“Baby-led weaning” is in a way, a misnomer. It does not in any way replace or substitute mother’s milk or formula, which is essential for the baby’s wholesome nutrition till almost a year. But what it does, is open up a whole new world for the baby to explore.
Handling small bits of food lets the hand-eye coordination kick in. It is very cute to see the small pudgy hands pick up the morsel and put it on the cheek or forehead. Till an “auto-correct” gets the food into the mouth eventually.
Now starts unlocking of the next step…. chewing and being able to move the food inside the mouth. So, move over spoon fed purees, it’s time for solids! The overall idea is to set the baby off on the road to eventual “self-feeding”!
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When To Start?
6 months is the earliest when one can start this process. But there should be absolutely no hurry for you to start. It is not a competition. Many babies start baby-led-weaning at 9 months.
It depends also on when you think your little one is ready for solid foods. BUT a few things need to be ascertained before you get your cutie going on this. Can your baby sit on the high chair by himself/herself? AND is the neck strong enough and reasonably firm?
Prepare Yourself Too!!
Before you commence this phase, it is preferable that you familiarize yourself with aspects of baby-first-aid. This is with particular reference to “choking”. You should know how to carry out the Heimlich manoeuvre on babies.
Grapes, nuts, hard fruits or raw vegges and such items present the biggest hazard of choking. Another aspect to remember is that you should not panic in front of the baby should this happen.
The baby will associate food with panic and may stop eating. So, stay calm and react sharp. But the best is to take all possible measures to avoid an occurrence. Right??
You should also start off with a single food item at a time. This will enable you to single out any foodstuff the baby may be allergic to.
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Texture and Size
It is good to be aware that by and by the baby starts appreciating the texture and size of the morsel. This improves the overall understanding of how to handle the food.
Texture: The food should be soft so that the baby can easily mash it with its soft gums. It needs to be such, that you should be able to mash it between your thumb and forefinger with a very slight pressure. Raw vegetables or hard fruits, such as apple, should be steamed first. But do not make it too soft. Or you will have a dish full of squishy stuff left over uneaten!!
Size: The size of the food stuff is important to note – both for safety as well as for functionality. Safety aspect I’ve already mentioned earlier about things like grapes, nuts, too small a morsel etc are a no-no. Besides, if the child cannot pick up the food, what is the point? They are not yet capable of the pincer grasp and hence use their entire palm. So, as a thumb-rule, cut the food into long strips the length and thickness of your little finger. And watch with patience and amusement how the baby handles it!!
6 Food Suggestions
The foods that you get your angel started on, should be rich in nutrients such as proteins, fats, iron etc. I have made 6 suggestions for you to straight away get going. Later, when you have the time, add to the menu.
- Omelet cut in strips. You may like to keep it salt free, as babies do not handle Sodium too well.
- Boiled or steamed broccoli or carrots. You would do well to keep the stem on the broccoli florets. It gives your child a “handle”.
- Lightly toasted bread, cut into strips as mentioned earlier and lightly smeared with butter, cream cheese or olive oil.
- Watermelons or Honeydew melons are a good choice too. But a few aspects need to be attended to while serving melons. Make triply sure that there are no seeds. Cut the pieces correctly to size. Buy ONLY whole melons and not pre-cut pieces. Pre-cut melons run the risk of transmitting harmful bacteria to the baby.
- Boiled beetroot is a wonderful diet for the baby.
- Fruits like bananas and apples are excellent. They are very rich in nutrients for the baby. However, the banana should be introduced a little later in the frame as and when the baby is able to pick up stuff. Or you may keep a part of the peel on for a better grip. But the apple needs to be lightly steamed and the skin removed before letting the baby have a go at it. And of course- be attentive to the size of the portion.
***Always be around the baby when he or she is handling the food. Apart from safety, wouldn’t you love to admire him or her self-feed??
So, here’s wishing all you lovely new parents out there a HAPPY “baby-led-weaning” phase ahead.
I hope you like our suggestions. If you loved the article, do share it with other parents who want to try baby led weaning. We would love to hear your comments below.
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