Baby-led weaning introduces babies to solid food from the age of six months via soft finger foods rather than mashes and purees. Baby led weaning is basically finger foods first.

Baby-led weaning supports the development of eye-hand coordination, chewing skills, dexterity, and healthy eating habits. Initially it will involve more play and exploration than actual eating. Some food will reach the mouth, some will be chewed up or sucked on and eventually, when the baby is physically ready, food will be swallowed.

If your baby is most comfortable with spoon-feeding, you can always try a mixed approach. Introduce finger foods into your baby’s meal routine, for example- serve finger foods directly before or after purées, and prepare purées with an increasingly lumpy texture to help advance your child’s chewing skills.

While you are introducing baby led weaning, continue with milk feeds (either breastfeeding or formula) throughout to make sure your baby’s nutritional needs are met.

Baby Led Weaning Tips & Advice

  • Baby led weaning is not recommended for babies under 6 months.
  • It is essential that your baby can sit in a high chair unassisted and hold their head steady before you begin with finger food. This minimises the risk of choking.
  • Breast milk/ formula will continue to be a baby’s biggest source of nutrition until he or she is 12 months old.
  • Do not leave your baby unsupervised while eating.
  • Let your baby decide how much food they eat. They will give you cues if they want more or have had enough.
  • If possible try and eat dinner as a family. Allowing babies to eat at the same time as other family members means they learn by watching others and quickly develop skills required for eating.
  • Prepare foods for easy grasping eg substantial sized pieces and cut in long, chip size strips. Introduce new shapes and textures gradually so that your baby can work out how to handle them.
  • Some babies prefer purées at first, are slow to learn how to self-feed, or need multiple exposures to certain foods.
  • Baby led weaning can be messy, but it is important for babies to feel the texture of foods, and explore foods. Consider buying a long sleeve bib or a plastic mat (easy to wipe clean) for the floor.
  • Choose times when your baby is not tired or hungry.
  • A baby’s natural gag reflex – which pushes food out of the airway – is easily mistaken for choking. It is important that your baby is sitting up and has control of what’s going in to his or her mouth. Your baby will learn from your reaction: If you are scared, she will get scared, too.
  • If you are considering starting baby led weaning and are concerned about choking- it could be a good idea to do a refresher first aid course.
  • It is important not to rush your baby. At a minimum plan for 15-20 minute meals.

FINGER FOOD IDEAS

  • Corn on the cob
  • Banana date loaf
  • Pieces of baked fish
  • Meatballs with chopped up vegetables in the mixture
  • Schnitzel fingers
  • Banana
  • Homemade sausage rolls
  • Homemade vegetable or fruit muffins
  • Baked sweet potato fingers (sweet potato cut in strips)
  • Mini pizzas
  • A piece of cooked broccoli or cauliflower
  • Steamed asparagus
  • Cucumber
  • Spaghetti bolognaise
  • A chop to suck on
  • Green beans/peas
  • Pieces of roast vegetable
  • Grated cheese/ cheese sticks
  • Piece of steak
  • Slice of toast
  • Thick finger piece of soft vegetable eg cooked carrot
  • Slice of mango, banana or avocado, pear, nectarine or rockmelon
  • Chopped up strawberry
  • Cooked pasta shapes eg penne or spiral
  • You may also like to offer soup or dips, giving your baby the option to dip their toast slices or vegetable sticks into it.
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