Have you ever heard of baby-led weaning? Also known as feeding on request, this practice is an alternative to traditional weaning that may just work better.
While breast milk should be the baby’s only food for the first six months of life, after this threshold you should begin introducing solids to your baby’s diet. There are two ways to do this. Either opt for traditional weaning or let your child lead the way.
If you’re considering the latter, here are 11 things to know before you get started.
1. WAIT UNTIL THE BABY IS SIX MONTHS OLD
You shouldn’t introduce solids to a younger baby if you’re considering baby-led weaning. Before this age, the baby may not be able to pick food on her own or to chew. Our advice is to wait until the first incisors erupted, as your baby will feel more motivated to eat.
2. INVOLVE THE BABY
The whole purpose of baby led weaning is to involve your child in the choice of foods. Give your baby options and let her pick the food she likes best from two or three dishes. To raise her interest, always propose foods that you also eat.
3. DON’T FORCE YOUR CHILD TO EAT
Most of the foods introduced in the weaning stage are new foods for the little one. And the whole purpose of baby-led weaning is to discover which foods the baby truly enjoys. For this reason, you should never force your child to eat something.
Give her choices and respect them. If the baby stops eating, it either means she’s full or she doesn’t like what’s on the menu.
4. SERVE COLORFUL FOOD
How many times did you refuse to eat something just because it looked unappealing? If you do it as an adult, what makes you think your infant would want to taste something that tells him nothing? To avoid this trap, serve colorful food. Babies are attracted to colors and your child will certainly be more attracted to taste a bright orange carrot than a dull supermarket formula.
5. SERVE TINY BITES
Concerned about baby’s ability to bite or chew? Serve small bites that baby can easily grab and eat. Cut everything into small pieces, even if you’re serving cooked food.
6. INTRODUCE ONE FOOD AT A TIME
Just like traditional weaning, baby-led weaning has the purpose to introduce baby to solids while giving you the opportunity to identify allergies and intolerances. To do this accurately, introduce the baby to one food at a time.
While you do have to give the child an opportunity to choose the food, once she’s chosen, make sure to remove all other foods from the table.
Once you’ve assessed the existence or lack of an issue, proceed with another food.
7. STIMULATE YOUR BABY
The best way to allow your baby to wean herself is by stimulating her curiosity. To do this, make sure the whole family eats together. At some point, your baby will show interest in tasting adult’s food, and at this stage, you can start the true diversification.
However, make sure you’re eating healthy foods and that you don’t introduce any allergens before the baby’s first birthday.
8. LET NATURE DO ITS COURSE
More than human beings, we are mammals. And if you have a quick look at the animal kingdom you’ll notice that all mammals breastfeed until the cubs are ready to explore and learn about food on their own. This means your baby will follow his instinct when it comes to experimenting new foods. So, just sit back, relax, and wait for your child to start weaning.
9. ATTENTION TO ALLERGENS
Baby-led weaning is awesome, but you should pay attention to allergens. Don’t introduce fish, eggs, and cow’s milk in the baby’s diet until the first birthday. Then, make sure each food is introduced alone. In this way, if the baby develops an allergy or intolerance, you’ll know exactly what caused it.
10. LIMIT THE USE OF SUGAR AND SALT
While salt is an important ingredient, sugar isn’t. However, salt is also harmful in high quantities. Limit its use and completely exclude sugar from the baby’s diet.
If you really want, you can serve the baby biscuits and cakes after the first birthday.
11. HAVE FUN
Baby-led weaning is fun, and you should learn to go with the flow. Enjoy family dinners while the self-nursing child happily learns about food. Just have your kid wearing a sleeved bib and use a plastic tablecloth.
Then, just don’t worry too much. Let the baby eat with his hands even if it makes a mess. Baby-led weaning is all about learning – you about your baby’s culinary habits and the baby about the colorful world of foods beyond breast milk.
Baby-led weaning is not only a great alternative to traditional weaning, but it could make a true difference between a peaceful and a harsh weaning. Trust nature and trust your child. She’ll know when to start feeding on more than breast milk and will know how to select favorite foods for a successful weaning experience.