Baby led weaning is ever more popular as parents realize the advantages of encouraging independence in their child. Sometimes it is used as a technique in its own right and other times it is used alongside spoon feeding to help baby to learn different feeding techniques. Either is absolutely fine as long as baby is ready to start handling different foods and chewing and swallowing them independently.
Traditionally parents have been used to weaning baby by spoon feeding however there are lots of benefits to choosing baby led weaning for both infant and parent. Firstly, parents will have less hassle and stress with no need to make up special foods for their little one while infants will not have the pressure of performing at meal times but are relied upon to be able to choose when, how much and what to eat so there is no more trauma at dinner trying to force your baby to eat their meal. As babies feed themselves in baby led weaning you are free to enjoy your own dinner at your own pace without having to constantly deal with spoon feeding your baby. Babies can also sit at the table as part of the family and be included in family meals from a much earlier age. They can also eat many of the same foods as the rest of the family without having to have separate purees made for them.
Most experts today agree that babies should not be weaned in any way until around the age of 6 months as their digestive system is underdeveloped at that stage to handle anything by formula or breastmilk. From the age of 5 1/2 months, you should be looking out for signs that your baby is interested in food and is displaying all the necessary indicators that they are ready for weaning. Firstly, your infant should be sitting upright unaided and without support. They should also have lost their tongue reflex, which makes them eject foods automatically out of their mouth with their tongue. It is also important to check that you baby has sufficiently developed their motor skills to the point where they can feed themselves. This means that they must be able to independently pick up and hold foods as well as having developed a pincer grip allowing them to pick up small pieces between their thumb and finger. These motor skills generally start at around 6 months of age although in some children, they will not be sufficiently developed until 12 months of age. Your baby does not need to have teeth to chew, but they need to show an interest in chewing and they will be showing some interest in your plate at mealtimes, perhaps even trying to grab food and eat it themselves.