How To Do Baby-Led Weaning

While there is no one, perfect way to introduce solids to your baby, there are some basic guidelines that will be helpful as you and your baby start this exciting journey. First, a snapshot of some do’s and don’ts:

When to Start

Most healthy, full-term babies are ready to start solid food around 6 months of age. However, it is critical that your baby reaches the following developmental milestones before offering solid food or finger foods:

  • Age: Baby is 6 months or older
  • Sitting: Baby is able to sit unsupported 
  • Head Control: Baby is able to hold head upright and steady
  • Reach & Grab: Baby is able to pick up objects and easily bring them to her mouth
  • Interest: Baby mouths for food or leans forward for it

Your baby must meet all of the above developmental milestones before you introduce solid food, and particularly so if you are going to start with baby-led weaning or finger foods.

Do’s and Don’ts of Baby-Led Weaning

When it comes to self-feeding whole solid foods, safety is paramount. Here are some basic things you must do when it comes to baby-led weaning and Finger Food First:

  • Create a peaceful eating environment free of distractions and loud, sudden noises.
  • Put your baby in a fully upright high chair, ideally with a foot-plate and detachable tray so baby can eat at the table with you.
  • Let your child self-feed 100%. This means picking up the food and bringing and it to their own mouth.
  • Offer large pieces of food that your baby can easily pick up and hold on to.
  • Once your baby’s pincer grasp develops, decrease the size of the food to smaller pieces.
  • Let your baby get messy! Mess is inevitable with self-feeding and may help prevent picky eating and obsessive-compulsive-like behaviors toward food later on.
  • Offer choices in small amounts. Offer small portions of different foods at each meal and at the same time. As your baby gets older, the more choices the better.
  • Check your emotions at the table. If your child refuses to eat, don’t react or exert pressure. (And in the same vein, don’t praise your child for eating.) Aim for mealtime to be pressure-free.

And now, the things you should refrain from with baby-led weaning:

  • Never put food in your baby’s mouth. Let your baby self-feed.
  • Refrain from pressuring your baby to eat. It’s up to you to offer healthy and safe foods, but it’s up to your baby to decide when and how much to eat.
  • Never put your fingers in your baby’s mouth to get food out. If a too-big piece of food has broken off into their mouth, coach your baby to spit it out by sticking out your own tongue dramatically.
  • Refrain from employing distractions (phones, videos, music, tv, reading, etc..) to get your baby to sit still for a meal. Meals can be fun, but keep it about the food.

Ready for more? Check out our First Foods database for the best first foods with baby-led weaning.