More on Baby Led Weaning

It's called baby-led because that's what the premise is — letting your little one feed herself the healthy foods she wants to eat right from the start (which is why this works only for a baby who's at least 6 months old and capable of self-feeding). And it allows babies to learn how to chew (or more accurately, gum) first, then swallow. It also prevents parents from pushing food, since babies are in control of how much they put into their mouths.

Experts including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommend the best time to start baby-led weaning (and all solids, for that matter), is at 6 months. By that age, most babies are able to sit up by themselves and grab and hold onto objects. They've also dropped the tongue-thrust reflex (which causes them to push foreign substances out of their mouths), plus their intestines have developed the necessary digestive enzymes to absorb solid food.

According to advocates and some research, babies who start solids with baby-led weaning are:

  • Familiar with more different textures and flavors than babies who are fed purees, which may make them more likely to develop more varied and healthy food preferences in the long run. Plus a number of studies have shown that babies who eat a variety of foods (including peanut products and fish) may actually be less likely to have food allergies later in life.

  • Less likely to become overweight than children who are spoon-fed. With spoon-feeding, the parent is in control (which may make babies eat faster and more than they really need, potentially leading to a habit of ignoring feelings of fullness) — but similar to breastfeeding, baby-led weaning allows baby to self-regulate how much she eats based on her hunger levels.

  • Developing manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination skills.

  • Learning how to chew, which aids in digestion.

Farrah Wigand