Mother and Baby

16 tips for successful baby-led weaning

16 tips for successful baby-led weaning

Baby-led weaning is when your baby feeds himself with chunks of food using his own hands. You avoid washing up the blender, but be prepared – you'll probably end up with a lot of food on the floor

Who should choose to go for baby-led weaning? A baby older than six months who can sit up straight by himself is ready to wean in this way. He should also be able to pick up food and lift it to his mouth. Remember, if there are allergies in the family you must check with your health visitor or GP about which foods to offer when.

There are a few things to keep in mind to make baby-led weaning a success. And we've got plenty of tips to share.

  1. It is very important when using baby-led weaning that you don't rush things, because a more immature infant could choke on food. A baby who can only sit reclined may find unwanted food sliding down his throat rather than coming out of his mouth. Waiting until six months is recommended by the NHS in most cases.
  2. Make sure your baby is sat upright before you begin and avoid giving any potential choking hazards, like nuts or whole grapes. Remember that babies should never be left alone while eating.
  3. An easy-to-clean high chair is a real benefit when baby-led weaning, because your baby is likely to throw, spill, and generally lose most of her meals, rather than eating them! For the same reason, a big wipe-clean mat to place under the chair can be useful, especially if you have carpets rather than hard flooring. Bibs with full arms are also a good idea. 
  4. You can generally give your baby pieces of your ordinary family meals, or things you have in the house already, with baby-led weaning. Just avoid too much sugar and salt. If you are having a roast dinner then bits of potato or vegetables can be put out for your child. If you are eating home-made pizza, that's fine too. Pieces of large pasta are ok, as is toast or soft fruit slices.
  5. A hard aspect of this method of weaning can be relinquishing control. You really have to be able to step back and trust your baby to get on with it. Don't help to put any food into his mouth, and you mustn't worry if you think he isn’t eating much. Food is all about experimenting and learning at this stage, he will be getting the nutrition he needs from his milk, whether formula or breast milk.
  6. Try to offer a variety of foods. Once your baby learns to use a pincer grip (holding things between a finger and thumb) you can introduce berries and raisins, or peas. Don't overwhelm the baby with too many bits of food, two or three items at a time is enough.
  7. Remember, ‘food is for fun before they’re one’, so see weaning as a sensory experience and messy play for the first few months. Your baby will play with her food at first, but this is an important part of her development. She will start to eat eventually, so relax and enjoy.
  8. Baby-led weaning is messy and your baby will enjoy dropping food to see what happens to it. Put a clean shower curtain or plastic mat under the highchair to make cleaning up afterwards easy. 
  9. Give your baby a spoon to play with – lots of parents think that baby-led weaning means spoons are banned, but many babies love feeding themselves with one. Letting her play with a spoon helps her practise putting it into her mouth, and you can help her by loading it up with things like yoghurt before you give it to her.
  10. Use food which is easy to pick up, particularly during the first few weeks. Fusilli or conchiglioni pasta is easier to grasp than flatter, smoother varieties. Sticky rice is easier than loose grains, so overcook it slightly or mix it with a bit of sauce. 
  11. Cut food into sticks or wedges, and leave the skin on fruit so it’s less slippery. Halves or quarters work well for apples or pears. Cut bananas in half and leave the bottom bit of peel on as a ‘handle’. Offer meat in small strips that are easy to manage.
  12. Use a crinkle cutter when you’re cutting fruit and veg, as the ridges will make it easier for your baby to grip the food. 
  13. Spreading things on fingers of toast is a really quick and easy way of getting your baby to experience new flavours. 
  14. Use wipe-clean bibs with a scoop to catch some of the food your baby drops. She will be able to pick out some of the pieces from the scoop and have another go. 
  15. Make runny foods like porridge thicker so your baby can scoop it up with her hands. As your baby gets older, she will enjoy using edible dippers like carrot sticks and celery to help her eat runny foods. 
  16. Be patient – your baby might take a while to get the hang of things, but she’ll get there in the end!

Expand Image

Mango slices

Rich in vitamin A, mangos keep your baby’s eyes healthy. Leave the skin on as it will make it less slippy and easier for your baby to hold.
Expand Image

Banana chunks

This classic baby led weaning (BLW) food can be chopped into pennies or chunks for your baby to eat. It’s a great on-the-go food.
Expand Image

Steamed broccoli florets

The texture of broccoli is great for babies and their tree-like shape is ideal for your baby to pick up and hold. What’s more, broccoli is rich in vitamin C, which your body needs to absorb iron.
Expand Image

Sticks of firm mild cheese

Mini Edam cheeses are great – simply slice into sticks. Cheese provides an excellent source of calcium, which your baby needs for strong bones and teeth.
Expand Image

Thin strips of meat 

Chicken or turkey is a good place to start. As your baby gets better at chewing, you can move onto pieces of lean lamb or beef. Meat is a great source of protein, which will help your baby’s growth and development.
Expand Image

Steamed carrot sticks 

Chop a carrot into batons or pennies and steam. It contains vitamin A, which is great for your baby’s skin and eyes.
Expand Image

Mashed potato loaded onto a spoon

While it’s fine to let your baby scoop up mashed potato with his hands, you can also put a lump on a spoon and give it to him. He may put it in his mouth, he may flick it at the walls – it’s all part of the weaning process.
Expand Image

Steamed baby sweetcorn

The perfect length for finger food, there’s no need for chopping or slicing this baby sweetcorn. Simply steam and serve to your little one.
Expand Image

Unsalted rice cakes

Either use mini rice cakes and top with houmous or cream cheese, or larger ones and then break into small pieces. The houmous stops them from being too dry. Plain rice cakes are an ideal snack when you’re out and about.
Expand Image

Toast fingers

Yes, your baby will probably gum at it until it’s a soggy mess, but he will enjoy the texture of toast fingers – it’s great for teething babies – and it’s a quick and easy weaning food.
Expand Image

Hard boiled egg

Make sure the egg yolk is completely solid and then slice into quarters. The white and yolk will probably come apart, but your baby can pick at both pieces. Eggs are a great source of protein and vitamin A.
Expand Image

Omelette strips

Like boiled eggs, omelettes are a great source of protein. Whisk up an egg, fry in a little vegetable oil, then cut it into 3cm long pieces using a knife or scissors.
Expand Image

Thick fromage frais loaded onto a spoon

Make sure you use a set yogurt (otherwise it could get quite messy) load a spoon up with it for your baby to feed himself with.
Expand Image

Cucumber batons

Slices of cool cucumber are great for soothing your baby’s gums if he’s teething, as well as being an easy BLW food.

Related content:

© Bauer Media Group

Bauer Media Group consists of: Bauer Consumer Media Ltd, Company number: 01176085,  Bauer Radio Ltd, Company Number: 1394141 Registered Office: Media House, Peterborough Business Park, Lynch Wood, Peterborough, PE2 6EA H Bauer Publishing, Company Number: LP003328 Registered Office: Academic House, 24-28 Oval Road, London, NW1 7DT. All registered in England and Wales. VAT no 918 5617 01

Bauer Consumer Media Ltd are authorised and regulated by the FCA (Ref No. 710067)