Baby Led Kitchen’s Beginners Guide to Weaning

It seems that weaning is an area of parenting that can cause a lot of confusion and worry for new (and not so new) parents. Earlier this month I ran an advice stall at the Parent And Baby Show at Carrow Road, and the same questions kept cropping up over and over again. It dawned on me that there seems to be a general lack of advice about weaning. During pregnancy, most people focus on getting as prepared for the birth as they can; going to antenatal classes, shopping for everything you might possibly need and washing and re-washing newborn clothes 127879878978 times (just me?!). After the birth, we are usually well supported and I found that Midwives, Health Visitors and Breastfeeding Cafes were generally pro-active in helping mums and checking all was well. So things (and boobs) settle down and you start to think you’re getting the hang of parenting until someone says:

“Have you thought about weaning yet?”

“Is he on solids?’

“When are you going to give her some food?”

And you hadn’t really considered it. And no one has actually mentioned giving your baby anything other than milk. From talking to a range of parents at the Parent and Baby Show, it seems that lots of parents of babies aged 3-6 months were feeling a little apprehensive about weaning and were unsure about the ‘right’ time and ‘right’ way to introduce solids to their baby’s diet. The clue being in the name, Baby Led Kitchen is a big cheerleader for Baby Led Weaning. This is very much the approach that we feel is best for baby’s development and future attitudes towards food. Whilst it is important not to get caught up in too many rules, having a specific approach and a few guidelines to follow can be reassuring for parents. I have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions from the Parent and Baby Show to help you out if you too are feeling confused about weaning.

 

6 Frequently Asked Questions about Baby Led Weaning

 

What is Baby Led Weaning?

 

Baby Led Weaning babies feed themselves, mostly by hand. The process differs to the traditional spoon-feeding a baby puree or baby rice. With Baby Led Weaning babies never need to have puree. They start with ‘proper’ food presented in a safe way. Babies can choose whether or not to eat what you put in front of them. Whilst the adult prepares the food, the actual ‘feeding’ part is pretty much all down to the baby. Babies are then free to eat as much or as little as they want. It’s a great way of encouraging independence, letting babies enjoy the sensory experience of eating and encouraging healthy appetite control and healthy attitudes to food.

 

When should I start offering my baby food?

 

NHS says 6 months. Lots of people ask me why it is best to wait til then, especially as the guidance used to be 4 months. There are a few reasons that health professionals give:

  • Babies usually aren’t developmentally capable of consuming anything other than liquid before this time. A lot of babies will still have the tongue thrust reflex, where they will push anything that isn’t milk out of their mouths. This is why it seems unfair to do things like dissolving a rusk in a bottle of milk, as this isn’t food that a baby would naturally be having. We don’t recommend that!
  • Babies guts are usually mature enough for solids BY 6 months. So its best to wait until then to be really sure that you aren’t risking your baby having any tummy trouble.
  • Up to six months, the research tells us that babies get all their nutrients from breastmilk or formula milk. The only extra thing that breastfed babies need is Vitamin D, which is added to formula milk. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, introducing solids can interfere with your milk supply (and bring back your periods – no thanks!)
  • Babies of 6 months+ can begin to feed themselves, which seems a natural progression from feeding milk on demand. It also means that everyone gets to eat their dinner while it is still warm…

NHS says babies are ready if

  • They can sit up. It is best if they can sit up by themselves, although you may be advised that if your baby is six months and can sit supported in a high chair, this is ok too.
  • They have lost the tongue thrust reflex, so they actually swallow food.
  • They can bring their hands to their mouth.

 

Do I need to reduce my baby’s milk feeds?

 

Follow your baby’s lead with this one. Breastmilk or formula will be an important source of nutrition for your baby for at least the first year. Your baby will generally drop milk feeds when they are ready. Offer milk before food so they don’t get too frustrated when eating.

 

What food do I start with first?

 

Lots of people believe that babies need to start with puree or baby rice, but this isn’t the case. It is fine for babies to have proper pieces of food from 6 months. Baby rice in particular isn’t a terribly nutritious choice and it is really very bland!

Unless you have a family allergy, the only foods you need to avoid are honey, liver products, whole nuts (ground is fine!), hard foods (e.g. crunchy carrot sticks or apple) and whole grapes and cherry tomatoes. From six months, pretty much everything is fine as long as you keep things as low in sugar and salt as you can. You MAY wish to introduce allergens such as dairy and eggs on separate days though, to make any reactions easier to pinpoint. For the record, I found sticks of softly cooked vegetables and wedges of soft fruit to be good ‘beginner’ foods, but there is no reason why you can’t just offer them a little bit of your (healthy!) dinner.

 

What about choking?

 

Most people have this worry, and rightly so! To date, your baby has only had milk, it is natural to feel cautious. However, it is important to know the difference between choking and gagging. Gagging is really normal as babies learn to handle food in their mouths. When babies gag, they make lots of noise and don’t usually get overly upset. If a baby is choking, they will go silent and look terrified. It might be worth enrolling on a parents first aid course for peace of mind, no matter how unlikely it is. Sometimes people mistakenly think that Baby Led Weaning is more risky that Traditional Weaning, but research shows that this is not the case at all. To minimise risk, It is important to offer bigger pieces of food that are too big to choke on (think chip shaped or baby fist sized), and to avoid anything you cannot squash between your fingers. Relax. It’s not as scary as you think!

 

What about the mess?

 

Initially, there may be a little more mess with Baby Led Weaning. BUT babies who self-feed early on quickly become very neat and tidy little eaters. My toddler honestly makes less mess than I do. Give them the chance to control what goes into their mouths and their fine motor skills and coordination will get stronger and stronger with every meal. This has a knock on effect for cutlery use and crayon control too. Clever babies!

 

I hope that goes some way to answering your questions about Baby Led Weaning. You might also find my book- ‘Baby Led Kitchen Little Cookbook’ (available on my website- https://babyledkitchen.co.uk) a useful source of Baby Led Weaning tips and recipes. We have some beautiful plates and bibs coming our way shortly too, so keep an eye out! Please feel free to message me on Insta or FB if you have any questions or want to enquire about a workshop. I promise I’ll reply as soon as I can, in between cooking, changing nappies, washing newborn clothes again and being George Pig etc etc…

 

Good luck!

 

Jo, Babyledkitchen