Weaning is a subject that is at once very personal for a parent, but that everyone has advice to bestow about. From what age to begin, to what foods you should use, a new parent will hear just as much unsolicited advice about weaning as they will about anything else baby-related. However, one interesting practice that’s recently been growing in popularity is the concept of Baby-Led Weaning.
Baby-Led Weaning is essentially the same as regular weaning, but instead of relying on purees and special spoons, small amounts of appropriate finger foods like broccoli spears or tofu are offered to the child, who is then allowed to feed himself. It is important that the foods be of a shape that he can grasp, since many babies are ready for weaning before they have the dexterity to pick up small pieces. However, Baby-Led Weaning is about learning, not nutrition, so it’s important for babies that are experiencing Baby-Led Weaning to still receive enough milk or formula to meet their needs.
The main advantages of Baby-Led Weaning are that it is easier and less expensive than traditional weaning, and generates less garbage. Since babies can eat many of the same foods as adults (with a few exceptions, like peanut butter and honey), preparing weaning foods can be as easy as not adding seasonings to what the parents are already preparing for themselves. This method takes advantage of a baby’s natural curiosity and propensity to imitate his parents, and those exposed to new foods this way often become less fussy eaters when they become older.
The disadvantages include the mess, and that you can’t measure how much your child is actually
consuming. This is why it’s so important to make sure the baby’s caloric needs are met with milk or
formula. Choking risks are not generally a problem provided the child is old enough to sit up by himself before weaning begins, however caution should be taken with developmentally delayed or premature children. Similarly, weaning foods should be chosen with extreme care for babies from families with histories of food allergies or sensitivities (Celiac, lactose intolerance, etc.).
This may seem like a new trend in baby care, but it’s really what parents have done for their children since the times before blenders and purees. With a bit of common sense (and some handy plastic drop cloths), Baby-Led Weaning can be an experience that is fun and fulfilling for you and your baby- your baby gets to experiment and learn more about his world, and you get to watch your child learn and grow before your eyes.