Woah! Time flies and your child is already 6 months old? Now you should start adding some solid foods besides breast milk. Though rather than spoon-feeding, how about you direct them towards baby-led weaning?
You may wonder what is that?
Simply put, it is the practice of giving your child finger foods as soon as they start solids.
No spoon-feeding, no purees.
Let them take charge of their own food and eating habits.
You can entirely let them practice baby-led weaning or use a mixed approach with spoon-feeding.
That doesn’t sound convincing yet, does it?
Keep reading this article and you will know why this is really good for your child.
Baby-led Weaning Benefits
Developing Motor Skills in Your Child
When you do not feed your child but let them hold the finger foods, it helps to develop their fine motor skills.
Picking the food using their hand improves dexterity.
Moreover choosing the food they want to eat helps develop hand-eye coordination in children.
Getting Familiar with Various Tastes and Textures
Giving children solid finger foods instead of purees familiarizes them with textures and tastes.
Making them eat certain foods such as peanuts and fish reduces their chances of developing allergies when they are older.
However, do consult a pediatrician before you start introducing nuts and seafood to your child as they are common allergens.
Still, if they try various foods and textures then they will probably develop healthier preferences when they are older.
Therefore, starting to give them finger foods will develop their healthy eating habits and palates.
Prevents Children From Obesity
This is unexpected right?
As a parent, you will be well aware that you can feed your child when they refuse to eat anymore.
Spoon-feeding gives you the leeway to put an extra spoon of puree into your child’s mouth even if they don’t need it.
Your child eats faster and also you ignore their feeling of fullness.
Hence, overfeeding them which can later result in childhood obesity.
When your child feeds themselves they will never overeat.
In fact, you should also stop trying that they eat more because they will only stop when they feel satiated.
It lets your child self-regulate their eating habits quite similar to how they stop breastfeeding when they are full.
Don’t worry, they will not eat less but just the right amount they require.
But what should you feed them?
Let’s find out below!
Baby-led Weaning Foods by Age for 6 to 12 months old Babies
Giving babies food that they can grasp and chew in the absence of teeth is a hard choice.
The finger foods should be soft but also form to cut them into long strips that they can grab.
Go easy on them in the beginning but as they develop a strong grip and hold you can give them firmer and shorter strips of food.
Your child can eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and proteins.
Though incorporate it in their diet rather gradually rather than suddenly.
- 6 to 7 months of age
When your baby is 6 months old, they will hardly have one tooth.
Their first tooth erupts between 6 to 7 months hence, whatever they eat should be soft and easy to swallow.
In veggies, you can steam them sweet potato and carrot strips that they can easily grip and chew by cutting them in small pieces.
Give them protein by cutting an omelet into long strips that they can grab from their plate on the dining table.
Sweet fruits slices are great for munching too.
Cut them some thick slices of avocado, mango or banana. Hope you know the banana and mango benefits?
Long size pieces of food such as strips of toast can suffice for whole wheat.
While Greek yogurt or Mozarella cheese strips add the dairy portion.
- 8 to 9 months old baby
They can eat ripe pears and peaches.
Slice strawberries and berries so that they are not too big to eat.
Eating whole wheat pasta and small meatballs should become easier now.
For vegetables, you can give them steamed spinach, peas or green beans.
Add some flavor and give them cheddar cheese slices instead of Mozarella.
They can also eat boiled salmon as long as you remove all bones and keep the fish soft.
- 10 to 12 months old child
Hence, your child’s eating habits and the menu will start to resemble yours.
They can start enjoying what the rest of the family is eating.
You can let them eat slices of grilled cheese sandwich.
Moreover, they can dip it into tomato soup.
Eating whole wheat spaghetti with mini meatballs should be manageable too.
Whole-grain pita bread slices with hummus, carrot strips and cheese slices make for an enjoyable meal as well.
Therefore, as they grow older, they can manage firmer and smaller foods.
Their chewing and grip both improve over time.
However, as much as there are these perks of baby-led weaning, there are also some cons.
Let’s find out about them below!
Beware of Choking
It is a brave move to give your child finger food to let them eat it by themselves.
