Getting started on baby-led weaning
You may be skeptical that your 6-month-old will be able to handle whole pieces of food right off the bat, but your baby’s ability to chow down will likely amaze you. If you've decided to start your baby on solids the baby-led-weaning way, follow these basic principles:
- Invest in a big bib. Consider dressing your little one in just a diaper and covering her with an oversize bib or smock, and put a drop cloth or newspaper on the floor beneath the high chair.
- Continuing to nurse or bottle-feed. Keep up the same nursing frequency or bottle-feeding frequency, since babies get the majority of their nutrition from breast milk or formula throughout most of the first year.
- Skip the schedule. You may have heard that you should put your baby on a feeding schedule that incorporates breast milk or formula plus three meals of solid food a day. But if you choose baby-led weaning, simply offer solids at mealtime, and let your baby decide if she’s up for eating them.
- Cut food into thick sticks or strips. Slice foods up so baby can hold them in her fist and chew from the top down (instead of tiny bite-sized pieces).
- Start slowly. At the beginning, you only need to place one or two pieces of food in front of your little one at mealtimes. More and you may overwhelm baby with too many choices.
- Don’t worry about plates or bowls for now. She’ll toss ’em on the floor anyway. Just place the food right on the table or high-chair tray, and let the party start.
- Dine together. There’s no reason if your dinner is steamed cauliflower and salmon that baby can’t eat the same foods right along with you. Eating is a social activity, so let your little one see what you do with food and give her a chance to mimic you. Baby wants your toast or reaches for the banana you’re snacking on? Offer her a portion (as long as it’s baby-appropriate).
- Encourage fun. Think of solid food meals as playtime, when baby explores different textures and experiments with tasting and chewing. Baby-led weaning is all about getting comfortable with various foods.
- Offer a variety of foods. Over time, expose your baby to a wide range of choices to help her develop an adventurous palate and make her less likely to be a picky eater later in life. Serve up foods of different colors (roasted tomatoes, steamed green beans and sweet potatoes) and different textures (smooth avocados, crisp watermelon, grainy whole-wheat bread and even tender cooked pasta).
- Don’t force the issue. Since your baby is getting the nutrition she needs form formula or breast milk, don’t be surprised if she eats very little in the first few months. Let her set the pace. As she gets more proficient and starts to eat more, she’ll gradually consume less breast milk or formula in favor of the solid foods she’s learning to love.
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