Let your baby take mealtime into their own hands (literally)

Quick notes

  • With this method, babies learn to gum and chew food much younger than puree fed babies.
  • Your baby will not only learn how to pick up food
  • Your baby can also choose what they want to eat and how much.

When you think of baby food, the thought of a parent making airplane noises with a spoon often comes to mind. So does mashed peas or pureed carrots. The practice of baby-led weaning offers a new approach to feeding your baby that doesn’t involve weird food combinations from a jar and airplane spoons.

If you’re considering letting your new little eater, start with self-directed finger foods, here’s everything you need to know about baby-led weaning and how to make it a smashing success.

What is baby-led weaning?

Baby-led weaning is a new approach to starting solid foods. This method skips the baby purees altogether and has your baby jump straight to finger foods. This practice began in the U.K. with babies that are six months and older. It gets the name baby-led because that’s the premise of this method. Your baby will not only learn how to pick up food but they can also choose what they want to eat and how much.

With this method, babies learn to gum and chew food much younger than puree fed babies. While parents are often worried about their baby choking on finger food, the approach actually may make self-feeding safer, since babies learn to chew instead of just letting a spoonful of food slide down their throat.

avitalchn / Pixabay

Do’s and don’ts of baby-led weaning

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to baby-led weaning. First, make sure your baby is ready to start solid foods.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you don’t start feeding your baby solid foods until they are six months old. A six-month-old can usually sit up by themselves and they are also able to grab objects. A six-month-old also has developed the proper digestive enzymes to better help them absorb solid foods.

Never replace a feeding of breast milk or formula with sold foods. Breast milk or formula should still be your baby’s number one source of nutrition for their first year of life. Sold foods should only supplement their diet and get them used to a variety of foods as they start to replace breast milk or formula after their first year.

Don’t be frazzled with how messy baby-led weaning can and will be. Use a bib or undress your baby if you are worried about clothing. As your baby gets the hang of feeding, there will be far fewer messes.

The best baby-led weaning foods

There are several great food options that can help your baby get the nutrition they need while also making it easy and safe for them to pick up food and eat it.

A banana makes for great first food. So do avocados or other softer foods.

Roasted apples, sweet potatoes, and broccoli are other great options since these can all be sliced in ways that are easy to pick up. Roasting and steaming most vegetables and fruit will help soften them up so they can easily be mashed and chewed in your baby’s mouth.

As your baby gets older, cold fruit, cheeses, and meats can also be introduced. Eggs are another nice option as they are quick to prepare and a scrambled egg is easy for a baby to grab. As always, if you suspect an allergy or intolerance to anything, speak with your pediatrician right away.

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101: