When you become a parent, you’re subjected to many different stressors, including having to make important decisions about your baby’s development. A big choice you’ll have to make early on is how to wean your baby off of milk.
Traditional weaning is where a baby is offered their first taste of food on the tip of a spoon or on your fingertip. This conventional approach is still very popular, however baby-led weaning has recently shown potential to be an even more effective method of weaning.
What is Baby-Led Weaning?
Coined in 2003, the term ‘baby-led weaning’ refers to the laid-back approach to offering your baby solid foods to eat without adult assistance. Studies have shown this to be a great way of encouraging your baby to regulate their own intake. Baby-led weaning can enable infants to establish better eating patterns, regulate their food intake and maintain a healthy weight.
When Should I Start Baby-Led Weaning?
You must wait until your baby is ready before you try baby-led weaning. 6 months is a good starting point, as it’s typically the age babies are developed enough to hold their heads up. Your child should be able to sit up unassisted, and be able to move their jaw up and down as if they’re chewing. It’s important to note that some children won’t be able to do this until 9 months, so always make sure your baby is ready.
What Are the Advantages of Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby-led weaning can have significant advantages over traditional weaning. Clancy Cash Harrison, author of Feeding Baby, says “baby-led weaning supports the development of hand-eye coordination, chewing skills, and dexterity.”
It’s also a great way to ensure that a baby stops eating after they’re full. Spoon-feeding often leads to parents giving their children more spoonfuls of food than they need. Allowing them to self-regulate their food intake will pave the way for healthier eating habits later in life.
What Are the Disadvantages of Baby-Led Weaning
Babies are incredibly adept when it comes to finger foods, but that’s not to say your child won’t gag from time to time. Gagging is a completely normal safety reflex that your child will naturally learn from. It’s their body’s way of telling them to slow down or stop eating food that is too challenging.
Choking, on the other hand, is more serious. But you can avoid this by staying away from choking hazards. It’s important to always sit with your baby while they’re eating, and make sure they’re always sitting up straight.
Baby-Led Weaning Tips
Baby-led weaning can get very messy. The whole point of the practice is to let your baby explore food at their own pace. This can lead to food getting everywhere, so make sure you’re prepared for a big clean up!
It’s also important to give your baby lightweight eating tools that he or she can work with easily. Things like bamboo bowls and spoons that are specifically designed for baby-led weaning can help your baby establish healthy eating habits early on.
Above all, it’s important not to let yourself get carried away with the pressures of weaning. After all, you’re learning just as much as your baby is!
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