Author's note: Baby-led weaning became prevalent within the last decade. To learn if baby-led weaning is the right approach for your infant, we provide current research studies at the end of this post. This post is not intended to advocate for or dissuade baby-led weaning. Rather, it aims to explain the concept and provide the basic principals of baby-led weaning.
What is baby-led weaning?
Baby-led weaning involves introducing solid food to an infant using a self-feeding method. Infants are allowed to use their own hands to feed themselves select foods that are not pureed. This method gives the infant the ability to control how fast and how much is eaten.
Why are some caregivers choosing this method of feeding their baby?
One reason why this approach entices many caregivers is that it can teach their infants to learn at an early age to chew/gum their food before swallowing. An infant that starts out eating pureed food has a greater chance of developing the undesired habit of swallowing their food without chewing. While there is not enough research to support the idea that baby-led weaning is the best feeding approach, caregivers that choose this method believe that it may improve an infant's feeding skills and confidence. Some caregivers believe that this method supports an infant's ability to self-regulate, resulting in a lower risk for weight concerns later in life.
When should someone start baby-led weaning?
There are signs a caregiver can look for that indicate when the infant is ready to start the baby-led weaning journey. These signs typically occur around six months of age.
The signs of feeding readiness include:
Independently sits up
Lack of tongue thrust
Grasps items with proper hand control
Puts toys to his or her mouth
Expresses a curiosity in table foods
What are some recommended foods when starting baby-led weaning?
1/8 of an avocado sliced lengthwise
2 1-inch slices of steamed carrots; either mashed or steamed to a very soft texture
2 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt
1/2 of a boiled egg, mashed
1/8 of a ripe pear sliced into strips
1 tablespoon lentils
What are some foods that should be strictly avoided during baby-led weaning?
Whole cherry tomatoes
Other important guidelines to consider:
Breastmilk or formula should still be the infant's primary source of nutrition until one year of age.
Infant should be upright in a high chair or feeding seat while eating.
Mash the food between your fingers first to ensure the food can be mashed with your infant's gums or teeth.
Iron should be prioritized when introducing solid foods to infant.
If the food is cooked, allow the food to cool before offering it to your infant.
It is not recommended to give your infant cow's milk, honey, lunch meat, or fresh cheeses until one year of age.
Current research studies on baby-led weaning:
Rowan, H., Lee, M., & Brown, A. (2019). Differences in dietary composition between infants introduced to complementary foods using Baby‐led weaning and traditional spoon feeding. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 32(1), 11-20.
Fangupo, L. J., Heath, A. L. M., Williams, S. M., Williams, L. W. E., Morison, B. J., Fleming, E. A., ... & Taylor, R. W. (2016). A baby-led approach to eating solids and risk of choking. Pediatrics, 138(4).
D'Andrea, E., Jenkins, K., Mathews, M., & Roebothan, B. (2016). Baby-led weaning: a preliminary investigation. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 77(2), 72-77.
Daniels, L., Heath, A. L. M., Williams, S. M., Cameron, S. L., Fleming, E. A., Taylor, B. J., ... & Taylor, R. W. (2015). Baby-Led Introduction to SolidS (BLISS) study: a randomised controlled trial of a baby-led approach to complementary feeding. BMC pediatrics, 15(1), 1-15.
2017. Born to Eat. New York, NY. Skyhorse Publishing.