Baby-Led Weaning Basics

Baby-led weaning, or baby-led feeding, is an approach to introducing solid foods to your baby whereby spoon-feeding and purees are skipped in favor of finger foods that babies can eat on their own. In this way, the parents and caregivers follow the baby’s lead. This method makes it possible for parents to bypass the idea of baby food entirely.  Baby-led weaning is becoming popular day by day. It is especially hailed by those who want to avoid their baby being a picky eater or followers of Montessori-type philosophies. According to these philosophies, the child is encouraged to be self-sufficient. Correspondingly, baby-led weaning specifically emphasizes the independence of the baby.

The Method of Baby-Led Weaning:

In this approach, a parent waits for the baby to show some developmental readiness signs for eating and then follows the cues of the baby in all matters related to introducing solid food. Babies will be given food like other family members and encouraged to self-feed by picking up food with their fingers.  You can prepare the same meal for the whole family. Just do some modifications to it as needed by the newest eater, depending on what is going to be appropriate and safe for babies. Although babies will be trusted to eat as little or as much as they need, food will be placed by you in front of them by being mindful of the portions for your littlest eater. Along with introducing complementary solids through this baby-led weaning method, breast or instant formula milk will also be kept on continued throughout most of the first year. Ideally, the process involves a gradual transition from full breast or formula milk to a varied diet of solid foods. 

Benefits of the Baby-Led Weaning Approach:

Baby-led weaning offers several benefits. Research studies are only just beginning to analyze these impacts. Read on to know some of the benefits of baby-led weaning. 

Fostering independence: 

It makes babies learn on their own, giving them control over what and how much they want to eat. It also gives better appetite control by learning to stop when full, promoting good eating habits. One study found out that babies whose weaning was done using the BLW approach had better understanding of feeling hunger and fullness than babies weaned using a more traditional approach.

Developing motor and oral skills:

When babies self-feed, consyming foods of various consistencies and textures, it enables them to work on jaw strength, tongue movements, swallowing, and critical motor skills required to pick up and bring into their mouth different sized pieces of food with their tiny fingers. 

Encouraging social interactions:

Eating with you develops the baby’s concept of family mealtime, offering positive developmental and social reinforcement. Babies also learn how to chew and swallow by watching you.

Exposure to diverse foods:

With this approach, babies are introduced to a greater variety of foods with different tastes, textures, and consistencies. This makes them less likely to turn into picky eaters in the toddler years and beyond. In a study, baby-led weaning babies were found as less likely to be fussy eaters by their mothers as compared to spoon-fed babies at 18-24 months. 

Less choking hazards:

According to current research, babies who are given finger foods are no more likely to choke on food than those who are spoon-fed. 

Fun for babies: 

Babies enjoy touching, tasting, and inspecting different flavors and textures. 

When to Start Baby-Led Weaning?

Baby-led weaning is for introducing complementary solid foods along with breast milk or infant formula for fulfilling the required nutrition of the baby and helping in proper growth and development. It is extremely necessary to introduce it at the proper stage. It is a fact that babies who start having some solid foods by 6 months have a reduced risk of asthma and allergies.  Some mothers start giving solids from as early as four months while some wait a bit longer. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation, you must wait till six months and then start giving solids. However, it all depends on the developmental progress of your baby.  How will you know whether your baby is ready for solids or not?
  • You can check it yourself with your wisdom and common sense. If the baby feels comfortable and seems interested in solid foods, you must start them. 
  • Just make sure that the baby can sit upright and hold their head up without anyone’s support, reach for an object, pick it up, bring it to their mouth, and have diminished tongue-thrust reflex. You may consult your child’s pediatrician to get approval regarding this. 

Baby-Led Weaning Safety:

For better safety, while following this approach, always sit your baby upright and well-supported, with limited distractions and under someone’s supervision. Although baby gauging can be quite frightening, it is perfectly normal for a baby to use muscles properly and protect the airway. Parents can learn choking management to help in case any emergency arises. 

Some Great First Foods:

Soft but firm foods cut into finger-sized slices that are long enough to peep out of a little fist and mush down easily are great starters. When the baby’s fine motor skills improve and they become confident with solid foods, more firm smaller sized foods for a pincer grasp may also be offered. Some good options are:
  • Sliced or striped roasted sweet potatoes
  • Soft fruits such as sliced kiwi, mango, banana, or avocado 
  • Steamed or roasted striped veggies like carrot, broccoli, squash, and potatoes
  • Scrambled egg
  • O-shaped dry cereals
  • Tofu strips
  • Homemade muffins
  • Lightly toasted bread
  • Soft strips of egg omelet
  • Ground meat or soft shredded meat strips

Foods to Avoid:

You must avoid the foods that can pose a choking hazard such as:
  • Round whole berries or grapes
  • Hard crunchy nuts, corn chips, or popcorn
  • Raw hard veggies
  • Peanut butter alone can be quite sticky to manage

Some Possible Allergens:

  • Egg
  • Fish
  • Peanut
  • Gluten
Consult your pediatrician about introducing these allergenic foods. According to studies, early on and frequent incorporation of a variety of foods helps in avoiding some food allergies later in life. If you see any signs of allergy or intolerance to any food in a baby, consult your pediatrician to make necessary amendments to the baby’s diet accordingly. 


During the early years of life, babies learn many important life skills including walking, talking, and feeding themselves. Baby-led weaning is a flexible feeding approach that introduces a range of textures and flavors to typically developing babies and makes learning to eat fun for them along with giving you a joyous period of parenthood.

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