Baby Led Weaning is a way of adding food into a baby’s diet that allows the baby naturally develop the skills needed to eat solid food. The idea is that you let baby feed herself from the start. You offer safe, age appropriate finger foods, and baby naturally learns to take a bite, chew, and swallow. It’s kind of the opposite of the standard method of feeding mush to a baby who learns to swallow, the later chew, then even later take a bite. While there is no known health benefit or detriment to either method, some in the crunchy mama community have gravitated towards baby self-feeding as a more “natural” choice. But is it worth it? Does Baby Led Weaning really work?
- Saves Time – no need to spend time steaming and pureeing fruits and veggies – just give baby a big chunk of something soft
- Saves Time part 2 – baby feeds himself, so you spend time at the table actually eating YOUR meal
- Saves Money – no need to purchase jarred mush – baby can have whatever side fruit or veggie the family is having
- All natural and easy going – allows babies to taste and nibble at their own pace
- Messy, messy, messy!! (I was warned ahead of time, but was not prepared for how messy it really is!)
- Can take quite a bit of time before baby actually figures out how to get food in his belly
- SO MESSY!
Ever since my infant son informed me that jarred baby food was not yummy, I have done all homemade baby food. That has worked great for us, and I find it pretty easy to have a selection of frozen purees ready to go. When my newest one was about 4 months old, a friend sent me a link to the Baby Led Weaning Website, asking me if I’d ever tried this. The idea was new to me, and I was super intrigued!
In Baby Led Weaning, you hand your baby food, and after much exploration and play, they eventually figure out how to eat it. The idea is that babies are not developmentally ready to eat until they are developmentally able to feed themselves. Many babies are around a year old when they are actually feeding themselves significant quantities of food.
(Note that in the U.S. “weaning” is typically mean to describe the process of a baby stopping breastfeeding. However, here “weaning” is used in the more British sense of adding food to compliment the breast milk).
I knew my little one was ready to start solids when at 6 months she snagged a green bean off my plate and gummed it with great gusto! The next day I offered her a large slice of baked sweet potato. Again, she very much enjoyed smashing it to bits and getting it everywhere. I’m not sure that she actually got any in her mouth. And the mess she made? Just unbelievable!
Over the next week, I continued to give her some large chunks of whatever side veggie we were having for dinner, and she continued to turn it into the biggest mess ever while getting almost none of it into her tummy. Honestly, I was not excited about having to clean up the super messy baby, and super messy high chair if the baby wasn’t actually eating.
Now, I know that babies need the majority of their calories to be from breast milk for the first year. And I know that my babe was gaining valuable feed-herself-skills while making these big messes. But I couldn’t get past the feeling that this mess was a very “unproductive” one. I want her to be adding a couple small (1 tbsp) servings of solids to her diet. Working full time, I don’t have the opportunity to add in additional nursing during the day as her growing body needs more and more.
Soooo… I started adding in some purees of whatever I had given her. If the family is eating baked sweet potato chips for dinner, I give her a couple, and also spoon feed her a little pureed sweet potato. If we are adding avocado to our lunchtime salads, I’ll offer her a wedge of avocado to gum up, along with a little pureed avocado as well. When the big kids share a banana for a snack, I’ll offer the baby a chunk of banana to suck and gnaw on.
Am I doing baby led weaning? No, not according to this summary of what baby led weaning is and what it is not. But that’s okay! Purees are totally fine! They are not unhealthy! They are just a different way of feeding baby. And while I spoon her purees, she also has a bit of the real thing to work on herself. In this way she is learning to feed herself, but also getting a small meal into her tummy. Yes, it’s still super messy, but she leaves the table with food in her belly.
Overall, baby led weaning didn’t work for us. Mostly because I just didn’t have patience for the mess while I waited (maybe months) for her to figure out the whole food-into-mouth-into-tummy thing. But I have peace with that! I think baby led weaning could be a great tool for babies that aren’t that interested in starting solids, or who refuse to eat purees from a spoon. For more info, check out www.babyledweaning.com.
Have you tried Baby Led Weaning? Did your baby take to it? What was your experience?