Best Gear for Baby-Led Weaning
Best Gear for Baby-Led Weaning
April 29, 2022

Best Gear for Baby-Led Weaning

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Best Gear for Baby-Led Weaning.
Best Gear for Baby-Led Weaning

If you’re skipping spoon-feeding and diving headfirst into baby-led weaning as your little one starts solids, you’re in for a fun—and very messy—ride.

One of the biggest benefits of this style of feeding is that your baby will be able to mostly eat what you eat, meaning you can cross baby food off of your (endless) shopping list. Gear-wise, you also won’t need all that much—but there are a few key products that can help make baby-led weaning easier, cleaner and safe for your baby.

We spoke with two experts: Katie Ferraro, MPH, RDN, CDE, a dietitian specializing in baby-led weaning and a college nutrition professor and host of the Baby-Led Weaning Made Easy podcast (and mom of seven!), and Jen LaBracio, Babylist’s Gear Editor and mom of two, about the best products for baby-led weaning they recommend and why.

Best High Chairs for Baby-Led Weaning

A properly supportive high chair is one of the most important items you can invest in for baby-led weaning. The right chair ensures your little one is in the correct position for safe swallowing—a must not just for baby-led weaning but for introducing any type of solids to your baby.

What to look for in a baby-led weaning-friendly high chair:

  • Upright seat. Your baby should never be leaning back while eating. Be sure the high chair you purchase has an upright seat and that your baby’s back is completely straight and their shoulders are in line with their hips when seated. “Steer clear of reclining chair seats and never feed a baby in a reclining position such as the car seat or stroller as this increases the risk of choking,” says Ferraro.
  • Adjustable footrest. Your baby’s feet should always be on a stable surface while eating. “Having your baby’s feet resting flat on a solid surface is key to facilitating a safe swallow,” says Ferraro. The high chair you choose should come either with an adjustable footrest or be able to be modified to have one.
  • Pulls up to table. A high chair with a removable tray that pulls up to your dining table will allow your baby to be part of the family meal right from the start. Babies learn to eat by practicing but also simply by watching you eat, so you want to give them a front-row seat from day one.
  • Grows with baby. While not a must-have, a high chair that grows with your baby from the early days through the big-kid years is a nice-to-have feature, especially if you’re investing in a more expensive seat.

When positioning your baby in their high chair, keep the phrase “three by 90” in mind. “We want baby’s positioning to reflect the “three by 90” seating: 90 degrees at the waist, 90 degrees at the knees, 90 degrees at the ankles,” explains Ferraro.

If your little one is leaning in their seat (which can sometimes happen with younger or smaller babies), consider adding support like a rolled-up towel or swaddle blanket at their back or on either side of them.

You can learn more about high chairs + baby-led weaning on two of Ferraro’s podcast episodes, How to Choose a Safe Seat and High Chair Positioning: Reduce Choking Risk Using This One Simple Move.

The Nomi ticks off all the boxes (and more) when you’re shopping for a baby-led weaning-friendly high chair and is one of the top high chairs Ferraro recommends again and again. It’s ergonomically designed to support your baby in the proper position for eating and is adjustable by height, seat depth and footrest position, all without any tools. There’s also a removable tray (sold separately). And while it’s an investment, the Nomi works from infancy (with the addition of a bouncer attachment) up to 330 pounds.

The Tripp Trapp is a design icon and a great choice for baby-led weaning. (It’s also LaBracio’s favorite high chair of all time and Ferraro’s other top pick.) Going strong since it debuted in 1972, the Tripp Trapp pulls right up to the table and features an adjustable footrest and a depth- and height-adjustable seat to ensure an ergonomic seat position. (Unlike the Nomi, however, you will need a simple tool to make the adjustments.) There are lots of accessories for younger babies like a Newborn Set, Baby Set, cushion and more. The seat holds up to 242 pounds so you’ll be able to use it for years.

With a modern look, easy-to-clean seat and adjustable footrest, this versatile high chair will take you from the first days of baby-led weaning until the big kid years. The seat can be used as a high chair, booster seat, tableside booster and a big kid chair. And speaking of seats—this one is smooth and crevice-free, a must-have feature for LaBracio in high chairs, especially if you’re doing baby-led weaning. It’s so easy to clean after even the biggest of messes. (And trust us, there will be messes.) Just note: the footrest on the Eon only has two positions, so you may need to modify it during the early days of weaning.

Best Portable High Chairs for Baby-Led Weaning

No room for a full-size high chair or need somewhere for your baby to eat when you’re away from home? Portable high chairs are also an option for baby-led weaning; just be sure they provide as close to the same amount of support as a traditional high chair as possible.

