If the idea of painstakingly spooning tiny bites of food into the mouth of your squirmy baby sounds horrible, you might be interested in baby-led weaning. If you’re trying to prolong breastfeeding to continue reaping the benefits, baby-led weaning is a great solution!
Baby-led weaning is waiting until your baby shows they’re ready to feed themselves before trying to feed them. Once baby is interested, you give them a small portion of food at mealtimes, in addition to regular nursing times. As the baby gets more comfortable with food, they naturally drop nursing times until they eat toddler-sized portions of whatever you’re eating and nurse for only a few select occasions. (Typically before sleep and when hurt or sad.)
Indications of food-readiness are:
- Being able to sit unsupported.
- Absence of the tongue-thrust reflex.
- Tooth eruption.
- Being able to hold a pea-sized object between index finger and thumb.
- Chewing and swallowing rather than mashing and exploring food.
- Interest in food for nutrition.
Keep in mind that babies tend to show an interest in food for play some time before they’re interested in eating. Babies will put food in their mouths and mash it up, but also smear it around, throw it on the floor, and generally treat it like a toy. This is not the same as interest in eating. When a baby is interested in eating, they will focus on it, chew and swallow what they put in their mouth, and consume a noticeable amount of what’s in front of them. (They still have tiny stomachs, so this amount may be a tablespoon or less at first.)
Once your baby is interested in food and has the dexterity to feed themselves, what do you do? There are two options. One is to feed baby small pieces of whatever you’re having for each meal.
The other is as follows:
- Give baby one food at a time, focusing on cooked, simple foods. (Cut foods to be tiny-bite sized.)
- Wait 24-48 hours to see if baby’s body can digest the food well. Baby’s stool should be only slightly thicker and browner than normal.
- Continue allowing baby any food they’ve successfully digested, and add other foods one at a time with the same delay.
This method is particularly recommended if you have a family history of food sensitivity.
With baby-led weaning, you save time and hassle, and your baby may be less picky as they grow!