Baby-led Weaning

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 WeaningSpoon Feeding
Baby feeds self first foodsBaby is fed first foods on a spoon
Baby eats soft pieces of food that can easily be graspedBaby eats pureed infant foods
Baby may be ready at 6 months of ageBaby may be ready at 4 months of age (6 months recommended)
Toddler eating snack outside

There is controversy about this method— here are some possible pros and cons:

Possible Benefits of Baby-Led WeaningPossible 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 preferencesCould 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 eatingCould lead to reduced calorie intake
Baby eats with the familyBaby 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 DateCurrent 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.