Baby-led weaning is all about offering your baby a selection of foods to choose from and letting them feed themselves. Sophie from Yorkshire Born Yorkshire Fed gives an overview on this approach and how to go about starting.

This approach to weaning does not use any purées/baby rice, it relies on babies feeding themselves with more solid foods. It is thought that babies who are spoon-fed may be given more to eat than they would choose and that spoon-feeding purées may delay the experience of chewing.

The baby is allowed to decide how much he or she wants to eat and is in full control, no spoons are put to the baby’s mouth by parents – preloaded spoons are okay, e.g. yogurt, cereal, etc. but the baby will still feed themselves.

Baby-led weaning is thought to help reduce obesity levels, as the baby has more control over when they have had enough. They also have more choice over what they eat as only they put food in their mouths. When spoon feeding, it is tempting to encourage the child to eat when they may be full.

This approach to weaning can be seen as a natural transition onto solid foods, in the same way that babies learn to crawl and then walk at their own pace, babies can direct their own progress onto solid foods. It is thought that this approach to weaning gives babies a better opportunity to find out about what foods have to offer and also enables them to set the pace for each meal, so making the transition onto solid foods takes place as naturally as possible.

Using this approach will also encourage babies to accept a wider range of foods, as it is easier for them to identify individual foods which they may or may not like. Puréed food can be a mixture of several ingredients, so making it harder to identify individual ingredients. In addition, there is more than just the flavour of the food to encourage babies to eat; in feeding themselves babies also experience texture, colour, size, shape, and improved hand-to-mouth coordination.

Fruit and vegetables are ideal to start with, with harder foods being lightly cooked so that they are soft enough to be chewable. Pieces should not be cut too small, but rather about the size of a baby’s fist and where possible chip shaped or with a built-in handle such as a broccoli floret; this will help the baby grasp the food.

TOP TIP – Ensure that your baby is supported in an upright position when they are experimenting with food.

Never leave your baby alone in case of choking.

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