There are so many valuable resources to guide you through a baby-led weaning transition with your little one, so why am I adding my voice to the clutter or those better versed in this subject than me? My approach is going to come from the lifestyle of Trim Healthy Mama and include some basic baby-led weaning benefits and guidelines if you want to baby-led wean your child and let your Trim Healthy Mama heart guide you.
This is not an ultimate guide post, this is a resource article based on the need for additional information on baby-led weaning in the THM community. Please use this as a starting point, not an ultimate guide.
What is Baby-Led Weaning
Baby-led weaning is simply an approach to introducing solid foods where a baby is offered appropriate finger foods instead of purees. They are encouraged to self-feed and explore their food, which allows them the freedom to learn how to chew and swallow.
Baby-led weaning does not mean your baby will stop nursing or receive a bottle. Continue to nurse or offer a bottle just as often at the beginning.
Here are three points of baby-led weaning that I believe describe the process best.
- Baby-led weaning offers babies appropriate finger food, such as cooked carrots, bananas, or avocados. Baby is offered 'real food' that is not processed.
- Families are encouraged to all eat together at mealtime and offer the baby the same food that they are eating (within reason- we will get into this more later).
- Babies are given the freedom to explore new tastes and textures without the pressure to eat a given amount or be forced to eat a specific food.
3 Baby-Led Weaning Benefits
There are so many benefits of Baby-Led weaning and there are many books written on the benefits and 'how-tos' of properly doing it. For the purposes of this article, I'm going to summarize the three benefits that led me to this style of feeding my baby.
1. Baby-Led Weaning is Healthier
I dove into what baby-led-weaning is back in 2019 when I was first tasked with the journey of feeding my first child who was born in March of 2018. There was something in me that was dismayed by the idea that I should be feeding my child canned purees from grocery shelves. Truthfully I was disgusted by the idea of feeding him foods that were grown, processed, packaged, and shipped months before he was even born.
It didn't seem right.
Then I heard about baby-led weaning from one of my Trim Healthy Mama Facebook groups. After only a little reading I was understanding the basics and immediately felt a wave of relief.
- Baby-led weaning is healthier than the typical purees that are fed to babies.
- Baby will eat real fruits and vegetables without any conventional processing.
- Baby will eat food without added sugars.
- Baby will be able to touch, feel, and enjoy the sensory adventure of real food.
- Baby will learn how to appropriately chew their food.
This article excellently explains the developmental reflex of chewing and swallowing. It is a short read and I highly suggest you read it to understand the
2. Baby-Led Weaning is Easier
Now I want to be fair and say that for some baby-led weaning might seem a lot harder than feeding conventional purees. The research and time feeling comfortable with this style of feeding a baby may in the end seem insurmountable, and I get that.
However, one of the premises of baby-led weaning is that eventually (and sometimes right away) you can feed your baby exactly what the rest of the family is eating for meals. This makes it incredibly easy to feed your baby from day to day.
For example, last night my family ate my Easy Peasy Pea Salad. I removed the onions from the serving I was going to give my baby and broke the top of those peas. Then I let him explore and eat. There are some that would not have broken the peas and that's fine, but I felt more comfortable.
Although mashing the peas would have technically not been pure baby-led weaning, I'm of the opinion that baby-led weaning should be less structured and more open to what works for your family, so I would be your cheerleader if in this scenario you mashed the peas and let the baby eat with a spoon or their hands.
3. Baby-Led Weaning Sets Children Up for Their Future
I ultimately chose baby-led weaning because I wanted to set my child up for a healthy future. I'm a strong believer that the modern American diet is leading to mounting health issues and it starts with children being fed a steading diet of processed sugar.
Sugar is addictive. It has even been suggested that it is as addictive as cocaine. Although I understand that not everyone has this opinion, and I can respect that, I truly believe that we are setting up our children for addictive behaviors when we feed them a steady diet of sugar.
Modern companies market food to kids that are riddled with sugar in it. One yogurt cup that is marketed to kids has an added 11 grams of sugar. That's a huge amount for a product that most would consider 'healthy.' The American Heart Health Association recommends that The American Heart Association recommends children and teens consume less than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugar per day.
Baby-led weaning introduces babies to real and true foods, which helps them develop a healthy pallet for healthy foods and sets them up for a healthy diet.
Basics of Baby-Led Weaning
So, what are the basics of baby-led weaning? We've discussed baby-led weaning benefits, so now how do we get started? You don't need much, which is a great thing.
- Make a safe place to sit.
- Baby needs to be able to sit up by him/herself. A high chair is a great option, baby can sit in a parent's lap as well. Just remember they need to be able to sit up on their own.
- Chose appropriate finger foods.
- Decide when your child will eat.
- I recommend starting once a day. Your baby will show cues on when to increase how much he/she eats.
- Start slow!
- It's okay to start slow, take breaks, and bend the rules! Make it work for your family.
- Be flexible
What Can I Feed My Baby
There are so many versatile things you can feed your baby. Here are a few of our favorites.
Part of the baby-led weaning benefits is that you are letting your baby learn to feed themselves from the start. You will be offering them thick finger-size pieces that are soft and easily squishable. This means the food is easy to hold and is less at risk for choking.
- Chicken Drumsticks (do some reading on this)
- We start by taking off the cartilage and most of the meat. There is not a lot of food consumed when we start this, it's more about letting them learn how to chew.
- Especially at the early stage, I feel more comfortable offering my babies cooked egg yolks.
- Cooked carrots
- Cooked squash
- Shredded cheese
I have also found it helpful to have a good baby-led weaning plate. It has helped cut down on the mess.
How Does Baby-Led Weaning Relate to Trim Healthy Mama?
Trim Healthy Mama is a way of eating that balances your blood sugar, eliminates toxic foods, and is a lifestyle of balance. Baby-led weaning is an approach to weaning a baby that chooses real fruits and vegetables instead of purees.
Often those who live the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle want to set their children up for success in eating a healthier diet. Baby-led weaning is an excellent choice if you want to continue keeping processed foods and sugar out of
Resources for Baby-Led Weaning
Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods by Gill Rapley (Author), Tracey Murkett (Author)