Weaning is one of the most exciting times of your baby’s life and while choosing baby led weaning can feel a bit daunting, it truly is an exciting journey that has so many benefits for both baby and Mum.
We started weaning our first son Dexter in November 2016 and he took to baby led weaning right away. We began with banana pancakes and didn’t look back, offering him a little bit of anything and everything. He is now a healthy and happy two and a half year old who loves his food, uses cutlery like a pro and isn’t afraid of a little spice and flavour.
But is baby led weaning right for you? Here I hope to explain everything you need to know on how to start baby led weaning.
What Is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby Led Weaning is a method of weaning which differs from traditional weaning in that you simply offer baby the same foods that you eat once they hit six months old. Unlike traditional weaning, which is offering babies purees for a couple of months before moving onto lumpier foods, baby led weaning cuts the need for blending machines and the effort of making baby something completely different to the rest of the family; with baby led weaning, baby can enjoy all the same meals you do, with a slight few modifications of course.
What Equipment Will I Need?
With traditional weaning you need to get yourself set up with all sorts of equipment, but with baby led weaning it can be as simple as just getting yourself sorted with a high chair. There are a few items which can make your life easier and help with the mess that this method of weaning can cause. We invested in a coverall bib, spoons for preloading yoghurt and porridge, lots and lots of baby wipes and some plates and bowls.
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What’s the Best Highchair for Baby Led Weaning?
The Ikea Antilop high chair will always rank number one as the best baby led weaning high chair as not only is it a fantastic price, but it super easy to clean, coming apart so you can chuck the chair in the dishwasher.
If you don’t have an Ikea near to you, we also love the Joie Mimzy Snacker which has a lovely big tray and folds away nearly minimising storage space.
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What’s the Best Baby Led Weaning Bib?
Baby led weaning will be one of the messiest things you ever do and we swore by the Bibado coverall bib to help contain some of the mess. This bib covers all of the highchair containing the dropped food instead of it falling to the floor and getting on baby’s clothes. It’s machine washable and also simply wipes clean too. A great investment for baby led weaning.
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When it comes to first foods, nothing is off limit with baby led weaning. Some Mums are happy to dive straight in and offer steak and fries, some much prefer sticking to soft foods such as steamed broccoli or carrot. We started with banana pancakes which he demolished in about three minutes, but it gave us the confidence that he was well and truly ready for weaning and we felt more confident offering a range of different foods going forward.
There’s no need to introduce one food group per day or to avoid certain allergy prone foods (unless you’ve been advised by your doctor).
Anything I Need to Avoid?
Babies under one year old can’t have honey and you should limit the amount of salt you offer. It can be hard to know how much salt baby is having as it seems to be hidden in everything these days, so I simply made sure I didn’t add any extra when I was cooking and tried not to offer to many breaded products. I also avoided ready meals, store bought jars of sauce (preferring instead to make my own pasta sauces) and I tried where possible to buy low salt versions of things such as baked beans and butter.
It’s also a good idea to avoid foods which are a choking hazard such as whole grapes, cherry or plum tomatoes, popcorn and whole nuts. fruit can easily be halved or quartered to make it safer.
What About the Mess?
Baby led weaning is definitely a messy business so make sure you invest in a decent coverall bib as well as being prepared in other ways. Some people like to place a mat down below the high chair to catch food, but if you have laminate flooring this isn’t really necessary in my opinion. Some Mums like to strip baby down at each meal time and bath them afterwards, but this can get to be a lot of work by the time they’re on three meals a day. Have a dustpan and brush at the ready for any food spillages, but most importantly don’t stress too much about the mess. This period of baby’s life is over so quickly, stressing the small stuff is simply not worth it.
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Gagging or Choking?
The most off putting part of baby led weaning for the majority of Mums is the fear that baby will choke on their food. This is a common concern and you will be hard pressed to find a Mum who hasn’t worried about this at some point. There are steps you can take to make sure you reduce this risk such as cutting up foods effectively (no whole grapes, nuts or cherry tomatoes), being aware of the difference between gagging and choking and never putting fingers in your baby’s mouth when they’re simply gagging. All babies will gag when they start baby led weaning and this reflex is stopping the food from entering their windpipe, it is also how baby learns to move food around their mouth, chew and swallow.
Support can be hard to come by when people around you are used to traditional weaning, but online there are hundreds of baby led weaning support groups where you can find advice and like minded people. It is important to do your research so you can explain to others who may be taking care of your child your reasons behind choosing baby led weaning. By explaining your reasons and backing them up with research, hopefully family members will support you on this journey too!
Some of my favourite supportive baby led weaning Facebook groups:
When Should I Start Baby Led Weaning?
Ideally baby should be around the six month mark and displaying signs of readiness:
1. Able to sit up unaided
2. No longer has tongue thrust reflex
3. Able to pick up objects and move them towards their mouth
If baby is showing all these signs you are pretty much ready to begin!
Be confident in your decision to start baby led weaning and if you are ever unsure seek advice and support. Start slowly and gradually if you are nervous with one meal per day, building up to three meals and snacks by the time baby turns one year old. Don’t stress too much if baby doesn’t eat much to begin with, they still get their main source of nutrition from their milk and during the first couple of months they are simply learning how to eat. Make sure you sitting and eating alongside them so they can see how it works. Babies love to mimic what their Mummies are doing and they’ll catch on a lot quicker if you are role modelling how to eat. Most of all, have fun creating and making healthy foods for your baby and watching them learn to eat them!