Whether you have a newborn or if your baby is a little bit older, you’re going to get to a point where you think about introducing solids. You may be wondering, “What do you need to do baby-led weaning?”
Nothing. You don’t need any specific gear to do baby-led weaning but there are definitely some things that would be helpful. Things like a good high chair, bibs or aprons to protect your little one’s clothes, perhaps a mat or blanket to protect the floor.
But this is the beauty of baby-led weaning. All you need is some nutritious foods that your baby can handle and your baby. No blenders or ice trays are necessary like you would have if you were going to be spoon-feeding your baby.
So, you don’t NEED anything in particular but there are some things that are going to be helpful as you start out on introducing real food to your little one.
A High Chair
A high chair is more than just a chair for your little one. It’s an opportunity to sit with their family. To connect and interact with you as their parents.
It is also a place to learn. Interestingly, researchers looked at how toddlers were able to identify and name nonsolids. Think milk, applesauce, pudding, juice.
The author of the study, Larissa Samuelson, says, “”It turns out that being in a high chair makes it more likely you’ll get messy because kids know they can get messy there. It may look like your child is playing in the high chair, throwing things on the ground, and they may be doing that, but they are getting information out of (those actions). And, it turns out, they can use that information later. That’s what the high chair did. Playing with these foods there actually helped.”
Your baby’s high chair will be used for a number of years and plays an important role in your little one’s development. It goes beyond just food. It is a place to explore, learn and to grow.
Ideally, you want a high chair that is going to grow with your baby as they grow. This means that it should be adjustable. Although this is not essential, it will be more comfortable for your baby and you will get good longevity from it.
Offer good support
One of the most important things that a high chair needs to offer is good support. What do I mean by that? Well, imagine what it would be like to have to write a beautiful card for a loved one. Except, you won’t be sitting on a chair, you are sitting on a big birthing ball that is rolling everywhere.
What does that do to your concentration or your handwriting.
As an Occupational Therapist, one of my main focuses was always ensuring that babies and children were properly supported so that they could use their hands effectively.
If your baby is slumped over in their chair, or hanging on by the seat strap, they are not going to be able to use their hands effectively to feed themselves.
So, a high chair where your baby’s feet are supported would be a huge help for your little one. It should enable them to sit up well so that they can focus on eat
ing, rather than keeping their bodies upright.
Have a removable tray
Having a removable tray would be really helpful. A tray is a great thing because you can easily put pieces of food on the tray and they will be easy for your little one to reach out and pick them up.
On the other hand, as your little one grows, being able to remove the tray will enable your baby to get up close to the table and join in on family meals. You can then serve their food on a placemat or plate at the table.
A Bib or Apron
Let’s be honest. Baby-led weaning is going to be messy. Food all over the high chair, the floor and your baby. Don’t get me wrong. Baby-led weaning is amazing – amazing but messy.
So, it would be a good idea to invest in a bib or apron that is easy to clean and that will protect your baby’s clothes from stains.
A neoprene coverall bib with sleeves is easy to clean and the sleeves will protect the clothes underneath it. Remember, when you’re first starting baby-led weaning, your little one is going to use their whole hand and forearm to pick up food. That means the whole arm is likely to get food on it which is why sleeves would be helpful.
An added bonus is if there is a little pocket in the bib to catch any food that may fall.
A Mat for the floor
There are a couple of options when it comes to mats for the floor. A mat is especially important if you are feeding your baby in any space with a carpet. You’re really going to want to protect that carpet from spills and stains (unless you want to have a daily reminder of your baby-led weaning journey as your little one grows!)
A shower curtain
I know that sounds strange but a shower curtain will give you a lot of cover under the high chair and it is waterproof and easy to clean. No food juices or spills are going to seep through and stain your carpet. They are also relatively inexpensive and easy to find.
An oilcloth tablecloth
An oilcloth or PVC tablecloth is another good option. There is such a variety out there so you can even colour coordinate it with the rest of the dining room.
A picnic blanket
Some very dear friends of ours shared this trick with us. If you have a picnic blanket, just turn it upside down so that the waterproof side is facing up. It will give you the protection you need for your floors and when you’re heading out for a summer picnic, you can just pick it up and take it with you.
A Good Beaker
When you first start baby-led weaning, your baby will still get most of their liquid requirements from breastmilk (or formula if you are bottle feeding). But, it is a good idea to start offering water to your baby at the same time as you offer foods.
What to look for in a cup
As you start out with baby-led weaning, your baby is likely to have poor fine motor skills so it is important to look for something that has soft handles. Bigger handles will also be easier to grasp.
A soft spout will be more comfortable on your baby’s gums as they generally don’t have great control of their movements at this stage.
Healthline suggests that a transition cup would be helpful for babies at this young age. It’s easier for your baby to handle and less likely to cause spills everywhere.
There is other gear you could think about. Spoons, a placemat, a steamer for cooking food. But when you first get started, these are not essential.
Focus on a good high chair and protecting your baby’s clothes and the floor. As they get more proficient with feeding themselves, and as baby learns, you can look into spoons, plates and other things.
Remember, at this early stage, your baby is learning so much about food, their hands, their mouth, and textures.
Have fun with them and focus on giving them the space they need to explore food. The actual eating of food will come with time.