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What Is Baby Led Weaning?

Baby led weaning means letting your baby feed themselves from the start or during weaning. It lets your baby explore their food for themselves and try different textures. It helps them to cope with textures other than puree and explore different foods.

You may also find it can also be a messy but fun time, as your baby learns to pick up, drop and throw food! 

You may prefer baby-led weaning to spoon feeding, or you may want to combine a bit of both. There's no right or wrong way – You can do whatever you feel comfortable with.  The most important thing is that your baby eats a wide variety of food and gets all the nutrients they need.

  • Over the least 10 years there has been a growing interest and use of Baby Led Weaning. This is because there are believed to be benefits to letting your baby feed themselves for their weight and development.

    There are some research papers on Baby Led Weaning that have found it -

    • Helps development of key skills such as hand/eye co-ordination, chewing and swallowing.
    • Helps risk of obesity by allowing your baby control over how much food they eat so they stop when they are full.
    • Reduces fussiness with foods and 'picky eating' by offering a wide variety of family food eaten with parents and siblings.
    • Encourages jaw development through chewing which in turn helps speech development.
    • Reduces risk of food allergy or sensitivity through early introduction of those foods that may cause issues if introduced later.
    • Helps encourage independence and confidence
    • Most importantly Baby Led Weaning allows your baby to do what you are doing and you are your baby's best teacher. They can feed themselves holding their own food, putting down things they don't like or want - or throwing them away! - getting messy and enjoying food in a social and safe environment (up at the table with you). This means they keep engaged and interested in eating and have fun learning how to do this.
  • After 6 months, if you choose to start baby led weaning, try and keep your same feeding routine with breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Babies get most of their nutrition from milk throughout the first year. Follow the guidance below to make sure you are weaning your baby safely; 

    • Never leave your baby alone with food. There is always a risk with any type of weaning with choking. Make sure you are always with them when they are feeding.
    • Keep the food soft.  The food’s texture should be soft enough for you to squash in between your fingers. 
    • Prepare food according to your child's age.  Early on you give your baby sticks of food that they can grasp in their hand. As they get older they will be able to pick up smaller chunks of food.
    • Practice good hygiene. Make sure you clean your high chair or bowls that the food is being placed on. This will stop any germs multiplying which could make your baby sick. 
    • Choking risk. The risk of babies choking when baby led weaning is no different to when being spoon fed. The good news is that all babies are born with a gag reflex that lets them push food forward in their mouths. You may notice your baby gagging more when baby led weaning. Don't worry, this is because they are in control of their own feed.

    It is important to make sure that any small, round foods, such as grapes and cherry tomatoes, are halved lengthways. And check that any meat or fish you are giving your baby does not contain any bones. 

  • Baby Led Weaning is no different to spoon led weaning in what foods are healthy and good choices for your baby. As we all do babies like variety, taste and texture to what they eat so flavour food with herbs, don't be afraid to let baby try what you are having (without salt or sugar) and soon you will all be eating the same meals together. 

    This is - 

    • Cheaper than cooking lots of different meals just for your baby 
    • Easier than cooking separate meals for your baby
    • Reduces the chance of them becoming fussy and expecting special meals that are different to yours as they grow older. 
    • Makes you all healthier 
    • Don't give your baby processed or convenience foods such as microwave meals or takeaways. If you are having something like this you will need to eat later and prepare something just for your
    • little one as these foods are high in salt, sugars and fats. Try making your own healthy versions of takeaway foods to eat together that are grilled or baked and keep them to occasional meals not
    • every week. Planning ahead can really help - freezing foods you have cooked at the weekend for the week ahead and using a slow cooker to prepare meals when you are busy means you will have more time. 

    This recipe book from First Steps Nutrition will give you plenty of ideas and let you know how big portions should be for everyone in the family from the little one to the adults so you can all stay healthy together. 

    *Click here* for some recipe and food preparation ideas.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum.

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