As your young baby begins to grow and develop different tastes, you may begin to wonder when is the best time to introduce solid foods. There are many different methods to accomplish this task, including spoon-feeding, weaning, and self-feeding.
The critical thing to remember is to take your time. There is no rush to introduce new foods to your baby’s diet. It is all about balancing their nutritional and engagement needs with your personal schedule and goals. Let’s get into how these different methods interact.
When to Introduce Solids
Before we get into how the methods can help your baby, it helps to have a timeline in mind. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests you begin to introduce solid foods to your baby around 6 months. This is when baby is developmentally ready and will demonstrate signs like:
Sitting up without needing support.
Having good head and neck control.
Taking an active interest in the food around them.
Picking up various objects and bringing them to their mouths.
Remember, these are just suggestions. There is no clean and clear rule of thumb for when your baby will want to test out solid food. For some babies, it is much earlier than you’d expect, while others like to take their time. As long as you pay attention to your baby, you’ll see the signs clearly. It is very important to work with your child's pediatrician.
What is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby Led Weaning (BLW) introduces solid foods that emphasize self-feeding and exploration. This is when you step away from purees and spoon-feeding and dive into whole table foods that are soft enough for them to grasp and bring to their mouths without help. This further develops their fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, and introduces them to different textures, temperatures and flavors.
If you want to begin BLW with your child, consider these tips:
Choose soft, easy-to-grasp foods that will not be a choking hazard. This might be some steamed veggies, softer fruits, and finely chopped cooked meats. Try to avoid any foods that are hard, sticky, or pose a choking hazard. Like bread, crackers, raisins etc.
Learn the safe way to prepare and serve your baby's food. Cut them in the size of your index finger and middle finger combined. And if you can mush it, mash it with your thumb then your baby's gum can chew it comfortably as well.
Take an Infant/Child CPR course to learn the difference between gagging and choking. Confidence is the key.
Onboard your trusted people. It can be your nanny, babysitter, neighbor, family members or a close friend. Having someone beside you can help you gain more confidence when feeding your infant.
Work with only 1-2 foods at a time, and give your baby plenty of time between each attempt. This will help you uncover any potential allergens or sensitivities.
Go for a variety of foods to introduce. Mix it up with fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and anything else your baby wants to test out (within reason).
Herbs and spices are your friends. Minimize salt and Sugar or nothing at all if possible. babies kidneys are not fully develop to process those extra salt and sugar that might lead to health problems in the long run.
NO honey. Serve it after infant 1st birthday. Honey can cause infant botulism , a toxin ( a poison ) from clostridium botulinum. This can cause weak facial muscles that make their face look flat, weak muscle in the arms , legs and neck leading to floppiness and breathing problems.
Baby Z is 9 months old and enjoying his meal time with Mom. We are helping him to eat independently and encourage him to self -feed .
If you want to learn more, I am a Baby Led Weaning Coach that works with new parents and teaching them how to onboard their team. Contact me now for a FREE 15 minute consultation
No matter what, go slow. Babies will naturally learn on their own. Your job is to curate what is available and not to place too much pressure on them. This is a chance for your baby to explore and develop personal independence. Your job is to promote a healthy, varied diet that might reduce any future picky eating.
Always, always, always be on the lookout for any choking hazards – just in case. This process is going to be a bit messy, so you’ll want to keep an eagle eye on what they are actually putting in their mouths.
How to Serve Allergens Early with Baby Led Weaning
A significant benefit of working with baby led weaning is being able to introduce potential allergens in a safe and controlled environment. Early introduction of foods like peanuts, eggs, and dairy can drastically reduce the risk of developing allergies later on.
Keep it simple. Stick to one allergenic food at a time and in small amounts. Then wait a few days afterward before introducing another. You also want to be sure the foods are correctly prepared (like cooking eggs instead of using raw). If you detect any hives, vomiting, or difficulty breathing, stop that food immediately and contact your pediatrician.
Baby Led Weaning vs. Baby Self-Feeding
These are two different methods for solid food introduction that prioritizes independence. With BLW, you control what foods your baby is testing out while encouraging exploration and experimentation with different flavors and textures.
Baby self-feeding is a bit different. You are typically giving baby purees and other soft foods that they can then use tools like spoons to eat. They get control of how much or what type of food they get to eat.
The primary difference is in what foods baby gets to eat. BLW is more about whole foods that haven’t been processed, whereas self-feeding is more about control over time and amount. After that, it is all about potential choking hazards and being able to introduce allergens in a controlled setting. You can also introduce baby self-feeding earlier than BLW.
What Foods to Try
You are shooting for about 95g carbs, 12-15g proteins, and 30-40% calories from fats in the 6-12 month range. Any food you use to make up this intake should include essential vitamins and minerals that help your baby grow, like vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E, and minerals iron, calcium, iodine, and zinc.
Some popular food ideas include:
Roasted sweet potato and apples
Strawberry mango banana bread
Eggs mash (with optional avocado) ( Allergen )
Yogurt ( Dairy Allergen )
Nut butter ( Allergen )
Herbs and spices
Things to avoid are basically anything that is hard. Even in the apple’s case, you want to bake or cook it enough, so it is softer. If you are going to go with some bread, be sure it is free from whole nuts and seeds. Yes, nutritionally, there are better foods, but it is all about variety with safety from choking hazards.
Wrapping it Up
Ultimately, the choice between baby led weaning, and baby self-feeding will depend on you, your baby’s needs, and your nanny’s abilities. You want to foster independence with your baby while balancing the safety of their well-being.
At Kids and Kaboodles, we work with NYC families all the time when their babies are at this critical stage. Our professionals will ask questions that set clear expectations of what you want your baby to eat and avoid. Our business is all about building that mutual trust where we respect your boundaries, and you learn the quality of our skills.
Both Baby Led Weaning and Baby Self-Feeding are effective and safe methods for introducing solid foods to babies. Each method has its own benefits and risks, and it's essential to consider these carefully when deciding which approach to use. Hopefully, these guidelines and tips will provide you with fantastic opportunities for letting your baby explore new foods on their own.
Keywords: Baby led weaning, kids and Kaboodles, BLW, Baby Led Feeding, Infant solids, traditional Puree food, NYC nanny, babysitters.