Baby-Led Weaning – An Interactive Weaning Experience

Season’s greetings to all the enthusiastic readers of K-Way!

If you are the new generation “Insta-Mom” with Montessori-style philosophy of raising self-sufficient and independent kids, I’m certain the catchphrase in my title sounds very familiar.

Baby-led weaning is becoming quite popular as a feeding approach over traditional weaning simply because it is so much fun watching your little baby jump into auto-pilot mode with a plate of food! Let us focus on how we can help foster such independent eating and open up a world of food and flavour for our little ones.


What Is Weaning?

Weaning is the process of introducing your baby’s first foods at 6 months of age as recommended by the WHO. It doesn’t imply weaning off breast milk. You may continue breastfeeding until 2 years along with a range of complementary foods to provide a balanced diet. If your little one is able to sit with support, looks at you with keen interest when you eat, reaches out to grab food from your plate and has lost the tongue thrust reflex, know that they are ready to EAT!

How to Wean?

You may choose to adopt the traditional spoon-fed weaning method which is conventionally adult-led. We typically offer a variety of mashed/pureed foods for the first 2 months and transition to finger foods at 8 months. Traditional feeding allows for a greater parental control on the food quantity the baby eats as well as its nutrient density. If your baby is a little behind on the needed oral motor skills, this mess-free feeding method definitely works well.

What Is Baby-Led Weaning?

Baby-led weaning allows your baby to have an independent eating experience bypassing the phase of purees and mashed foods. It marks your baby’s foray into solid foods right away. Babies get to explore food tastes, textures, colours and aromas on their own. Also, they get to exercise appetite control – what they eat and how much!

How to Encourage Self-Feeding?

  • Developmental Checklist – Ensure that your child is ready and has acquired the necessary oral, and motor skills (head control, sitting with support, grasping and reaching out).
  • Invest in feeding essentials – a comfortable high chair, baby-friendly plates, splat mats and beginner spoons, bibs and towels.
  • Present foods with different sizes, shapes and texture, preferably in manageable chunks or pre-loaded spoons your baby can handle. Here are a few examples – fruit slices, vegetables (stewed or steamed, veggie fritters), pancakes and dosas, rice cakes or whole grain/oats balls, baked multigrain muffins, lentils bake, pan-seared paneer or tofu, bread toast fingers, omelette strips, savoury muffins with meat or veggies, cheese and pre-loaded spoons of porridges and curd. Unleash the inner chef in you and use your creativity and imagination to come up with interesting recipes!
  • Avoid sugar, salt, honey and cow’s milk till 1 year. You can use condiments (turmeric, pepper, ginger, garlic, herbs, jeera, dhania, asafoetida, etc.) to ramp up flavour. Use good fats – ghee, butter and nut oils.
  • Use an open cup or a non–spill sippy cup or a spout cup for water during mealtimes.
  • Start with food pieces that are 1 and a half to 2 times the size of your baby’s fist. Make sure the cooked food is soft enough to smush in your fingers. Once your baby develops a mature grasp, you may cut food into smaller pieces.
  • Provide 2 meals a day from 6 to 8 months and 3 meals a day from 9 to 12 months. Offer 2 smaller portions as snacks also every day.
  • Minimise distractions. Strict NO to screen during meal times.
  • Make meals a family affair since babies learn a lot through mirroring.
  • Allow babies to play and mess around with food. There is going to be a lot of cleaning up after!

Benefits of Baby-Led Weaning

Independence, independence and more independence! There is absolute control and the baby is actually in charge of what and how much she eats. Critical motor functions are honed and toned. This aids development as well. Since babies are introduced to a variety of foods and textures early on, they don’t grow up to be picky eaters. All this being said, isn’t it fun to just watch them inspect, savour and enjoy different foods?

Food for Thought

Baby-led weaning does sound exciting and fun but it does come with a set of practical challenges. It can be trying and stressful if things don’t go to plan. It may feel definitely unstructured and babies don’t eat as much as we would want them to! Added to this is the possibility of negative mealtime experiences because of gags/coughs during feeding. These can simply put off your baby (and you) because they can be both scary and uncomfortable. So, remember, we need to choose what works best for us and the baby. In actuality it doesn’t matter how we choose to wean because no method is superior or inferior to the other and weaning as a process, takes time however done. The middle ground works best – a little bit of both!

Have you made your choice yet?

Happy parenting!


Dr. Lakshmi Prashant
Consultant Pediatrician
Kauvery Hospital Chennai