7 Success Strategies for Safe Baby-Led Weaning

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The formula vs. breast-milk debate was so your life six months ago. As your infant approaches his half birthday, the pressing question now is: Will you give him pureed food or bite-size chunks to pick up and eat? In a nutshell, that’s the “baby food” versus “baby-led weaning” debate.

Baby-led weaning (BLW) is a British-born feeding strategy centered on serving finger foods from the start. For those who already cook regularly, it’s easy.

Your baby gets the same healthy fare as the rest of the family, just adapted in shape and texture. Little ones learn to eat at their own pace and get to engage their senses through sight, touch, smell, and taste. Plus, by feeding herself, your baby will develop hand-eye coordination and chewing skills. As a mom, chef, and author of two baby cookbooks (Real Baby Food and the forthcoming Baby Led Feeding), I’m a big fan.

Ready to learn more? Keep these commandments in mind.

1. Begin with meals that have one ingredient.

For the first week, serve the same single-ingredient food two to three days in a row to help pinpoint any food allergies, says Dina DiMaggio, M.D., coauthor of The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers. Some faves for the first few weeks: banana, avocado, sweet-potato fries, steamed broccoli florets, soft baked sliced apple without the peel, poached and flaked salmon, scrambled eggs, and chicken strips. Remember, 6-month-olds still get most of their calories from breast milk or formula and only “eat” once or twice a day. Once your baby has tried enough foods for you to rule out a lot of allergies, he’ll be a more confident eater who is ready to sample mixed dishes (like lasagna or meatballs).

2. Get the texture right.

Food should be firm enough to grasp but soft enough to crush with gentle pressure between your thumb and forefinger. Never serve raw hard fruit and veggies; roast or steam them first. Serve food barely warm or cool. It’s okay to offer a kid-safe fork or spoon, but always avoid toothpicks and other skewers.

 

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