In my training as a dietitian I did not learn anything about baby led weaning. I had not heard of it until a friend told me that was how she was introducing her son to solid food. I immediately looked for more information and found very little. I bought the one book (that I know of) on the subject, read it and decided to try it along with some pureed food.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
It is a way of introducing a baby to solid foods without using purees. Baby is offered several foods at every meal and is not fed with a spoon. The baby chooses his own foods and learns how to feed himself. It encourages the use of foods that the family is eating, with only a few rules and foods that should be avoided in the beginning. The key is that it is started at 6 months and not before.
What Foods are Used with this Method?And What Should be Avoided?
The foods are cooked to a point of being soft, but not mushy. They should be easy to manage. Fruits and vegetables are best eaten when cut into stick shapes. Meats are offered on the bone, cut into strips or in large chunks. Mashed potatoes, cooked squash, or grains can be offered, but limited the amount of whole grains to avoid filling up too much. In the early days of feeding it is important that she get most of her nutrition from breast milk or formula. It is recommended to hold off on feeding milk (as a drink), nuts, tuna fish, honey, wheat, salt, sugar and processed foods. As long as the family meal doesnt include any of these things, baby can eat casseroles or other mixed dishes right along with the family.
What about allergies and introducing foods one at a time?
According to this method, as long as there is no family history of allergies it is considered safe to offer eggs, fats and dairy products (other than milk to drink) right away. The suggestion to introduce foods one at a time and only feed rice cereal for the first few weeks is based on the assumption that some parents will start solids at 4-5 months or earlier. At 6 months the digestive system can handle a wider variety of food than most people assume.
What is the parent/caregivers role during eating?
Ideally the whole family is together during mealtimes. The parent chooses what to offer her child and is there for support, but does not need to encourage the child to eat or help choose foods from the plate. It is important to offer a wide variety of foods, to ensure that she is getting enough of the nutrients she needs. The baby is in charge of deciding how much to eat at each meal. She has the ability to eat until she is satisfied and will know when to stop on her own.
Are there any potential risks with this feeding method?
It is essential to start this method at 6 months and not before. The digestive system and coordination for self feeding is not developed until about 6 months. If she is allowed to choose her own foods and feed herself, choking should not be an issue.
I will continue to add information on this subject from both my own experience and my research of journals and books.
For now here are some links:
Today Finley had steel cut oatmeal with yogurt for breakfast. I spoon fed her a small amount and then allowed her to eat some with her hands. What a mess! I was not prepared for the mess this would make. It was fun to watch her play with the food and taste it when she wanted to. I can see how it is more natural to have her in control of when and what she eats. For lunch I will give her some squash and some leftover chicken.