What is Baby-led FEeding?

Baby sitting in high chair, view from the chin down, sucking on a spoon eating mashed avocado from a green plate. What is baby-led feeding?

There are so many things to think about when you’re a parent, especially when it comes to feeding your baby. Whether you’re an experienced parent or a new parent, the world of baby nutrition is always evolving. Changing from breast milk, or formula, is a process but it doesn’t have to be a daunting one. So, what is baby-led feeding? And, is baby-led feeding the same as baby-led weaning?


Introducing Solids to Your Baby

Introducing solids (aka complementary feeding) is when your baby is introduced to food that isn’t breast milk or formula and usually takes place at 6 months of age (1). Traditionally, solids are introduced with spoon-fed pureed baby food that is either homemade or store bought (1). Gradually, the pureed food becomes more textured as your baby slowly learns to swallow, chew, and get used to different textures (1).

Baby-Led Complimentary Feeding

Baby-led complementary feeding is unlike traditional complementary feeding because your baby decides what they eat and how much they eat (1). Additionally, they get to decide whether they eat with their hands, are spoon fed, or both (1)! What’s nice about feeding your baby this way is that they get to be involved. This makes the experience more enjoyable for eveyone.


Baby-Led Weaning Versus Baby-Led Feeding

Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) and Baby-Led Feeding (BLF) are similar in a lot of ways. However, BLF is a softer approach to introducing solids. BLW has guidelines, just like  traditional feeding, whereas with BLF you get to work with your baby to choose what is best.

Baby-Led Weaning

  • Baby sits with family at meal time and starts at 6 months of age (1)
  • No use of pureed food or spoons that are traditionally used when introducing solids (1)
  • Offer the same food that the family is eating (1)
  • Size of food should be large to start, and soft enough to squish with the tongue to the roof of the mouth (4)
  • Baby can eat as much as they need (1)
  • Homemade food is encouraged rather than processed baby food (1) 
  • Breastmilk or formula are still the main nutrient sources until at least 1 year of age, but still allowing baby to decide how much they would like (1)

Baby-Led Feeding

Essentially, baby-led feeding doesn’t follow the traditional route nor does it follow “rules” of baby-led weaning. It’s up to you and, most importantly, your baby to decide what they’re ready for and when. This method can help reduce pressures involved when introducing solid food to your baby.

For example, if your baby likes to use the spoon themselves one day but hates it the next – this is okay! It’s all about responding to the cues of your baby. Also, if you simply don’t have time, or the budget is tight, feeding your baby appropriately sized solid food for the time being is okay! This method is about what works for you and doesn’t follow strict guidelines. 

Benefits of Baby-Led Feeding

  • Baby gets to take the lead
  • Baby may be less fussy at meal time because they won’t feel pressured 
  • Baby develops confidence
  • Establishes positive feelings about meal time and food
  • Baby is able to self-regulate their hunger

There are a lot of benefits to letting your baby take the lead during feeding times. This is especially so when we talk about developing healthy relationships with food. Check out the blog post, Helping Your Kids Develop a Healthy Relationship With Food, to learn more about food relationships.

How to Begin Your Baby-Led Feeding Journey

  • Look for cues from your baby that indicate they’re ready to be introduced to solids
    • Don’t focus on how old they are, focus on what they can do (5). For example:
      • Can they sit up unassisted (5) 
      • Open their mouth when they see food coming (5)
    • Are they showing an interest in food? 
  • Read about how to safely introduce solids
  • Know the Important Nutrients When Introducing Solids to Your Baby
  • Reach out to a Registered Dto ask questions or seek guidance.

These are some of the basic cues that indicate your baby may be ready for solids. In the Introducing Solids Virtual Group Course you learn about cues, how to develop a good eater, and which way of introducing solids may be best for you and your baby. It also teaches you the difference between gagging and choking, which is so important when introducing solids to your baby.



Introducing solids may get messy, but allowing your baby to explore their food can be benficial. This gives your baby the opportunity to develop  motor skills, self-regulate their diets, and can broaden their food pallet (2). Health Canada states that responsive feeding (listening and responding to your baby’s cues) promotes the development of healthy eating skills (3). In other words, your baby can learn to self-regulate (listen to their own hunger and fullness cues) with this type of feeding method. Letting your babydecide what to eat, how much to eat, and how they eat promotes a positive relationship with food. Even subtle prompts, such as moving food towards them, count as pressure and can be counter productive in regards to self-regulation (6).


Final Notes from The Nest

When it comes to feeding your baby, there’s no right or wrong method, as long as it’s done safely. You should feed your baby in a way that works for you, your baby, and your family, allowing your baby to lead the way. Whether you follow a traditional method, baby-led weaning or baby-led feeding,ultimately your baby should decide how they want to eat. BLF is very much “baby-led” and promotes early learning of self-regulation. The best thing about BLF is it’s pressure-free because there is no “right way” to do it.

Article Written by Spencer Wentzell

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  2. Brown, A., Jones, S. W., & Rowan, H. Baby-led weaning: The evidence to date. Cur Nutr Rep [Internet]. 2017 Apr 29 [cited 2022 Jan 21]. 6(2), 148-156. Available from:
  3. Health Canada. (2015, January 19). Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from six to 24 months [Internet]. Government of Canada. 2015 Jan 19 [Cited 2022 Jan 21]. Available from:
  4. Daniels, L., Heath, A. M., Williams, S. M., Cameron, S. L., Fleming, E. A., Taylor, B. J., et al. Baby-led introduction to SolidS (BLISS) study: A randomised controlled trial of a baby-led approach to complementary feeding. BMC Pedi [Internet]. 2015 Nov 12 [cited 2022 Jan 21]. 15(179), 179-179. Available from:
  5. Satter, E. Start solid food based on what your baby can do, not how old she is. Ellyn Satter Institute [unknown date]. [cited 2022 Jan 21]. Available from:
  6. Van der Veek, S. M. C., De Graaf, C., De Vries, J. H. M., Jager, G., Vereijken, C. M. J. L., Weenen, H., et al. Baby’s first bites: A randomized controlled trial to assess the effects of vegetable-exposure and sensitive feeding on vegetable acceptance, eating behavior and weight gain in infants and toddlers. BMC Pedi [Internet]. 2019 Aug 01 [cited 2022 Jan 21]. 19(1), 266-266. Available from: