This is a guest post by: Jennifer Hanft, MS RD CSG is a mother to Hudson (3) and Evelyn (2). She has over ten years of experience as a registered dietitian and is a member of the Starting Solids Network for Health Professionals.
Baby Led Weaning, Timing & Foods Highlights
- This is the 2nd of a 3-part series on baby-led weaning.
- The best time for baby to eat solids is when the family is eating, and they are alert and not overly hungry.
- Soft elongated food you can squish with your tongue on the top of your mouth are best for baby-led weaning.
- Allow your baby to decide if and how much they want to eat.
- Solid food is important for nutrients and for introducing your child to common allergens.
- Follow guidelines for reducing choking hazards and take an infant CPR and choking hazard course.
Last week I introduced you to the concept of baby-led weaning and explored the benefits, when to start, and the challenges you may encounter.
Part One: Baby Led Weaning Part 1: What & Why
This week, in the 2nd article in our 3 part series, we'll explore specific guidelines for a baby-led weaning approach to the introduction of solid foods, and outline some key safety considerations that come with any way of feeding your little one.
When is the best time to feed my little one according to Baby Led Weaning method?
One of the most common questions parents have about introducing solids with a baby-led weaning approach is "Which time of the day is best?"
Like many things with babies, it depends on the baby and the day. The best time is when your baby is alert and not too hungry, such as when they've had milk in the previous hour. Also, ideally when the rest of the family is eating. This helps decrease frustration, shows your baby how others can enjoy and eat food, and sets your baby up for success in learning this fun new skill.
What foods should I start with and how much with Baby Led Weaning?
To start, serve large, soft pieces of food that your baby can grasp with their hand and smush between their fingers. As your little one's ability to grab and pick up smaller pieces advances with age, they will naturally progress to bite-sized pieces of food.
A large amount of food can be overwhelming to a child of any age, so we recommend giving your baby a small amount of food at a time. We love banana spears, cooked and cooled frozen vegetables, or over-cooked penne pasta.
Also, add some protein and iron with small pieces of ground beef or eggs chicken, or fish. A quartered boiled egg, or scrambled eggs are perfect! We like to coat the vegetables or pasta with olive or avocado oil, or stewed unsalted tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are great but search out the low or no salt varieties.
We also recommend this guideline for feeding kids, developed by the Ellyn Satter Institute called Division of Responsibilities (DOR). Simply put, it advocates that parents are responsible for what, when, and where their baby eats while the baby is responsible for if they eat and how much they eat.
Yikes, right? It sounds scary. It's important not to insist your baby eat or show frustration when they don't. Babies and children are wonderfully adept at knowing when they are hungry and full, unlike us adults who are prone to midnight pantry raiding sessions. So, follow their lead! Have faith, and remember this guideline is an essential part of promoting adventurous eating.
What about choking and solid foods?
The most common fear about the baby-led weaning approach is choking. However, rest assured that the evidence indicates that the choking risk is, in fact, not greater with baby-led weaning compared to the conventional spoon-feeding pureed food method - phew!
Nonetheless, no matter which feeding method you choose, parents and caregivers should complete an infant CPR and Choking course.
And, always follow these guidelines:
- Don't leave your baby alone while eating.
- Do not clip or strap your young baby into a chair in case you have to quickly take them out.
- For babies 8 months old and above, make sure they are clipped into the high chair. Basically, if you think they could get themselves out, clip them in.
- Ensure your baby is sitting upright in a safe and appropriate seat.
- Watching your baby gag is terrifying, but stay calm and resist the urge to stick your fingers in their mouth. Use encouraging words and prompt them to "chew, chew, chew" or "spit it out."
- Avoid serving food that might be a choking hazard, such as hard, sticky, or round foods. We use a squish test. If you can squish the food between your tongue and the roof of your mouth with minimal effort, it's safe for your baby.
- Don't feed your baby while on the go in the stroller or car seat.
- Avoid distractions while eating for you and them.
- Remember, if loud and red, let them go ahead. If they are silent and blue, they need help from you! This is the difference between gagging and choking.
Do young babies need nutrients from solid food?
Next, let's dispel a common myth. Food before one is not always just for fun. Your mind is blown, right? Solid food provides vital nutrients that babies need, including iron, vitamin C, omega three fatty acids (specifically DHA), vitamin D, zinc, selenium, and probiotics, to name a few.
Additionally, early and frequent introduction to common food allergens is critical. In America, the foods responsible for causing most allergic reactions include eggs, peanuts, dairy, tree nuts, fish, wheat, shellfish, soybeans, and sesame.
What about liquids with baby led weaning?
So, what about liquids? Until about the age of one, the vast majority of hydration for your little one comes from breastmilk or formula. Around six months, however, it is an excellent idea to patiently introduce your baby to an open cup. Put a small amount of water in a small, not breakable cup and hold it up to the baby's mouth. Let them help you hold it, and try to let them take the lead. Be prepared for puddles.
Remember baby led weaning is a marathon not a sprint.
Most importantly, remind yourself often that baby-led weaning is not all-or-nothing. Every baby and every family is different. Some days you are killing it, and you've blow-dried your hair, finished the laundry, and your kid ate the same meal as you. Other days you'll have cereal for dinner, and your little one eats out of a pouch. That's the reality of the parenting adventure.
Less stress and more pleasure for everyone are always the best way to introduce your child to solid food. You want to make sure they look forward to mealtime. If you find that this means including purees, that's perfectly okay! You and your baby are in charge, and if you trust your baby, they will lead the way.
Remind yourself that this is a marathon, not a sprint, just like everything else in parenting. So, stay calm and try to enjoy the process. Your baby will pick up on your positive, low-stress energy and help you have fun family meals.
Littlemore Organic snack puffs were intentionally designed to be ideal for baby led weaning.
- Babies can pick them up and feed themselves.
- They encourage babies to learn how to bite and chew.
- At the same time, they melt in the mouth so no teeth are needed.
- Their shape and texture are specifically created to NOT pose a risk for choking.
- Our savory forward flavors help wee ones learn to enjoy a wide range of tastes
- A crunchy, yet dissolvable, texture teaches babies that food has a shape, consistency, and solidness
- Unlike with most purees and pouches, we don’t add sugar which helps little ones learn that food doesn't need to be sweet.
- They can be used to dip into other yummy and nutritious things like apple sauce or hummus, making food fun, while also developing new motor skills.
- They take time to chew and eat, so they help your little one learn to pace themselves when eating and notice when they've had enough. This is hard to do with purees.
- They are delicious so kids (and their parents) love eating them.
From our families to yours,
Joana + Lauren