Babies don’t feed on milk forever. In fact, they’ll slowly venture out to different types of foods with varying taste and textures. While purees and spoon-feeding are typically the next steps most parents approach once the baby hits six months old, baby-led weaning jumps straight to solid foods - and for the right reasons!
Baby-led weaning empowers your baby in their eating habits by allowing them to eat until they’re comfortably full. There are several ways babies can benefit from baby-led weaning. To illustrate, some examples include improving their dexterity, developing early oral-motors skill, self-regulation, decreased picky eating, and the list goes on.
Before you begin with baby-led weaning, here are some essential facts you should know!
1. Your baby will gag, but it’s completely fine
One of the main reasons why baby-led weaning can be nerve-racking to new parents is because of the perceived risk of choking in their child. However, you must know that babies have a natural gag-reflex. Rather than hindering, it helps move food that travelled too deep into their mouths, back to the front so that they won’t choke. Since they’ve been drinking milk for a while, it’ll certainly take some time for them to get used to textures.
Anytime this happens, wait a few seconds, and you’ll see that your baby will turn out fine. Assuming that your baby isn’t premature, babies, in general, are ready to handle solid finger foods at six months of age. Hence, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll choke on food.
And if you freak out the moment your kid gags, they might mirror your reaction as well. Try your best to appear calm throughout the feeding process.
2. You can’t feed your baby exactly the same food you eat
One of the perks of baby-led weaning is that you’d need to prepare one less meal. Well, sort of.
For adults, the food we consume is typically more flavourful. It’s often flavoured with enhancers, herbs and spices. However, these are something your six-month-old baby don’t require. Their kidneys aren’t mature enough to handle added salt or sugar.
Whenever you cook a meal for your family, add in herbs, spices or condiments after separating your baby’s food portion. And since their appetite is considerably lesser than an adult, you can portion off their food in plastic containers to keep in the freezer for future use.
3. Besides texture, the types of food matter too
Similar to spoon-feeding, you should also focus on iron-rich foods for baby-led weaning. This includes meat, poultry, beans, eggs and the like. You’re also welcome to introduce steamed vegetables, soft fruits, full-fat yoghurt and cheese - though, we recommend waiting until they’re 12 months of age for homogenised milk.
Whole foods should be the primary focus to maximise the nutrition they consume. At the supermarket, you’d want to pay close attention to the ingredients list as well. Avoid highly-refined and processed toddler food products that contain heaps of sugar and salt.
4. Embrace the mess that comes with baby-led weaning
Babies will eat using their bare and clean hands. As a result, it’s not a big surprise that it’ll be much messier than spoon-feeding! To ease the entire process, we suggest investing in plastic bibs that you can easily clean.
We’ve barely scratched the surface in baby-led weaning. If you’re interested, we definitely suggest reading up more about it online! There’s no cookie-cutter way to go about this. But you’ll learn as you go along. For instance, you can even experiment with natural ingredients to extract its flavours for your baby to try!
Sometimes, it can be as delicious as processed foods that we’re so used to having. In this case, why not pack it in take out lunch boxes for your close friends or family’s child too? After all, good food is something kids will cherish as they grow older.