Baby-led weaning FAQs! If you’re considering this approach to introducing your baby to solid foods, here are some of our best baby-led weaning tips and evidence-based insight. Here’s everything you need to know about baby-led weaning to make it enjoyable and safer for your babe.
If you’ve been part of the PBJ family for a while, you may already know that we’re big fans of baby-led weaning.
As moms and dietitians, we support baby-led weaning as a safe and appropriate option for new eaters.
In fact, we’ve both used this method to introduce our babies to solid foods with success.
However, we also recognize that baby-led weaning is sometimes a misunderstood concept that may lead to confusion and misconception.
That’s why we’re answering many of the baby-led weaning FAQs we’ve received (and had ourselves!) in this post.
What is baby-led weaning?
If you’re totally new to baby-led weaning, let’s start here.
Baby-led weaning is essentially a concept of giving babes solid food right from the start, without the traditional use of spoon purees as first foods. However, the term “weaning” can often be confusing in this context.
We aren’t weaning them off breast milk or formula as you’ll still want to offer that until at least the first birthday. Instead, it refers to gently weaning baby on to solid foods, allowing him time to explore various flavors and textures.
We believe that baby-led weaning means exactly that: baby-led. As you start to get into the baby-led weaning community, you might encounter various rules on what you can and cannot give baby.
There are some circles that advocate strict baby-led weaning; meaning no purees at all, even if that’s what does well for baby.
The good news is that there is no research that says babies will get confused if you offer purees alongside solid foods–babies are smart, they can understand the difference between a pouch, a puree and a solid.
1. When can my baby start baby-led weaning?
While the decision about when to start solids is ultimately up to you and your pediatrician, there are a few milestones you’ll want to make sure you’ve reached before introducing solids:
- Your babe should be at least 6 months old, as the liver, kidneys and GI tract aren’t ready for solid foods before this time.
- Your baby should have lost the tongue thrust instinct. This is where the tongue pushes food out of the mouth. Most babies lose this instinct around 6 months old.
- Your baby should be able to sit up on his own for at least 60 seconds, pick up foods with his palm, and be excited to eat! Babies are great at letting us know when they are ready for real food.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents be guided by their baby’s developmental readiness when considering when to start solids.
And remember, breastmilk or formula is all your baby needs until around 6 months of age so there’s no rush to start before then.
2. Does baby-led weaning increase choking risk?
No – and good question! This is definitely one of the top baby-led weaning FAQs.
The BLISS study, a randomized controlled study, found that babies were no more likely to choke when using baby-led weaning self-feeding than spoon-fed babies.
We also believe that the introduction of a variety of textures, shapes, and flavors while using baby-led weaning helps baby become more comfortable with an array of solid foods.
In turn, this helps them become more skilled eaters early on, and less likely to gag or choke as they move on to other solids.
However, it’s still important to understand the differences between gagging and choking when doing baby-led weaning, which are detailed in this post.
3. What are the best foods for baby-led weaning?
While there technically aren’t any “first” foods with baby-led weaning, you’ll probably want to start off with something that feels safe for both you and baby.
Some basic foods we’ve both used with success include:
- Soft fruits, like bananas, kiwi, mango
- Soft-cooked vegetables, like zucchini, sweet potato, and broccoli
- Beans, peas, lentils
- Toast, cut into strips
There are also a few no-no foods for baby-led weaning.
- Honey, even when cooked, can be tainted with botulism and we recommend skipping it until your baby is at least 1 year.
- Choking hazards like dollops of nut butter, chips, popcorn, hard candy, whole grapes, and whole nuts are not recommended until your child is at least 3-4 years of age.
- As baby’s kidneys are still developing, salt should be limited until baby is 1 year old. We also follow the AAP recommendations on not offering children under the age of 2 any sugar or sugar-sweetened beverages.
4. Can you do baby-led weaning on a plant-based diet?
There are plenty of foods that plant-based babes can enjoy safely while baby-lead weaning.
Furthermore, plant-based babes who do baby-led weaning are not at higher risk for nutrient deficiencies compared to babies who are spoon-fed.
