4 Reasons to Try Baby Led Weaning

Starting solids isn’t just a milestone for babies; it’s a rite of passage for parents. Feeding baby jars of smelly purees, having smashed squash splatter your walls like a Jackson Pollock painting, perfecting your airplane noises… these are universal “parenting things.”

Well… what if we told you there was another way to introduce solids — by introducing solids?

Call us crazy, but at Daily Mom, we aren’t afraid to try new things, even if they might seem a little unconventional. And while you’ve probably been told you “have” to start your baby on purees… you don’t. You really don’t.

Skipping purees and starting your child on solid foods is commonly referred to as baby led weaning. Despite its name, baby led weaning isn’t about weaning your baby from the breast or bottle; it’s merely a method of introducing solids in a way that allows your baby to be in control. Here are four reasons why we love it — and why you should, too!

1. It’s More Natural


As parents, it’s easy to get hung up on hitting milestones at a certain time — but every child is different. Baby led weaning is all about encouraging your baby to take the lead and experiment with different foods on his own terms. You’re not forcing your baby to take spoonfuls of puree; rather, you’re allowing him to try different foods at his own pace.

It’s strongly advised to wait until the six month mark to start solids. At this point, your baby is better able to manipulate food in his mouth (minimizing the risk of choking), his digestive system has matured enough to support solid foods (reducing the risk of digestive distress, gas and constipation) and he has become strong enough to sit unsupported in his high chair (making him more comfortable and better able to feed himself). He’ll have also mastered the “pincher grasp” by this point, and will likely want to show off his skills by picking up solid foods.

Although many of the reasons listed here assume that your baby is breastfed or fed breast milk only, experts generally recommend that solids be delayed until the six-month mark for formula fed babies, too! There is strong evidence that waiting to introduce solids helps protect your child from obesity and other illnesses as adolescents and adults.

What’s more, your baby has likely been watching you eat — and wants to have what you’re having!

2. It’s More Convenient


Speaking of your dinner — baby led weaning is great because you don’t have to make two separate dinners for you and your baby. For younger babies, you can cut your dinner into bite-sized pieces, but older babies can literally have what you’re having. So you can pack a picnic, go out to dinner or take a day trip — without the hassle of preparing separate “baby food” for your little one!

If you’re concerned about herbs and spices — don’t be. Exposing your child to lots of different flavors can help train his palette to accept a variety of foods as he grows up. In other words, he might be less “picky” as he grows! Just remember to treat each herb or spice like a new food and wait a few days before introducing anything else — so on the off chance your child has a reaction, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what caused it.

While baby led weaning is more convenient in nearly every sense — cleanup can be rather time-consuming if you’re not prepared. Arm yourself with waterproof bibs, a catch-all floor mat and an easy-to-clean high chair — and you’ll be amazed at how easy cleanup can be. And remember: babies are messy! It’s how they learn. So be prepared — and try to embrace the mess.

3. It’s Cheaper


Baby food isn’t cheap. Whether you’re purchasing jars, pouches or making your own, baby food is expensive. Depending on the brand of baby food you’re purchasing (and where you’re buying it from), plan on spending between $50-$100 per month on baby food alone.

With baby led weaning, you’re not buying designated “baby food,” you’re simply giving your little guy small portions of what you’re eating. This makes baby led weaning the more economical option by far.

Don’t get us wrong — purees have their place; they’re great for car trips, preschool lunches or snacks on-the-go. If you’re looking for some easy, economical recipes, check out On the Go Toddler Puree Snacks.

4. It Promotes Healthy Habits


While baby led weaning is cheaper and more convenient — that’s not why we love it so much. This approach to starting solids fosters a healthy relationship with food by letting your child take the lead. Your child has the power to decide if he wants to eat something — or not. She gets to “play” with her food, experiment with flavors and textures, figure out what she likes and doesn’t like and let you know when she’s “done.” Baby led weaning sets a strong foundation for the rest of your child’s life.

Baby led weaning is not an excuse for your baby to eschew all vegetables, however. It can take more than a dozen times for your baby to “like” a certain food — so keep trying on the broccoli!

Baby led weaning can be difficult for the Type-A parent, but you have to trust your baby’s instincts through the process. If he’s hungry — he’ll eat! You might be surprised by the “adult” foods and flavors your baby ends up liking.

For more on the science of why you should hold off on starting solids, check out 6 Months to Solids: Why Wait?

Sources: 1. Kelly Mom, How do we get started with solids? | 2. Rapley Weaning, Guidelines for implementing a baby-led approach to the introduction of solid foods | 3. Baby Center, Top Baby Costs, and How to Save.
Photo credit: Sarah M.

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Sarah

Sarah is a yoga practicing, mostly vegan, coffee chugging, Jack White-loving, stay-at-home-mom to three kids 4 and under in Cincinnati, Ohio. In her free time, she does freelance work for Cincinnati Parent, Dayton Parent and Indy's Child, and blogs about her adventures with three kids in the Queen City.

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