Traditionally, American parents have introduced thin purees or baby cereals as infants’ first foods. However, you may have noticed that Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) has been trending on social media lately. The idea is that babies are given small bits of different types of solid foods and will self-feed. Some parents argue that babies will grow up to be more adventurous eaters if they explore different tastes and textures on their own. On the other hand, conventional wisdom argues that it is harder to choke on a thin puree, so they may be safer to introduce earlier.
When to Start Introducing Solid Foods to Your Baby
There is no research to say what foods to introduce first. For most babies, starting with purees or doing BLW is probably fine! Either way, you want to wait to start “solids” (that is, anything besides breast milk or formula) until your baby is ready. That means he or she has good head control, can sit in a high chair, opens his or her mouth when food approaches or seems interested in food, and is at least double his or her birth weight. The American Academy of Pediatrics generally recommends waiting until a baby is six months old, but for some babies, an earlier or later start may be appropriate. Your pediatrician can help you decide.
Safety Tips for Baby-Led Weaning
- Foods should be soft enough for a baby to mash them with his or her gums, or they should dissolve quickly in the mouth (like some crackers). Remove peels and skins.
- No hot dogs, popcorn, seeds, nuts, hard candy or other hard foods
- No grapes, grape or cherry tomatoes, small berries (blueberries, cranberries) or other small, round foods
- No sticky foods, like peanut butter*
- Limit foods with added salt or sugar
- No honey before age one (for babies eating purees or doing BLW)
Remember, it’s OK to take a combination approach: purees and BLW foods! Even after starting solids, babies will still get most of his or her nutrition from breast milk or formula until age one.
*Early introduction of peanut products and eggs may reduce the risk of food allergies. Talk to your doctor about when and how to try these.