How to wean a baby Baby led weaning

Baby-carrott

You can cut up small finger food portions for your baby to feed themselves

Baby-led weaning is a different strategy for weaning that jettisons the purées and spoon-feeding, and is instead based on letting your baby take control of feeding. The term was coined by British health visitor and author Gill Rapley, who claims that by six months babies are developmentally able to feed themselves.

As part of baby-led weaning, you allow your baby to choose what they pick up and eat, by giving them a range of suitably sized finger foods at meal times with the family. Gill Rapley advises that the first few months of baby-led weaning are more about babies discovering and learning about food rather than eating a large amount.

If you're not sure if baby-led weaning is for you, or just wondering how to get started, read our guide on how to start weaning.

What are the benefits of baby-led weaning?

Babies are able to join in on family meal time, and may cope better with different food textures from the beginning. Proponents of baby-led weaning claim that babies weaning on this method grow up to accept a wider range of foods – although there are no conclusive studies as yet.

It might be a better way to let babies take control of this change in their life and be curious about and appreciative of different food. You also avoid feeding them processed foods and stick to more natural foods.

Sometimes parents might find it hard to break the spoon feeding habit, so cutting this out altogether avoids that issue. It also cuts out the time you spend making purées.

What are the downsides of baby led weaning?

The process can be messy and there might be more waste as it's a bit hit and miss on whether and what babies will feed themselves. It’s a good idea not to offer your baby too much food at once, because the surplus is just likely to end up on the floor.

Pur3es are obviously an easier bridge between milk and solid foods, so skipping this step might make the process a little harder for your baby to grasp at first.

It is possible that by letting your baby take control of what foods they do and don’t eat, they might miss out on some nutrients, and it’s harder to monitor portion sizes when not spoon feeding. It might be especially difficult for babies leading their own weaning to get to the point where they are able to feed themselves meat, and therefore get enough iron.

Baby led weaning kit you'll need

If you choose to go down the baby led weaning route, you won't need to splash out on jars and pouches of baby food or a blender to make baby food purees. But you'll still need some weaning kit. 

Top of the list is a high chair, which is a weaning essential. You want to make sure it's stable and safe as well as being easy to clean.

We test highchairs for all this and more. Read our high chairs reviews. 

Baby finger food ideas

Foods that babies are able to get a handle on easily are best in starting baby-led weaning. Babies will start by grabbing food with their fist, and develop into being able to hold on with a proper grip. It’s also good to give your baby food in a range of different textures and colours. Some finger-food favourites are:

- Soft vegetable sticks
- Bits of cheese
- Oven-roasted veggies in pieces
- Small pieces of toast or bagel with spread
- Hard-boiled egg
- Small pieces of pancake or omelette
- Well-cooked pasta pieces
- Small pieces of cooked meat
- Small chunks of fruit.

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