You start baby-led weaning at 6 months of age or whenever your baby is able to sit upright, pick up pieces of food and take them to their mouth and "chew" them. I put chew in quotations because I know there are some babies that don't get teeth until later on but they can still gum things...you would probably just want to give them softer things like steamed veggies, potatoes etc...although their gums are really hard so you can even give them apples and other hard things too.
A few benefits of baby-led weaning from some of the research I did and from asking the opinions of other mama's:
* allows babies to explore taste, texture, color and smell
* encourages independence and confidence
* helps to develop their hand-eye coordination and chewing skills
* makes picky eating and mealtime battles less likely
It actually makes a lot of sense because as their teeth come in, it produces saliva which contains digestive enzymes and this generally happens along the same time line as digestion and intestinal development of necessary enzymes. Eli is exclusively breastfed and gets all the nutrients he needs from that for right now so eating food is really just for fun and learning! "Food before 1 is just for fun" is a quote I heard somewhere and it's stuck with me for some reason. It helps me to remember that I really don't need to be super concerned with making sure he's eating a lot at every single meal.
I know what you're thinking...won't he choke?? There are definitely things you need to be aware of and safety precautions to take, but nope...we've never actually had a moment where we thought he was going to choke or be in any danger! The video below was as close as we came to "choking" but in everything I read, they said to just sit on your hands and let them figure it out!
Obviously if he's actually choking and not gagging, or blue in the face then YES, you will step in and help...but if it's a little gag or cough, just chill out. They will actually LEARN how to take smaller bites, spit out things they can't swallow and maneuver foods inside their mouths...it's pretty amazing watching Eli do this...so all we have to do is sit back and help as little as needed.
You should stay away from things with lots of salt, sugar, fast food, honey, shellfish, shark, marlin and under-cooked eggs...but that's about it!
I'm happy to answer any questions if you have any...just shoot me a message or leave us a comment!