The term ‘baby-led’ weaning arose at the start of the new century. The pivotal Millennium had just passed and Jennifer Lopez singing Waiting for Tonight was playing in most cars and on radios. Most of our mothers had never heard of this phenomenon and were still spoon feeding 3 year-olds and in some cases even older kids!
Fast forward twenty years and baby-led weaning has become the go-to option for most parents. No more coaxing spoonfuls of mush into your sweetheart’s mouth and getting frustrated at every spat-out mouthful . Simply, leave things on the highchair tray and encourage self-feeding. At a time when we all have little time to enjoy a meal together, this method allows you to eat at the same time and encourages independence.
This method is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. With baby-led weaning you often come across so many stress-inducing sentences such as ‘it’s messy’, ‘they may choke!’, ‘they won’t eat enough’ but don’t let that put you off. What is motherhood if not an invitation for everyone’s feedback on everything you do! This method has many benefits and it is important to remember that no one’s baby follows anything perfectly, so remain flexible. While my daughter was predominantly ‘baby-led’ weaned, I still spoon-fed her soups and stews. Anything she was able to hold, she managed herself.
Here are a few reasons why this method is so popular….
Eating should be a good experience for everyone – baby and parent alike. Being in charge at mealtimes and controlling what, how much and how fast to eat, makes the three-times-a-day routine more enjoyable. With baby-led weaning, babies are excited to eat, enjoy the learning experience that different textures and tastes bring and most importantly, practice how to do it for themselves! They are more likely to try new flavours when given the choice.
It’s halal and cheaper
As you can give your baby some of what you cook, you do not have to worry about scouring the supermarket for pureed food and checking the lengthy ingredients. You can decide to go fully organic and cut out all the preservatives as well as make everything completely fresh, rather than feed those jars that have a shelf-life for six months!
Although the supermarkets have a range of baby food, there aren’t many options for the halal baby food market in the UK. Baby-led weaning will mean you can easily add meat and fish into your baby’s diet from early on, without worrying where the meat came from or having to stick with veggie options.
Learning about food
Babies who feed themselves are more aware of how all the different flavours work together. With spoon-feeding, all the flavours are mixed and it does not give the chance for your baby to have a preference i.e. to eat chicken with or without carrot. Baby-led weaning also increases the chances for your baby to accept new foods and tastes, as she can separate the components and eat what she prefers, rather than reject a whole meal due to one prominent ingredient.
Learning about their world
Baby-led weaning offers a sensory experience at every mealtime. It gives your baby the opportunity to use all of their senses and discover how they all intertwine. Albeit, sometimes messy (a normal bib will not be enough to contain the mess), it allows your child to establish control such as picking up something slippery or soft and to master the art of hand-eye coordination as well as develop their fine and gross motor skills much quicker. Did we mention this was messy…?
Food also offers a lesson in concepts. When baby-led weaning is used, the baby learns about weight, size, shape, texture and more in one mealtime. Chewing food (rather than just swallowing purees) develops the facial muscles that will be needed as they prepare to learn to talk.
Allowing babies to do things for themselves gives them confidence in their own abilities and decision making. When a baby picks something up and gets it to her mouth, she receives an almost instant reward in the form of an interesting taste or texture. In addition to the praise from the supervising parent of course! The more she practices, the better she will get, and this in turn will lead to more enjoyable mealtimes. Win, win! Rather than cheering my daughter on for every bite, I would say things like ‘This is really yummy!’ and eat at the same time as her; imitation is the first method of learning for a baby.
Being part of family mealtimes
The main advantage of baby-led weaning is that you can all enjoy a meal together, and your baby has a brilliant example of how to eat every time, eventually adopting table manners as demonstrated by the family. Research shows that sharing mealtimes has a positive impact on the whole family in relation to their social skills, language and eating habits. They’ll eat what you eat, the way you eat. You won’t need to focus all your attention on them during meals, making mealtimes natural and uneventful. You don’t want a child expecting a Mexican wave at every bite nor become anxious because all eyes are watching them during a family dinner. The attention can actually have an adverse effect so remember to play it cool…!
No elaborate games or tricks
Your baby is in charge of what they eat when you use this method. You don’t need to do a show and dance anytime they choose not to eat. Simply clear up and try again at the next mealtime. With this technique, you still give your child milk-feeds, slowly reducing over time. Babies who are fed in this way are likely to keep their milk-feeds for longer, which is beneficial to their health. There is no need to trick toddlers into eating healthily by making food into special shapes or “hiding” vegetables in certain dishes. Forceing foods create fussy eaters whereas toddlers who are given a choice, tend to be less fussy and more willing to try new flavours on their on terms. Who doesn’t want a toddler that likes fruit and veg!
Eating with your baby at the same time, at the same table, and sharing the same food is at the heart of baby-led weaning. Although there is no need for spoon-feeding, you can do this alongside baby-led weaning if this is what suits your baby until they get a grasp of using utensils themselves. Baby-led weaning makes introducing solids easier and more enjoyable for the whole family, encouraging your baby to become confident and happy at mealtimes. Give it a go!
We’d love to hear from mums who succeeded with baby-led weaning or have any questions. Drop them in the comments section. Let the discussions begin!
An advocate of Baby Led Weaning, Paleo diet and Baby Wearing. Always try to recycle, upcycle and stay green. Believe in healing and medicine through diet to stay healthy. Always broody and always trying to learn more for a natural lifestyle xxx