What Is Baby-Led Feeding?

Image of Baby-Led Weaning cookbook cover

What Is Baby-Led Feeding?

If you’re a new parent chances are you’ve heard a lot about baby-led weaning, a feeding method popularized in the UK that encourages skipping purees altogether when transitioning babies to solids. Babies are allowed to feed themselves, to explore, get messy, eat what they can, and set their own pace.

So what is baby-led feeding? Well, first off, it’s the name of my new cookbook, out in March 2018! But why is it called baby-led feeding instead of baby-led weaning?

First off, weaning is a confusing term. Here in the U.S., it means transitioning babies off of breastmilk or formula. In fact, for at least the first six months of eating solids, babies should still be drinking plenty of one or the other.

Secondly, advocates of baby-led weaning sometimes recommend a very strict approach in what should be a very happy, fun, flexible time. They say that if a single puree passes your baby’s lips you have failed at baby-led weaning, or that what you’re doing really isn’t baby-led weaning. To me, this seems unnecessarily restrictive and likely to cause more—rather than less—stress.

Baby-led feeding (BLF) is a more flexible, practical approach. Yes, by all means make finger foods the main source of solid foods for your baby. But, there are good reasons why you may want to offer your baby purees as well, and that’s just fine too. They key is baby-led. When you offer your child finger foods she decides how much she wants to eat. She picks up the food and puts it in her mouth. If you are spoon-feeding your child you pay close attention to her cues. Is her mouth open, ready to receive the food? If so, great, feed away. But, if her mouth is closed or she’s distracted or upset, stop. Follow her lead. Even though she’s a baby she decides if and how much she eats.

In Baby-Led Feeding I offer over 100 recipes and ideas for getting babies off to a healthy, delicious start and for including them in family meals from an early age. Recipes include Basic Baked Oatmeal, Pumpkin Pie Pops, Sweet Potato Hummus, Cauliflower-Kale Tots, Parmesan-Sage Beef Meatloaf, and Chicken Salad Cutlets. Plus, there are tips on how to manage the mess, and ideas for snacks to bring to day-care. But my FAVORITE part of the book is the visual glossary that will help parents and caregivers cut foods into safe, baby-led-feeding-friendly shapes. Woohoo! No more Googling before mealtime.

Baby-Led Feeding is available now! I’m so excited to share this book with all the mamas and papas, grandmas and grandpas, caregivers, and friends of babies. Like in Real Baby Food, my goal is to help make feeding little ones wholesome foods easy and delicious.

Jenna Helwig