Baby-Led Weaning Benefits

The basic idea behind ‘baby-led weaning’ is that parents or caregivers follow the baby’s lead when it comes to transitioning them to solid foods. The age it’s recommended to start baby-led weaning is from six months onward. This is also the age where alternative spoon-feeding typically begins as well.

The process begins by adding solid food to a baby’s primary diet of breast milk or formula. This method allows babies to view food and eat as a fun, interactive, and positive experience. It helps them learn how to grab food with their own hands, feed themselves, and even help recognize their own gag reflex. This allows for an easy and natural transition to solid foods, while still primarily getting nutrients from breast milk or formula.

Related: 10 Things To Know About Baby-Led Weaning

While it may be scary to watch your baby feed themselves finger foods, instead of spoon-feeding them purées, there are definitely ways to do it safely.

  • Make sure baby is seated upright

  • Watch your baby while eating

  • Research common choking hazards

  • Understand the difference between choking and gagging

  • Avoid distractions at mealtime

  • Learn what the age-appropriate food sizes, textures, and shapes are

  • Consider taking an infant CPR class

There are also many benefits that come along with baby-led weaning!


10 Your Little One Gains Independence

Baby-led weaning puts your baby in control and gives them the power to choose what to eat based on what’s given to them. They may spend some time playing with the food, feeling it in their hands, or even smothering it all over their faces.

However, they are building their own relationship with food and exploring something that is very new to them. Providing your baby with the opportunity to navigate their plate gives them a little sense of independence.

9 Food Freedom Is Fun

Baby-led weaning not only allows for your baby to have fun in the kitchen, play with their food, and experience the freedom of choice, but it also provides parents with a sense of freedom. Parents have the freedom to offer their little ones a variety of fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, kinds of pasta and so much more.

Some parents may also be worried about food allergies, and baby-led weaning can provide them with a sense of ease by being able to introduce foods to their early in order to rule things out. There is also a sense of freedom that comes with the ability to offer various foods beyond purées to your baby.

8 Your Baby Can Be Offered The Same Food As The Family

Family meal time is extremely important for many parents. It’s the time when parents and children gather around the table and share in a communal meal. There may be talk about the events of the day or discussions of future plans. Oftentimes, emotional, memorable, and cherished moments happen around the dining room table.

While a baby around six months old will no doubt be joining you during meal time, baby-led weaning can be an incentive to organize their schedule around the usual dinner time. If babies are eating the same foods that their parents are, there is less of a need to feed them early or make them something different. When dinner is ready, their plate can be customized as well.

7 It Makes Going Out To Eat Easier

Instead of packing your baby bag with jars of baby food, various purées, spoons, and baby snacks, parents can leave the house knowing that their baby will have food to eat at the restaurant as well. Some thoughts may need to go into what menu options various restaurants have, but baby-led weaning provides so much variety and choice for babies.

For example, if you go to Olive Garden and order minestrone soup with some breadsticks, your baby will have a feast. They can hold onto the breadsticks themselves, and you can offer them the various vegetables within your soup!

According to the Academy of Pediatrics, bread can be introduced into a baby’s diet starting at six months old. However, it is important that it’s not accompanied by any other new foods, only familiar foods. Therefore, if there is any sort of reaction, allergy, or intolerance, it will be clear what it caused.

Baby-led weaning while eating out is all about ease and convenience: finding the restaurant options that are best for you and giving your baby some of the food you are already ordering, instead of packing your baby a separate meal entirely.

6 Can Save Money On The Grocery Bill

We all know how expensive groceries have gotten, and baby food is no exception. According to Investopedia, most parents can expect to spend at least $100 a month on solid baby food purées. While this might sound expensive to an expecting parent, it can cost much more when you calculate formula, supplements, and snacks.

Some parents choose to make their own baby food purées in order to save money and control the quality of ingredients that they’re giving to their baby. However, it can be even cheaper and simpler to give your baby appropriately sized pieces of solid foods that you’re already purchasing for your household!

5 They Are Exposed To Different Food Textures From The Start

With baby-led weaning there are so many options. A great rule of thumb is to try and eat with the seasons. This almost guarantees that your baby will be introduced to a large variety of foods with various textures and flavor profiles.

If you begin giving them solid foods at six months old, by the time they are a year and a half, they will have eaten through a whole season!

4 Parents Claim Their Babies Are Less Picky

Many fans of baby-led weaning claim that it creates babies that are less picky as they get older. According to The Conversation, the research shows that this is true, but not by very much.

There are many other factors that determine food habits as children grow. These factors include things like parental interactions, genetic background, previous experiences with food, and the socio-economic status of the parents. Oftentimes, having the time and money to choose baby-led weaning also leads to babies enjoying a wider variety of foods.

3 Babies Learn How To Control Their Own Appetite

With so many fad diets circling around our culture today, it can be a scary and daunting responsibility as parents to determine what our children eat and drink. Do we limit bread, dairy, sugar, or meat? It can be overwhelming to give your baby various food options without knowing which ones they will like or what the best options are.

Luckily, there is a lot of research about children’s intuitive eating abilities. They have natural hunger cues that occur nearly immediately after birth. According to HGIC, infants have instinctive hunger and fullness cues that are used while being breast or bottle-fed.

At about six months when babies are introduced to solid foods, the same eating instincts are practiced. By providing your baby with various foods and allowing them to choose what to eat and how much, you are honoring their natural intuitive eating.

2 Healthy Foods Are Essential

According to Healthline, the best foods for baby-led weaning include:

  • Avocados

  • Yogurt

  • Oats

  • Eggs

  • Carrots

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Tofu, meat and fish

  • Apples

  • Nut butters

All of these foods are very healthy, nutrient-dense, and good for your baby. Due to the nature of the foods that are recommended for baby-led weaning, it will likely lead to better food choices for your baby and a very healthy diet.

1 Parents Can Experiment In The Kitchen

Making your own baby food purees can be fun, but it does have its limitations. However, when it comes to baby-led weaning, parents can think up just about any recipe and get excited about their baby trying it as well.

Instead of reaching for prepackaged baby foods or jars of purées, there is much more flexibility and creativity that accompanies baby-led weaning because you can cook real meals to feed your baby. Whether you are craving protein pancakes in the morning or a chicken stir-fry for dinner, there are ways to include your baby in that meal.

Sources: Sarah Remmer, Academy of Pediatrics, HGIC, The Conversation, Healthline

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