Children learn quickly however, there is always a risk of choking if they cannot chew and swallow food themselves.
In the first few days, they will have a gagging reflex for food that is too challenging to eat.
However, once you give them softer foods, they will no longer have it.
Choking is different. It is a situation whereby the food is stuck in your child’s windpipe, making them unable to breathe.
You can avoid this by supervising them at all times when they eat something.
Also, avoid giving them hard nuts, raw vegetables, whole berries and grapes, large chunks of meat and nut butter.
Of course, it will be messy!
Children as old as 6 to 12 months are developing their grip and dexterity.
Not only that, but their swallowing reflexes are also in the development stage.
Holding food and getting it into their mouths is also tough for babies.
So be prepared for some mess and cleaning up after every mealtime.
You Need to Add Iron
Breast milk provides your child with iron for up to 4 months.
Later you will have to give them a liquid iron supplement to compensate for the diminishing levels of breast milk.
Can finger foods not suffice that?
That is hard because foods rich in iron are hard to chew.
Though you can give them fortified cereals and pureed meat.
You need to care for the safety of your child and always supervise them while they are eating.
Therefore, you need to follow some safety tips before embarking on this method.
But first, how do you begin it?
Starting Baby-led Weaning
You do not need to start it as soon as your child turns six.
Rather wait till you can see that they are ready.
Notice if they can sit on a high chair straightly and have neck strength.
Furthermore, can they move their jaw up and down to assist in moving the food back to their mouth to swallow?
Usually, this develops by 6 months but chewing develops by 9 months. You can also consult a pediatric dentist in Dubai for more tips.
Remember that the primary source of food will still be breast milk feedings.
Hence, you should still keep feeding them till they are a year old.
Since you need to create some work-life balance as a working mom, you probably are using a feeding bottle instead.
If they use a feeding bottle then keep giving them the formula milk.
In the beginning, while introducing solid foods only give them soft foods according to their age that you can easily smash.
Hence, this will help them feed easily on them by pushing it back to the mouth.
Stay clear of hard and crunch vegetables, nuts or fruits even if you think they are not as hard to swallow.
If the food you give your child is similar to yours then eat together in family meals.
Children learn by imitating parents hence, let them see how you grab food and chew it.
Maybe they will grab a banana slice or boiled potato from your plate to munch on it.
Also, try to give them foods of different varieties.
Introduce solids with different colors, textures and tastes so that they are not a picky eater later on in life and have a diverse palate.
Furthermore, do not forget to supervise your child whenever they are near food.
Make sure that they sit on a high chair so that they do not choke.
Also not any signs of allergies while they are eating such as wheezing, vomiting and swelling especially if you give nuts and seafood. Take them immediately to a health visitor.
There’s no rush. As the primary source of food is breastmilk you can start small.
Only give them a piece or two.
This will also not overwhelm them with several choices.
Rather they will grab what’s in front of them and munch on it.
Coating Slippery Foods with Whole Grains
Slices of banana and avocado can slip through your baby’s tiny hands.
When they lack dexterity, it is especially hard to grip on these foods.
So how can they eat it?
Simply grind some whole-grain cereal and coat them with it so that it does not slip from their hands.
Refrain From Forcing Them to Eat
The purpose of baby-led weaning is to let children at according to their own will.
Encourage this independence by not forcing them to eat more.
When your child is feeding on formula milk and breast milk, they are probably too full to also eat solid foods.
Slowly when they leave milk, they will start eating a larger portion.
It’s all about the time, be patient!
Use a Bib, Skip the Plate
As it will be messy, it’s better to save your child’s clothes.
Also, keep something underneath the table they eat because they will keep tossing the food on the floor anyway.
There’s no need of placing and bowl or plate, mommy! Your little one will surely not care about it.
Use a Mixed Approach
No approach is fully right or wrong for any parent.
You can experiment with different methods.
Mixing baby-led weaning with spoon-feeding also works to keep your child satiated.
Hence, if they do not stick with one way, use the other!
As long as they are well-fed and healthy, all parents remain happy anyway!