In the world of solid foods there are two common ways babies are introduced to eating: spoon fed or baby-led weaning. Baby-led weaning is a feeding option that puts the baby in control of the eating. Food is offered in a way where the child is able to feed themselves and decide how much to eat and when they are finished eating.
Deciding how to introduce solids is a personal decision as a parent and there is no “right choice.” Knowing some of the benefits of baby-led weaning can make it easier when debating which method may work best:
*Today’s post is a guest post by Emily from The Journey of Parenthood!
Baby-Led Weaning is Enjoyable
When mealtime is fun, it becomes something everyone looks forward to. Baby-led weaning puts babies in the driver’s seat with what they eat, how much they eat, and how fast they eat it. This makes it an enjoyable experience that they get excited about! It also makes meals more enjoyable for the rest of the family. Everyone is able to eat together. No one has to take turns feeding the baby and no one has to prepare additional food for baby. This allows for mealtime to be quality family time where everyone can participate!
Baby-Led Weaning is Natural
Babies are born with instincts and the ability to use their hands and mouths to explore the world around them. Giving them the opportunity to experiment with solid food at their own pace allows them to use those instincts! It also helps babies learn appetite control as they are allowed to stop eating when they are finished.
Baby-Led Weaning Allows Learning Opportunities
When babies feed themselves they are allowed to truly experience food as it’s meant to be enjoyed. Baby food or purees are not able to provide the baby with a true texture, look, smell, or even taste of all the foods available. Baby-led weaning gives babies a chance to learn about foods as they were meant to be enjoyed and experienced right from the beginning.
Baby-Led Weaning Teaches Safe Eating
Spoon feeding puts the parent in control, but with baby-led weaning, the child is able to hold the food, explore the food, and have a personal relationship with what they put in their mouths. This allows them to judge how different sized pieces of food feel differently when being chewed and moved around in their mouths. Learning this helps them learn what pieces are too large to eat and can help reduce choking risks. It also helps babies differentiate between what is meant to go into their mouths (food) and what isn’t (toys etc).
Baby-Led Weaning Helps Development
When babies feed themselves they use their fingers to put the food into their mouths which helps in hand-eye coordination. Dexterity is also improved through grasping foods of a variety of sizes and textures. When babies chew their food, rather than just swallowing it, it also helps develop their facial muscles that aid in talking as well as proper digestion.
Baby-Led Weaning Makes Life Easier for Mom
No more “open wide, here comes the airplane.” Mealtime is easier when everyone is relaxed, everyone is enjoying their food at the same time, and everyone is eating the same things. Baby-led weaning makes life less complicated for Mom (or Dad if he’s preparing the food!). There are no games or tricks or mealtime battles. Baby eats, siblings eat, parents eat. There is no worry about “what to do with the baby” during mealtimes because the baby is eating at the same time as everyone else. Eating out is also easier and allows parents to enjoy their food while it’s hot and fresh! Not only is mealtime easier at an infant level, but it continues to be a smoother experience into toddlerhood as well. Baby-led weaned toddlers are less likely to be picky or to refuse foods because they’ve been given such a large variety right from the start!
Thinking Baby-Led weaning is for you? Read this post on a simple guide for getting started with Baby-Led Weaning!
One way to prepare for Baby-Led Weaning is to get a good high chair. Read this post on the BEST high chair for Baby-Lead Weaning
Wanting ideas on what foods to feed first? I’ve used the Baby-Led Weaning method for three out of four of my babies and have posts about each of their first foods for the first month of solids, so there are TONS of great ideas here to get you started: Britt’s 1st month of solids, Tess’s first month of solids, Spear’s first month of solids.