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What is Baby-Led Weaning?

This type of weaning introduces solid foods to infants in a way that allows them to self-feed from the start of their weaning journey. Unlike traditional spoon-feeding, where purees are spooned into a baby’s mouth, baby-led weaning encourages babies to explore and feed themselves with age-appropriate foods. This method focuses on the baby’s readiness to eat solid foods and relies on their natural curiosity and appetite cues.

Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning

Promotes Healthy Eating Habits

One of the primary benefits is its potential to foster healthy eating habits from an early age. By allowing babies to choose what and how much they eat, baby-led weaning promotes self-regulation and encourages a positive relationship with food. Research suggests that it may reduce the risk of picky eating and encourage a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Enhances Motor Skills Development

BLW supports the development of fine motor skills as babies grasp, manipulate, and explore different textures and shapes of food. By picking up and bringing food to their mouths independently, babies improve hand-eye coordination and strengthen the muscles needed for chewing and swallowing. This hands-on approach to feeding also encourages self-feeding skills, which are essential for future independence at mealtimes.

Encourages Independence

Unlike spoon-feeding, which relies on the caregiver controlling the feeding process, baby-led weaning allows babies to control their own eating experience. By allowing babies to feed themselves, baby-led weaning encourages independence and self-confidence. This sense of autonomy can extend beyond mealtime, promoting a exploration and curiosity in other aspects of a child’s life.

How to Start Baby-Led Weaning

Identifying Readiness Signs

Before starting, it’s essential to ensure that your baby is developmentally ready for solid foods. Signs of readiness include being able to sit up unassisted, showing interest in food, and losing the tongue-thrust reflex, which prevents choking. It’s recommended to introduce solids around six months of age, but every baby is different, so it’s essential to observe your child’s cues and consult with a paediatrician if you have concerns.

Selecting Appropriate Foods

When starting baby-led weaning, offer a variety of soft, age-appropriate foods that are easy for your baby to grasp and chew. Examples include steamed vegetables, soft fruits, cooked pasta, and strips of meat or tofu. Avoid foods that pose a choking hazard, such as whole grapes and nuts. Cut foods into manageable sizes and shapes, and supervise your baby closely during mealtimes to ensure their safety.

Safety Precautions

While baby-led weaning is generally safe when practiced correctly, it’s important to be aware of potential choking hazards and take precautions to minimise risks. Always supervise your baby during mealtimes and encourage them to eat in an upright position. Avoid offering foods that are small, hard, or sticky, and be cautious with foods that can easily break off into large chunks. Familiarize yourself with infant CPR and choking first aid procedures, just in case.

Common Concerns about Baby-Led Weaning

Choking Risk

One of the most common concerns is the risk of choking. While gagging is a natural part of learning to eat solid foods and is different from choking, it can be alarming for parents to witness. However, research suggests that the incidence of choking is no higher with baby-led weaning than with traditional spoon-feeding. By offering age-appropriate foods and supervising mealtimes closely, you can help minimise the risk of choking and promote safe eating habits.

Nutritional Adequacy

Another concern is whether baby-led weaning provides adequate nutrition for growing babies. While breast milk or formula remains the primary source of nutrition during the first year of life, it can complement these sources by introducing a variety of nutrient-rich foods. It’s essential to offer a balanced diet that includes foods from all food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Consulting with a paediatrician or registered dietitian can help ensure that your baby’s nutritional needs are being met.


Baby-led weaning can be messy, and some parents may be concerned about the clean-up involved. However, messiness is a natural part of learning to eat and explore new foods. To minimise mess, consider using a high chair with a removable tray or placing a splat mat underneath your baby’s chair to catch spills. Encourage your baby to explore and play with their food, as this can help them develop a positive relationship with eating.

Success Tips for Baby-Led Weaning

Patience and Observation

BLW requires patience and observation as your baby learns to navigate solid foods. Allow your baby to explore and experiment with different textures and flavours at their own pace. Avoid rushing or pressuring your baby to eat, as this can lead to mealtime stress and reluctance to try new foods. Instead, focus on creating a relaxed and enjoyable eating environment that promotes positive mealtime experiences.

Providing Variety

Offer a wide variety of foods to expose your baby to different tastes, textures, and nutrients. Introduce new foods gradually, one at a time, and be patient if your baby is hesitant at first. Offer foods in different forms, such as cooked, mashed, or pureed, to accommodate your baby’s developing eating skills. Remember that it may take multiple attempts before your baby accepts a new food, so continue offering a different range of options.

Involving the Family

Baby-led weaning is a family-centred approach to feeding that encourages shared mealtimes and positive food experiences. Involve the whole family in meal preparation and eating, and model healthy eating behaviours for your baby to emulate. Encourage siblings to eat the same foods as your baby, promoting a sense of camaraderie and solidarity at the table. By making mealtimes a social and enjoyable experience, you can foster a lifelong love of healthy eating in your child.

Baby-led weaning is a gentle approach to introducing solid foods to babies, emphasizing self-feeding and independance from the start. By allowing babies to explore and experiment with food at their own pace, it promotes healthy eating habits, enhances motor skills development, and encourages independence. Despite the messiness and safety challenges, with patience and observation, it can be rewarding and enjoyable for babies and parents.


What age can you start baby-led weaning?

You can start it around six months of age, when your baby shows signs of readiness for solid foods. This could include being able to sit up unassisted and showing interest in food.

How do you prevent choking during baby-led weaning?

Offer age-appropriate foods that are soft and easy to chew, supervise mealtimes, and learn about infant CPR and choking.

Is baby-led weaning suitable for all babies?

It’s important to consult with a paediatrician before starting, if your baby has any medical conditions or developmental delays.

Can you combine traditional weaning with baby-led weaning?

Yes, you can combine traditional spoon-feeding with baby-led weaning, allowing your baby to self-feed finger foods alongside spoon-fed purees. Flexibility and responsiveness to your baby’s cues are key.

How can I ensure my baby gets enough nutrients with baby-led weaning?

Offer a balanced diet including foods from all food groups; fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. Consult with a paediatrician or registered dietitian if you have concerns about your baby’s nutritional intake.

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