The main consideration to make when doing baby-led weaning with plant-based babes is what plant foods will provide important nutrients like zinc, iron, vitamin D, and omega-3 fats.
And the great news is, there are plenty of plant foods that provide these nutrients – and supplements available.
We suggest vitamin D for all babies per the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation to do so.
5. How long does baby-led weaning take?
Know that it’s totally normal for baby-led weaning to take a while. Your baby may not be interested in it right away, and that’s okay. This is an approach taken at their speed.
It may take your babe a few weeks to get comfortable with self-feeding.
Based on the feedback we’ve received from other parents, it takes an average of 2-3 weeks before you’ll be able to see food in baby’s stool… which is a great sign that he’s taking in solids.
As for when and how much food to introduce, there’s no hard rule here.
We recommend starting with one meal per day around 6 months, moving to three meals per day around 9 months. By one year old, your baby will be eating three meals and a few snacks per day.
6. What if my baby spits out food or doesn’t want to eat it?
Remember, solid foods are a new thing to babe. It he spits out the food or pushes it away, keep offering it.
A squirmy face doesn’t always mean a baby dislikes the food. In fact, it can take several tries before he makes a decision about whether he likes something.
Preferences take time to create, so keep rotating and offering foods. Allow your baby the opportunity to develop her taste.
That being said, if you’re still getting refusals for a food after 10-12 attempts to offer it, take a break from that particular food for a while.
7. Do I need a special high chair to do baby-led weaning?
Your baby’s high chair should have an upright position, meaning it’s not tilting back or forward.
It should also have an adjustable footplate so that his feet and legs aren’t dangling. Ideally, baby’s hips should sit at a 90-degree angle while eating.
The high chair should allow for baby to eat at table-height. Most high chairs have a tray for baby to use. Alternatively, you can remove the tray and pull the chair directly up to the kitchen table, as long as the eating height is appropriate for him.
8. Can I use purees and pouches with baby-led weaning?
While baby-led weaning traditionally skips purees, you can certainly rotate these types of foods into your baby-led weaning routine, as long as you’re emphasizing self-feeding.
Baby should still be holding these items herself, rather than being fed by someone else.
Thinner liquids, like broth-based soups or smoothies can be given in a cup once your baby masters this skill.
Occupational therapists who specialize in baby feeding usually recommend using open cups as much as possible for babies. They are messy, but effective at building mouth and lip muscles.
9. How do I know if my baby has eaten enough?
Your baby will no longer show interest in eating when he’s done.
Overall, you can rest assured that your baby is getting enough nutrition through baby-led weaning as long as he is:
- Able to stay alert and playful as much as he usually is
- Has multiple wet diapers daily
- Has a bowel movement daily, or at least every few days
- Is learning new skills through exploration and movement
- Continues to steadily grow
If you’re at all concerned about your baby’s growth during baby-led weaning, it’s best to speak with your pediatrician and/or registered dietitian for individual guidance.
10. Can I introduce allergens with baby-led weaning?
If your baby is at a high-risk for food allergies or has eczema, then we think it’s best to discuss this with your pediatrician to decide how to introduce new foods that may be allergenic.
A cautious approach includes introducing new highly-allergic foods one at a time, early in the day to see for a reaction.
While all foods could technically cause a reaction, the following 8 foods are considered to be highly allergenic:
- tree nuts
If your baby has been introduced to some (or all) of these allergenic foods with no reaction, then you will likely move on to serving mixed meals.
This concludes our common baby-led weaning FAQs!
Note that while we support baby-led weaning as a safe and appropriate option for new eaters, we encourage whatever way of feeding works best for your family.
Additionally, no matter how you plan on introducing solids, we think it’s a good idea to get certified in infant CPR and know the signs of an allergic reaction and what to do if baby has one.
We hope you’ve found the answers to these baby-led weaning FAQs helpful. As you start the journey to solids, keep these baby-led weaning tips in mind and see what works best for you. And if you found this information useful, please share this post on everything you need to know about baby-led weaning with others.
For more on the topic of baby-led weaning FAQs (plus, recipes!), get your copy of our E-book First Bites: The Definitive Guide to Baby-Led Weaning for Plant-Based Babies.
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