I read about baby-led weaning when Little Bird was still on the mommy milk and it sounded a little weird and a lot messy. Naturally I was on board immediately. So when she was chubby little pudding of 6 months she had her first bit of solid food – some steamed sweet potato. She was delighted with herself, holding a finger sized piece of sweet potato and smushing it into her gummy mouth. Each day we introduced a new 'solid' and soon her repertoire was quite extensive.
How cute is it to see a little squidge holding a tree of broccoli and grazing contentedly on it? It also meant she was eating at the same time as her parents, right at the dinner table. Sociologists would tell us that this aspect of eating is nearly as important as the food itself. Of course, the real winners in our house were the two dogs, who hovered around the base of the high chair extending their own palates. And keeping my floor nice and clean.
So what exactly is baby-led weaning and why would you let your baby lead you in what you feed her? Siobhan Berry from www.mummycooks.ie is our guest expert this week to get you started on your baby-led weaning journey.
Baby-led weaning, often referred to as BLW, can be defined as “a method of adding complementary foods to a baby's diet of breastmilk or formula. It's a method of food progression which facilitates the development of age appropriate oral motor control while maintaining eating as a positive interactive experience.”
Essentially, you offer your baby appropriate foods that they can pick up and feed themselves. From about 6 months you will notice your baby reach for food on your plate. They are telling you they are interested in what the family is eating and that they want to be part of the action. The idea is that they learn to eat and enjoy a wide variety of foods; they learn to recognise when they're full; and, because they've put the food in their mouths themselves, they're less likely to choke (don't confuse gagging with choking). It's also great for their motor development, and their general confidence and self-efficacy.
I asked Siobhan to give us her advice on starting out with baby-led weaning. Just try not to drool too much when you read her delicious recipes!
5 Tips to Introduce Finger Foods
Don’t overwhelm your weaning tot by introducing small foods too soon. Start off with finger sized slices of food. Once they master the pincer grab, introduce smaller pea sized chunks as a finger food. I recommend these Roasted Sweet Potato and Cinnamon Fingers as a first finger food for your baby.
When introducing finger foods to your weaning baby, timing is crucial. Avoid offering finger foods before 6 months as your baby may not be ready. This will be obvious as they will still use their tongue to thrust food to the front of their mouth. However, do not delay beyond 6 months as this may cause your baby to fear new foods and textures later on.
Offer a Dip
It is okay to still use purees when introducing finger foods. However, avoid offering a puree before the finger food as this may cause your baby to fill up and play with the finger food rather than eat it. It is better to offer finger foods such as whole pasta pieces or Homemade Oatcakes with a puree like this Roast Vegetable Pasta Sauce as a dip.
Don’t Cook Separate Meals
Many people seem to think they must prepare separate foods for their weaning baby. However, I think that you should focus on cooking family meals and adapt them to your baby. It is easy to offer finger foods for baby led weaning by simply pureeing or blitzing the sauce or veg of your meal and offering the meat in strips, or whole pasta pieces for dipping. Try this Ratatouille recipe served blended and offer pasta for dipping.
Don’t be afraid to get messy
This can be difficult, but I think the messier the better! A child who has sauce in their hair and food on their face has had a positive feeding experience. It can be hard but try not to jump in with a wipe every time your baby gets messy.
Don't know about you, but now I'm hungry! Many thanks to Siobhan for those excellent tips.
Bon appétit and remember... embrace the mess!