You might be asking what is baby-led weaning? Well, it means exactly what it sounds like. It is weaning led by your baby, meaning your baby is in charge! It means allowing your toddler to eat by placing food in their mouths themselves without the help of their parents. However, you will still need to make sure that your baby is consuming breast-milk or baby formula while attempting ‘baby-led weaning’.
Baby-led weaning is highly beneficial for eye-hand coordination development as well as chewing skills. It is giving your child the chance to take the initiative to develop in their own pace without being smothered and forced into anything they are not ready for.
When your baby is in charge, it encourages their sense of self-regulation from an early age, which is very important. A healthy eating habit which consists of knowing when to stop eating when they are already full is a very important skill to learn.
We encourage baby-led feeding over spoon-feeding led by parents. This is because spoon-feeding often lead babies to over-eat which is the bedrock for developing a poor eating habit later in life. Overtime, it can instill a wrong eating habit in your baby: eating more than your baby needs.
Remember that every child’s pace is different. Do not force it. Only try baby-led weaning when your baby can sit comfortably and confidently on their own in a high chair or baby chair without wobbling over. The next skill you need to look for is whether your child can move food to the back of the mouth. Remember that chewing is a hard skill to master, so be patient with your child and give them time.
Sit your baby up in a high chair, and let your baby explore the food at their own pace! Allow a meal time of at least 15 minutes. You can begin by introducing food that is soft and malleable to your baby. Make sure they are not too hot. Warm or cool food is preferable for your baby at this baby-led weaning stage. This is to avoid choking hazards and possible burning.
Just be ready for the mess that will come with baby-led weaning, on the high chair, on their clothes (and yours) and on the floor! Always remember that this is vital for your baby’s development, so don’t tell your child off if they make a mess. If you can see that your baby is throwing food around and not eating anymore, understand this probably means your baby is already full. Try to understand that babies express feelings in a different way than adults, so remember not to lose your temper, because this will only hinder their development!
Since your baby wants to feel like they are part of the family, they would want to do “adult things”, so eat together with them! They will be more willing to cooperate.
That said, although it is important for your baby to explore food at their own pace, it is also important to make sure that your baby is consuming all of the nutrients they need. Always find professionals for help if you are unsure.
Lastly, remember to use positive reinforcements over negative ones! Good luck!