At six months old, your baby will need more iron than can be provided by breastmilk alone. Her calorie requirements can start getting greater than can be satisfied by milk alone. At this stage, it is time to introduce solids in to her diet. For many parents, this means slaving away with a food processor to puree ingredients until they are smooth. But there is an alternative. Baby-led weaning uses finger foods to introduce solids into a baby’s diet.
Building on baby’s natural desire to copy the actions of parents and siblings, baby-led weaning allows her to pick up food in her fist and chomp on it at her own pace. Fans of baby-led weaning maintain that this encourages babies to join in with family meals and try a wider range of foods. They suggest that this leads to less picky eating habits as your child grows.
Preparing finger food is easy. Rather than pureeing fruit and vegetables simply chop them into chunks and let baby hold them in her fists Soft fruit, such as bananas or peaches, can simply be cut up and served. Harder fruit, such as apples and vegetables, such as broccoli and carrots, should be cooked until soft before being chopped and served. Keep the pieces of fruit and vegetable large enough for your little one to grip in her fist.
Introduce finger foods at meal times and continue to give your baby milk in between. Initially, you may find that you have a lot left over, because your baby may be more interested in playing with the food rather than eating it. As she becomes better at feeding herself and eats more solids, she will need less milk in between meals.
Baby-led weaning is not for everyone. If will become anxious when you don’t know exactly how much food your baby has eaten, think twice before you embark on baby-led weaning. With a little co-ordination, baby is likely to miss her mouth at least as often as she gets food in to it. This means that baby-led weaning can be very messy. Much of the finger food you offer will end up down the front of your little one or over the floor. This means that a lot of food can be wasted.
Finger food alone will not address all of your baby’s nutritional needs as there will be some foods that your baby will struggle to chew, such as well-cooked meat. Mash or puree these foods and feed them to her off a spoon until she has mastered self-feeding. Introducing a wide variety of textures early on helps to prevent babies becoming fussy eaters as they grow older.
Weaning can take place around six months and your baby should be able to sit upright and support her own head. There is very little chance of your baby choking on soft finger food because your baby is in control of the process. However, babies who are feeding themselves should not be left unattended at any point.
If your baby was born prematurely, there is a history of family allergies, food intolerances, or your baby has special needs that affect her motor skills and ability to chew, you should speak to your doctor before you embark on baby-led weaning.