It's hard to say what's more confusing between sleep advice and feeding advice, but when to start solids is one of those heated topics parents sometimes like to over-analyse.
Now, depending what you read and when you're reading it, family, friends, doctors, leading edge researchers, etc etc will tell you that you should start introducing solids anywhere between 4-6 months. The problem is, all of it contradicts what the last person you spoke to told you or the last thing you read online, and all of it seems to be based on sound research! So in our family we're going to go with the middle ground of 5 months, with our paediatrician's blessing, and so begins the mad shopping spree of feeding equipment - cute kitchen robots like the Beaba Babycook, bowls and plates that suction to the table, weird looking spoons and forks and of course sippy cups.
Then I came across a strange term called Baby Led Weaning. The first thought that crossed my mind was, how can a baby lead their weaning if they can't feed themselves? Ahh, but they can.
What Is Baby Led Weaning?
The idea of Baby Led Weaning is that when your baby is developmentally ready to start solids, they have the gross motor skills to pick up foods, bring it to their mouths, mash it with their gums and swallow without choking. You give your baby soft foods (often referred to as "first foods") in a form that is easy to pick up, like sticks that will poke out from their closed fists, without too much processing so that it encourages them to explore the colours, textures, and tastes of foods in their natural form. It's thought to encourage babies to be less picky and develop a habit of feeding themselves, which is great as they get older. The idea is also to let your baby slowly share the same food as the rest of the family and eat together as a family.
How Do You Know They Are Ready?
The important things to look for to see if your baby is developmentally ready, similar to commencing solids, is the ability to sit unassisted, has good head control, has lost of tongue-thrust reflex, and ideally has a good grasp. These are all important for your child's safety when introducing solids.
By 6 months of age, babies are able to reach for food and feed themselves, so why not let them sit at the table and develop age appropriate oral motor control while introducing meal time as a positive, interactive experience involving the whole family!
What Do I Need To Start Baby Led Weaning?
Not much, you can get started with as much or as little feeding equipment as you like! Your baby will undoubtedly make a mess, so a high chair that is easy to clean is very handy, as is a big mat that you can put down underneath and an easy-to-clean bib that catches a lot of food. Since you're encouraging your baby to eat on their own, a baby bowl or plate (highly recommend Avanchy) that suctions to the table is a great idea, so it doesn't get knocked off the table. NumNum is a great first spoon for babies because it doesn't require them to use a scooping motion, and babies love being able to pick up food and feed themselves. While the Beaba Babycook is usually associated with making purees, this kitchen robot can do so much more. Even with Baby Led Weaning you want the foods to be cooked and soft, and steaming is a great way to preserve nutrients, so this is something that is very conveniently done in the Babycook, as is rice and pasta. The Duo helps save time by allowing you to run two at the same time so you can make rice/pasta on one side and make homemade bolognaise sauce in the other for example - a great way to get a variety of veggies into kids!
For a great introduction on first foods, check out this site
At the end of the day, follow those motherly (or fatherly) instincts and do what's right for you and your bub. Bon appetite!
Written by Victoria Chuard, updated April 5, 2020
Disclaimer: This is written from personal experience and should not to be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor if you have questions about weaning, introducing solids, readiness, or allergies.