Hands off everyone! Learn the baby-friendly way of introducing your little one to solids,
while giving them a head start on forming healthy eating habits & relationships with food.
Baby Led Weaning & Introducing Solids to Your Baby
From birth to birthday parties, parents wish to make every moment perfect. They cherish every occasion and milestone with their babies. One of the most exciting milestones for parents to take part in is their baby’s transition from milk to solids.
As a baby reaches approximately 6 months of age, it is time to explore the realm of solid foods. A very popular and beneficial form of wearning that we prefer to use with our own babies is baby led weaning.
In this article, we will share scientifically-backed information about baby led weaning and the introduction to solids, as well as tips and tricks for making the transition. By implementing the following suggestions provided, you can confidently begin your little one’s journey to eating solid foods and make mealtime more enjoyable for the whole family.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning is a modern practice that emphasizes the practice of babies self-feeding with easy to grasp finger foods, rather than spoon-fed purees for the transition from milk to solids. It is important to know that “weaning” in this sense does not mean cutting out formula or breast milk in entirety; in fact, in the initial months of baby led weaning, formula or breast milk will still make up a large majority of baby’s daily nutritional intake.
Benefits of Baby Led Weaning
In their studies on the subject, Rapley & Murkett suggest that baby led weaning has the following advantages:
- Baby led weaning allows baby to be a part of meal time with other members of the family, resulting in valuable social interactions.
- Baby eats when they are ready and is encouraged to explore tastes and textures.
- Eating on one’s own terms helps create a positive relationship with food.
- Making one meal for the entire family means less expense, less cooking, less prep, and less hassle.
- Baby led weaning is believed to reduce fussiness and picky eating habits later in a child’s life
- This method allows babies to practice hand-eye coordination and sensorimotor skills at a very young age.
- Your baby will be introduced to a wide variety of foods, encouraging a diverse flavor palette.
When is the right time to introduce solids?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends solids to be introduced to children at approximately 6 months of age. Babies must have proper head and neck control, be able to sit up unassisted, and be able to grasp objects. It is not recommended to introduce solids before the age of 4 months old.
Here are additional signs that indicate that your child is ready for solids:
- Shows curiosity towards what others are eating
- Grasp the object and take it into her mouth.
- Opens mouth upon being offering foods.
How to Introduce Solids
Are you noticing signs that your baby is ready for solids? Great! The next step is the most exciting one—the introduction to solid foods.
For your little one, learning to eat solid foods can be a slow process. It is important to remember that when you start baby led weaning, your main focus for your baby should be fun and exploration. Don’t stress if your babe doesn’t eat most or any of what you offer, as most nutritional content will still come from formula or breast milk at this time.
When you begin baby led weaning, stick to one food every 3 to 4 days to keep an eye out for food allergies.
Offer your baby soft food cut into stick-like shapes that are at least the length of their fist.
Offer a variety of foods and textures such as bananas, avocado, toast, baked apples (without the peel), pasta, steamed carrots, steamed chicken, and fish without bones.
Always ensure baby is sitting fully up right, buckled into their highchair during meal times, to ensure the utmost safety when it’s time to eat.
Be prepared for the mess-- new eaters are notoriously messy. There will likely be food everywhere! Manage the mess with a silicone bib, along with an anti-slip splat mat beneat baby’s highchair to keep messes to a minimum.
The Role of Formula or Breast Milk in Introducing Solids
When beginning baby led weaning, your babe will still need to get the majority of their calories from formula or breast milk. To ensure they are getting what they need, offer their formula or breast milk before their solid meals. Allow baby to drink to their needs, then offer solids as a form of taste and texture exploration.
Over the next few months, the ratio of milk to solids will change, and by the time your baby reaches 12 months of age, they will have likely developed a routine of 3 small meals per day with formula or breast milk in between.
At the age of 6 months, you can safely give your little one a small amount of water around mealtime. ½ to 1 cup is appropriate each day. Straw cups or sippy cups are great options to use during this introduction.
Juices should be avoided for babies less than 1 year old.
Making Mealtime Fun
You’ve introduced your baby to solids and the entire family is now enjoying mealtime together. Now what? Here are some tips and tricks to making mealtime fun and easy:
Create a routine
Begin with washing both yours and your baby’s hands. This will help create a cue that it’s time to eat. Eating needs baby's only focus at this time, so turn off screens like the televsion, tablets, or phones. Start with scheduling three meals per day, leading up to the introduction of two snack times in between meals.
Utilize “Sanity-Saving” Products
New eaters are messy eaters. It’s a fact of life, and it is actually part of the reason why babies that are weaned with the baby led weaning method tend to be much less picky than traditionally weaned babies. Squishing, spreading, and even spitting out foods helps babies learn and appreciate the different textures that foods have to offer. The trade off to this wonderful life skill is an inevitably messy eating space. Save yourself the hassle of clean up by placing an easy clean up splat-mat beneath your little ones highchair. These sanity-saving mats will provide an anti-slip and anti-mess surface for your babe’s messy food creations.
Serve Meals in Baby-Friendly Dinnerware
Little hands and mouths need appropriately sized dinnerware. Silicone tipped utensils provide a soft, squishy surface for tender, teething gums. Suction equipped bowls and plates prevent baby from dropping that fresh plate of spaghetti straight onto the floor. We love this all inclusive seven piece silicone dinnerware set for our brand new eaters. It has everything you need to make a fun and practical mealtime presentation for your little babe.
Rapley, G., & Murkett, T. (2008). Baby-led Weaning. Helping your baby love good food. London, England: Vermillion