Baby-led weaning emphasizes independence of the baby. Therefore, a parent waits for their baby to show signs of readiness for eating and then follows the baby’s cues in all matters of introducing solid food. Babies are brought to the table for family meals, encouraged to pick up food with their own fingers, and trusted to eat as much or as little as they need. Babies introduced to solids with baby-led weaning also continue breast or bottle feeds until both Mom and Baby are ready to wean.
Research studies are just beginning to analyze the impacts of baby-led weaning, but we know there are many benefits to letting your baby self-feed.
Of primary importance is fostering independence: with baby-led weaning, your baby will learn to eat on her own and have control over what—and how much—she eats. Our experience is that babies who are given this control over what they eat early on are less likely to become picky eaters in the toddler years and beyond. With baby-led weaning, food is less likely to become a lever for control or power in the child-parent relationship because the child is in control from day one of starting solids.
Other benefits of baby-led weaning include the opportunity for your baby to practice critical motor and oral skills. Self-feeding a variety of food consistencies and textures enables your baby to work on tongue movements, jaw strength, and swallowing as well as the fine motor skills required to pick up different sized pieces of food with their fingers.
To sum it up for all of us busy parents, benefits of Baby-Led Weaning include:
- Independence: Baby learns to eat independently and is in total control.
- Development: Baby practices critical motor and oral skills.
- Appetite Control: Baby is in charge of how much to eat and learns to stop when full.
- Ease: Baby eats what you eat.
- Variety: Baby can eat a variety of textures and flavors, which may reduce picky eating later on.
- Less Expensive: Baby eats real food. No pricey jars, pouches or blenders required.
- Family Meals: Baby is part of your family meal, eating with you.
- Dining Out: It’s easier to eat in restaurants as baby can eat whole food.
- Provides a fun sensory experience! Babies enjoy touching, inspecting, and tasting different flavors and textures.