out themselves but be ready to intervene if needed. It’s important to know the difference between gagging and choking. When gagging, a baby will typically make a noise or some type of sound as they try to push the food back out whereas choking tends to be silent. Trust your instincts and be alert.
- Get Messy
As expected, when a baby is feeding themselves, it’s going to get messy. Be patient and allow your child to discover new foods and explore the tastes and textures freely. Be sure to have a solid and stable highchair. Try using a bib with a food catcher or a long-sleeved bib to help reduce spills and stains. What is most important is to encourage and support their interest and exploration of new foods.
If you have any questions about your child’s nutrition or concerns about what foods they should or should not be eating, call Children’s Medical Center. We are here to help you navigate your child’s health and nutrition journey.