I strongly believe that good eating habits start with weaning. This one single decision as a parent may affect a great deal of your child’s life and health, after all obesity and eating disorders are not much more than unhealthy relationship with food. Babies know what they need and how much they need to eat. By letting them regulate their own appetite and providing them with a selection of healthy food, you will help them develop healthy eating habits.
Whether you like the idea of baby led weaning, or never heard of it before, you need to start somewhere. I have been through it and know what matters most. It is very simple, albeit rather messy. Here are the basics:
Food is fun until they are one
This is a statement you will see all over forums and sums up the idea of baby led weaning very well. Until your baby is one year old, what they get from milk, preferably breast milk, is enough. Which is why when you think that your baby is not eating enough, you can relax and know that they have everything they need. Anyway, before long, they will be eating a lot more, even if the beginning seems very slow. Food is just another thing they need to learn about. They need to hold it, squeeze it, smell it and throw it. Once they work out that it is edible and they like the taste, they will eat it. Also, there will be mess, so be prepared. A waterproof mat underneath the highchair will protect your carpet and the food that falls off too, and it is easy to just fold and rinse under the shower when the situation gets really bad ;) Dress your baby in a long sleeve bib, waterproof preferably, and in summer when it is hot, a nappy is sufficient, then just rinse the baby under the shower.
No force feeding
I didn’t want to say no spoon feeding as this can be confusing. You can still use spoons, they are not banned. You can load spoons with yogurt or other messy and liquid food and also allow baby to grab a spoon and eat from it. You can also feed them when this is what they want. If your baby opens mouth waiting for a spoon with more food, just go for it. But never ever force anything, when they are bored and done with food, just end it, take them out of their chair and let them do whatever they want to do. Mealtimes should be fun, not a source of stress for the whole family.
Food needs to be appropriate for your baby’s abilities
Babies can eat everything as long as it has no added salt, or very little of it (the limit is 1g salt a day, which rises to 2g when they are over 1 year old). However, you cannot expect six month old to be able to lift peas on their own, which doesn’t mean that they cannot eat them. They may not be able to eat raw carrot until they have full set of teeth, but they can eat it steamed, boiled, roasted or grated. This is why you would start with offering whole softly boiled or roasted vegetables like carrot, potato wedges or broccoli florets, as they are easy to hold and are soft to chew on. As their grip improves, go for smaller sizes and offer normal family meals. Even if they cannot eat it all, they will be able to grab what they can and familiarise themselves with foods that cannot eat yet, like salad leaves.
That’s it! The rest is just detail, but when it comes to the principles, there is nothing more. If all babies were weaned this way, imagine what would happen to the baby food industry… By weaning your baby this way you will encourage independence and allow their natural curiosity and hunger to learn thrive. To me, this sounds perfect.
If you would like to get the official baby led weaning book, here it is.
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