Your baby's first taste of food can be an exciting and nerve wracking time. What should there first food be? Should I spoon feed or try baby led weaning? What equipment do I need?
I did baby led weaning with both of my children and am a big fan of the approach. But if it's not for you, you might prefer to spoon feed and offer plenty of finger foods alongside.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby Led Weaning is a term coined by Gill Rapley and is a relaxed approach where the baby is responsible for picking up the food and feeding themselves. We decide what food to offer and baby decides how much to eat, essentially giving them control over what food they put into their body.
What are the benefits of Baby Led Weaning?
Some research has shown that Baby Led Weaning helps a baby to regulate their food intake, potentially leading to more natural weight gain. We trust that baby will stop eating when satisfied so they develop a healthy attitude to food and are less likely to overeat. Another benefit is that provided the whole family is eating a low salt, healthy meal, baby can eat the same, just prepared in a way that they can handle. For example vegetables can be cut into fingers to enable the baby hold them easily. It's also a great sensory experience for babies to explore different textures and tastes. It can help with their coordination and fine motor skills.
Are there any drawbacks this approach?
In one word - mess! We are allowing the baby to explore and feel foods which they love but it inevitably comes with some mess. We'll come onto equipment below but provided you're set up correctly, the mess doesn't need to be a big issue.
How old should baby be when I start?
Baby should be at least 6 months of age and able to sit up unaided. Baby should have lost the tongue thrust reflex and be able to pick up an object and guide it to his mouth. For preterm babies, advice should always be sought from health professionals.
What foods should I give my baby?
As long as the food is low salt and relatively low sugar, baby can eat what you eat (honey shouldn't be given in the fist year, nor should choking hazards such as whole nuts or grapes)! Lots of people like to start with soft vegetables and fruit, for example fingers of butternut squash, cooked carrots, avocado or foods with a built in handle, like broccoli (or mini trees as we liked to call them!). There's no need to cut up food into small pieces, in fact this can make it harder to handle. I remember Seb was around 9 months when he mastered the pincer grip for his peas! It was a proud moment indeed... Meat and fish should be left in bigger pieces rather than diced.
What do I need to get started?
The following is a list of items you might find useful when beginning your baby led weaning journey:
- Gill Rapley books are brilliant and give a full overview of the reasoning and theory, as well as suggestions for foods and recipes.
- High chair. I like the Ikea Antilop as it is so easy to clean, and the chairs that clip directly onto your table like the Phil & Ted's Lobster chair so baby can take part in mealtimes with you.
- Bibs. I like the silicone bibs for ease of cleaning and we also had a full arm bib for colder days (we would strip down to vest or nappy on warmer days). Our pretty silicone bibs are easy to clean and fit from 6 to 36 months.
- Suction bowls or plates. These are brilliant for sloppier foods to be used with a spoon and the suction means that baby can't throw it across the room!
- Beaker. It's fine to give baby some water in a beaker with their meals from 6 months. We like the Munchkin 360 cup.
- Cheeky Wipes or other reusable cloths. There's no need to be using disposable wipes for cleanup so lets do the responsible thing and get a stash of reusable cloths.
- Splash mat. Get a decent size mat to go under the highchair for an easy clean up.
- Optional: Dog to clear up the mess!
Whatever weaning approach you go for, relax and enjoy. It should be a fun experience for you and baby, not something to stress about. Your Health Visitor can provide you with guidance and reassurance should you need it.
There's nothing quite as pleasurable about making a home cooked meal and seeing your child absolutely loving it.
**Disclaimer** I am not a health professional and the information contained above are my own views. Please do your own research and seek professional advice when weaning your baby.