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

baby eating at his high chair

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 a different approach that allows your baby to feed himself soft-cooked cut up finger foods right away. There is not enough evidence to recommended one approach for starting solid foods over another.  However, here 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 and be a less picky eater. Many parents believe that baby-led weaning is a healthier, more enjoyable and less expensive way to feed their babies.

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. Another concern is that these babies may not get enough iron and energy for healthy growth. This is because the variety and amounts of food that your baby can feed himself 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. 

Is my baby ready for baby-led weaning? 

Your baby is ready for baby-led weaning at around six months old when he:

  • Has good head control
  • Can sit up and lean forward
  • Can pick up food and try to put it in his mouth
  • Can turn his head away to let you know he is full

Even without teeth, most babies are able 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, poultry, fish, tofu and beans.

  • Strips of chicken or tofu
  • Pieces of cooked fish
  • 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
  • Wedges of hard boiled egg

Let your baby feed himself.  This means letting him 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.

What about traditional methods to feed my baby? 

If you would like to try baby-led weaning, you can also use traditional feeding methods based on what your baby likes. You don’t have to choose one feeding approach over another. 

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. No matter what method you choose to introduce solid foods, it is important to wait until your baby is around six months old.  Talk to your health care provider if you are having trouble introducing solids. Ask if baby-led weaning is a good option for your baby.  

You may also be interested in: 

Introducing solid foods to your baby

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Sample meal plans for feeding your baby

Last Update – February 4, 2020

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