Should I Use Baby-Led Weaning to Start My Baby on Solids

baby eating solid foods in highchair using baby-led weaning approach

The traditional approach to starting your baby on solid foods is to offer pureed or mashed foods from a spoon and gradually progress to lumpier textures and finger foods. Baby-led weaning (BLW) is an approach that allows your baby to feed themself soft-cooked cut up finger foods right away. There is not enough evidence to recommend one approach for starting solid foods over another.  However, there are some important things to know before trying baby-led weaning. 

What are the advantages of baby-led weaning?

Baby-led weaning allows you to feed your baby the same foods that the rest of the family is eating. This may help your baby accept different foods.

Are there disadvantages to baby-led weaning?

There may be an increased risk of choking with baby-led weaning because of the different textures and shapes of food offered at the family table. To reduce the risk of choking make sure your baby is sitting upright, never leave your baby alone while eating, and offer age appropriate textures. Read our article on safety tips when introducing solids for a list of foods that may cause choking.
Another concern is that babies fed through baby-led weaning may not get enough iron and energy for healthy growth. This is because the variety and amounts of food that your baby can feed themself may be limited. To help your baby get enough energy and iron, you can offer some foods from a spoon such as iron-fortified baby cereals, mashed beans and lentils and minced meats. It is recommended that you offer an iron rich food at every meal. You can let your baby participate in feeding by letting them practice feeding themselves with the spoon. Learning to use a spoon is also an important part of learning about different foods and textures. Babies also like to lick foods off their fingers as they experiment with different textures.
Read more about introducing solids and which foods are iron-rich here.

Is my baby ready for baby-led weaning? 

Your baby is ready for solids at around six months old when they:

  • Have good head control

  • Can sit up and lean forward

  • Can pick up food and try to put it in their mouth

  • Can turn their head away to let you know they are full

Even without teeth, most babies are able to chew a variety of soft, lumpy foods and finger foods.

How do I start baby-led weaning?

During meals, offer soft-cooked cut up finger foods that can be grasped in your baby’s fist (see below). Start with a variety of iron-rich foods such as meat, eggs, poultry, fish, tofu and beans.

  • Strips of cooked chicken or tofu

  • Pieces of cooked fish

  • Strips of omelette

  • Lentil and bean cakes

  • Spears of cooked broccoli, green beans or carrots

  • Oven baked sweet potato fries without skin

  • Pieces of soft fruit like banana, avocado and mango

  • Whole grain toast with thinly spread nut butter

  • Pita with hummus

  • Strips of cheese

  • Pancakes made with iron-fortified baby cereal

When making food for your baby, make sure to avoid adding salt or sugar.

Let your baby feed themself. This means letting them decide what to eat and how much to eat from what you offer at the family meal.  At first, your baby may just play with the food or eat very little.

Expect a mess – this is how babies learn how to eat.

What about traditional methods to feed my baby? 

It is recommended that you offer your baby a variety of textures such as pureed, mashed, lumpy, ground, finely minced or soft finger foods. You don’t have to choose one feeding approach over another. Offering your baby a variety of foods, including pureed and finger foods, helps your baby learn to accept different foods and textures.

How can a dietitian help?

A dietitian can guide you on how to introduce solid foods safely to your baby. They will make sure your baby is getting enough iron-rich foods and energy to grow and be healthy. They will also give you advice on how often to feed your baby and what textures to feed them. Most employee health benefit plans cover dietitian services. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom Line 

Baby-led weaning is one approach to introducing your baby to solid foods. More research is needed to learn about the safety and nutrition risks of baby-led weaning and how it affects growth and development. It is important to wait until your baby is around six months old to offer solid foods. It is recommended that you offer a variety of textures.  

You may also be interested in: 

Introducing solid foods to your baby
Video:  Starting solid food
All about homemade baby food
Sample meal plans for feeding your baby
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. The advice in this article is intended as general information and should not replace advice given by your dietitian or healthcare provider.

Last Update – December 22, 2022

Phone Icon

Dietitians look beyond fads to deliver reliable, life-changing advice. Want to unlock the potential of food? Connect with a dietitian.