Baby-led weaning refers to letting your child feed himself from the very start of weaning. The one who introduced this term was Gill Rapley, a PhD doctor, writer and former midwife. Rapley recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of the baby’s life, but she states that the method works on babies who are bottle-fed, as well.
Baby-led weaning introduces solid food to babies as a way to explore, discover and experiment the world around them. The baby sets his own pace when eating, as well as the quantity of food he needs. This method of weaning is motivated by the baby’s curiosity and should happen as naturally as possible. The introduction of solid food needs to be a separate activity from breast feeding. This allows a more relaxed and enjoyable experience for both baby and parents.
Baby-led weaning, however, raises a well-founded question to parents: ‘Won’t the baby choke?’. When you spoon feed you baby you tend to believe you have more control of how he eats and swallows. Actually, babies are not capable of intentionally moving food to the back of their throats until after they have developed the ability to chew. On the other hand, spoon feeding encourages the baby to suck the food straight to the back of his mouth, and it is, probably, more likely that this will make him choke. Regardless of how you choose to feed your child, you should always take into consideration the basic safety rules: you must be sure your baby is ready to eat food – that he can grab it and place it in his mouth, and more important, that his stomach will digest it. More than that, your baby should always be supported in an upright position, so the food that he doesn’t want to swallow will fall out of his mouth. The best way to do this is to put him in a baby eating chair. Putting him on your lap or on a normal chair is not an appropriate and safe way to feed him. Another ground rule is to always keep an eye on your baby. Never leave your baby unattended when eating.
What should you feed him when practicing Baby-Led Weaning
Regarding what kind of solid foods you should feed your baby, it is better to start by giving your child steamed vegetables and fruits. They don’t need to be chopped, but cut in larger pieces. Babies are very curious so, offering them alternatives, not just one type of food at once, gives them the opportunity to experience texture, colour, size, shape and, in case they don’t like one aliment, they’ll always have the option to eat something else.
Baby-led weaning is a captivating and exciting activity for the baby, but it may be pretty messy for the parents. Usually the food goes all over the place, not only inside the baby’s mouth. As a parent, you should be armed with patience and cleaning utensils. From my experience, this was a great acquisition: Organic Cotton Waterproof Sleeved Bib Baby. It helps me keep my daughter’s clothes stainless. Our dog takes care of the rest, ha ha!
So, enjoy watching your baby eat, discover and enjoy his food!