Baby-led weaning is a method of introducing baby’s first foods, where instead of being spoon-fed, the baby feeds itself. Here is how it differs from the commonly used spoon-feeding method:
|Baby-led Weaning||Spoon Feeding|
|Baby feeds self first foods||Baby is fed first foods on a spoon|
|Baby eats soft pieces of food that can easily be grasped||Baby eats pureed infant foods|
|Baby may be ready at 6 months of age||Baby may be ready at 4 months of age (6 months recommended)|
There is controversy about this method— here are some possible pros and cons:
|Possible Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning||Possible Down-sides of Baby-Led Weaning|
|Baby builds eye-hand coordination and chewing skills||Could lead to an increased risk for choking|
|May be exposed to a wider variety of food textures, tastes, and aromas, which may expand later food preferences||Could lead to nutrient deficiency (for example, may not receive iron-fortified baby cereal)|
|May better learn how to self-regulate their eating behavior— for example, to recognize when they are full and to stop eating||Could lead to reduced calorie intake|
|Baby eats with the family||Baby could be given inappropriate foods, for example ones that have added sugars and salt|
If you decide to try baby-led weaning:
- Offer foods that are soft enough to mash on the roof of the mouth
- Ensure baby is sitting fully upright
- Don’t leave baby alone with food
- Don’t put any food in baby’s mouth— only baby should do this
- Offer foods that are at least as long as the child’s fist
- Do not offer choking risks: whole nuts, popcorn, very small foods, raw vegetables, raw apple, food cut into rounds or “coins”
- Offer a variety of colors, flavors, textures
- Offer nutrient-dense & energy-dense foods
- Offer a varied & balanced diet, including foods rich in iron and zinc (such as meat)
- Do not offer foods with added sugar and salt
There is not a lot of research into this topic, however, research to date suggests that it can be a safe, healthy approach, as long as key guidelines are followed to ensure a healthy diet and to avoid choking hazards. Discuss baby-led weaning with your family physician or child’s pediatrician before starting.
Brown A, Jones SW, Rowan H. Baby-Led Weaning: The Evidence to Date. Current Nutrition Reports. 2017;6(2):148-156. doi:10.1007/s13668-017-0201-2.
Fangupo LJ, et al. A Baby-Led Approach to Eating Solids and Risk of Choking. Pediatrics. 2016;138(4).
Taylor RW, et al. Effect of a Baby-Led Approach to Complementary Feeding on Infant Growth and Overweight: A randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatrics. 2017;1;171(9):838-846.