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Baby led weaning – a new approach to old school solid food

by Michelle Briggs

Before my first child was born I planned on feeding her only homemade organic baby food when she was ready to start solids.  That was until I spent a week with a cousin from England who told me about baby-led weaning (also called child-led feeding).  Basically, you only feed babies 6 months or older real food, no purees. The idea is that the baby gets used to the taste, texture and smells of food in its natural state.  For me, this was a totally new way of introducing food to babies but probably not really new at all, I doubt babies a few thousand years ago started with rice cereal then moved onto purees that were uniform in texture.  I was skeptical but after reading about it online decided I would give it a try along with typical baby foods.  What really sold me was how easy and time saving it would be! Your baby just eats what you eat. So at 6 months my daughter started with broccoli. She loved it! Food is presented in stick shaped pieces that are firm (for mouthing) or very soft and can be mashed with gums.  The baby may only ingest a little in the beginning and almost all her nutrition continues to come from breast milk or formula anyway.  But she is exposed to real food and gradually eats more as she is ready.   Another important point for this to be safely successful is that you don’t feed that baby, the baby only feeds them self.  So if they don’t have the fine motor skill to pick up the food, they don’t have the oral motor control to safely eat it yet.

My 4 year old continues to love all kinds of food and is a great eater.  I think this is mostly due to our laid back approach to feeding which started with baby-led weaning.  A variety of food was offered but never pushed, and it was the same foods the whole family was eating so of course she wanted to try it too.  Introducing food this way can easily work for any baby or lifestyle and can be combined with more mainstream approaches to feeding.  For more information I recommend reading Gill Rapley’s Baby-Led Weaning book or search on-line, there are lots of blogs about this approach to feeding.

Recommended literature: “Feeding Baby Green” by Dr. Alan Greene

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