Real-life pregnancy and parenting stories set in Singapore, from mums in Singapore. Welcome to our SingaporeMotherhood blog series, where we get local bloggers to share their motherhood experiences – from the awesomeness of seeing that +ve, to the pitter-patter of first steps, to the joys and frustrations of bringing kiddo up in the little red dot. This month, June Yong of mamawearpapashirt talks about baby-led weaning.
Josh is five and a half months now, and he is all ready to start exploring food. He’s sitting up well with support, he’s eyeing our food with great interest and making copycat chewing motions when he sees us eating. He’s also been grabbing things and toys and putting them into his mouth.
I’ve been reading up on baby-led weaning as I’m keen to allow Josh to wean by self-feeding. For Vera and Javier, I went the traditional route. To me, the main difference is that baby led weaning allows the child near-complete control over his food intake, and helps to encourage independent eating from an early age.
Some known benefits of baby-led weaning. It:
- Allows child to eat at his own pace
- Allows child to choose his own food
- Helps him to get used to a variety of textures and taste
- Helps to develop hand-eye coordination and muscle control
- Helps to learn to recognise real food
- Helps them gain confidence in their own abilities
- Encourages him to be adventurous in eating and less picky
- Easier to prepare meals
- Less likely to over-eat when they are older
- Less risk of choking as long as the child is seated upright and controls what goes in his mouth
This last point probably made you surprised (it did for me). The argument is that babies have a natural gag reflex that triggers each time a piece of food that’s too large to swallow gets close to the back of the mouth. According to Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods, this reflex is triggered much farther forward on the tongue of a six-month-old baby, compared to an adult, so it functions as an effective safety mechanism.
An important thing to note is that for this safety mechanism to work effectively, the baby must be seated in an upright position (so that the food that has gone too far back in his mouth is pushed forward). He must also be in control of the food that goes into his mouth.
So far, I’ve allowed Josh to try carrot, avocado, cucumber, and banana. (I steamed the carrots lightly so that they are soft but firm.) He seems to enjoy carrots and avocado best, but I find the avocado disintegrates quickly in his hands, so I help him by scooping the broken pieces and offering them with my fingers or with a spoon.
Before you launch into this food adventure, there are also some disadvantages of baby-led weaning that you should know. First, the mess! Second, it seems like a waste of food at the start as some food gets thrown about and lands everywhere except in your child’s mouth. Also, it is common to meet with opposition from older care-givers who are not exposed to this eating concept.
If you’re game to give it a go, here are some tips for you:
- Find a time when you are not in a hurry as baby needs to time to feed at his own pace
- Allow baby to join you at meal times as long as he is not grumpy or tired
- Don’t wait till baby is hungry (if he is, give him milk and try feeding at a later time)
- Be prepared for mess
- Give baby two to three different items to choose from, such as broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, banana or some stewed meat
- Offer food but don’t put the food into his mouth
Here is a list of foods you can start with.
Nuts, whole grapes and apples should be avoided for now as they are choking hazards. (Slightly steamed apples are okay though.) Here is a list of foods to avoid.
Have you tried baby-led weaning? If not, would you be keen to try it out?