This super-affordable portable seat has three different levels, making it easier to find the most supportive position for your baby while eating. Ferraro recommends popping the seat up to the second level if you’re feeding your baby on the floor so their feet lay flat and form a 90-degree angle. (You’ll want to pop the chair up to level two as the baby gets older.) It also has straps to affix to an adult chair if you want to use it tableside, and it’s super easy to clean. Cons: the tray is small, and the seat doesn’t pack down very compactly.

Another budget-friendly (and more portable) choice, Ferraro loves this booster especially for eating outdoors. It’s lightweight and stows compactly, her two favorite features. The biggest drawback is that the canvas seat isn’t removable, so you’ll have to hand scrub every mess instead of removing the fabric and tossing it into the wash.

The priciest recommendation on the list, the Bombol is an investment but a worthwhile one thanks to its durability, sturdy construction and longevity, and is loved by both LaBracio and Ferraro. “This seat is so durable,” says Ferraro. “I’ve had little babies and bigger babies sit in it. It says it holds up to 165 pounds and I’ve sat in it and jumped on it and it really is indestructible.” Pros include a five-point harness (that can also be used as a three-point as baby grows), extremely easy to clean fabric and the biggest win: it folds completely flat and weighs a little over two pounds.

Best Bibs for Baby-Led Weaning

Cloth bibs are great for drool, bottle feeding and looking all-around adorable. Know what they’re terrible for? Solids. Especially baby-led weaning. Waterproof bibs that catch the mess are where it’s at once you embark on your baby-led weaning journey.

Look for bibs made from silicone or another waterproof, wipeable material that doesn’t have to be tossed in the wash after every use. A front pocket to catch dropped food (of which there will be a lot) is also helpful, as long as it’s not too bulky and doesn’t weigh down the bib.

“I love a silicone bib, but they’re surprisingly hard to get right,” says LaBracio. “Some are too big and awkward on new eaters. Others are stiff and uncomfortable. Some have pockets that are angled incorrectly and don’t actually catch any food. But the Lalo Bib is just right. It’s the ideal size, is made from soft silicone and has a perfectly placed pocket to catch the mess.” Another perk: these bibs can be rolled into the catcher and compactly stored in their reusable bag (the same one it ships in) for mess-free transportation.

Bapron bibs are Ferraro’s top choice for baby-led weaning-friendly bibs. She loves the unique waterproof fabric and the bib’s design. “Bapron bibs use really unique waterproof fabric that you can rinse out under the faucet, dry on the drainboard and then reuse for meals later that same day. I also like that the bibs tie under baby’s shoulder blades (and not up high on their neck which can be a negative sensory experience)—plus they can’t rip them off like they can with other bibs. Another benefit is that it is sleeveless, allowing for full range of motion which babies need when they are learning how to eat.”

Another favorite baby-led weaning-friendly bib from LaBracio is from Bumkins. “These bibs are made from a unique waterproof material that can be wiped down or even washed right along with your dishes in the sink between uses, saving you from having to toss them in the washing machine after every single meal.” (They’re also machine-washable for when they get extra gross.) They’re lightweight and this starter size is just right for new eaters.

Best Tableware, Cups and Utensils for Baby-Led Weaning

Since the goal of baby-led weaning is self-feeding, the tableware and utensils you choose should be designed with just that in mind. Look for spoons and forks that are easy for little hands to grab and hold, bowls and plates with suction bottoms to help them stay in place and slightly curved lips to help your baby scoop food independently, and small cups that are the appropriate size for small hands and mouths.

Keep in mind that it can take a long time for little ones to master using utensils to eat, so don’t try to rush things. Using hands to eat and explore food is normal—and even encouraged—so let your baby have at it.

Ferraro is a huge fan of EZPZ’s tableware, cups and utensils. “All of their products are created by their feeding expert with developmentally appropriate design considerations,” she explains. This exclusive bundle comes with the ezpz Tiny Bowl, two Tiny Spoons and the Tiny Cup. Ferraro also recommends the brand’s eight-ounce Mini Bowl for larger strips of starter foods and the Mini Mat for reminding parents to offer baby a variety of foods and keep portions small.

A favorite of parents and feeding specialists, these utensils were designed specifically to help your baby learn to self-feed. The short handles fit the natural grip you’ll see your little one use when they’re first learning to eat and use utensils. (It’s called the vertical grasp, and it’s the same grip you’d use to hold a pen.) There’s also a protective collar around the handle to help prevent choking and gagging, a feature LaBracio really likes.

“These are so much easier than a traditional spoon,” says LaBracio. “They’re light, really easy to grip and help babies catch on to the idea of self-feeding very quickly.” This pack comes with two designs, a stage one spoon with a dimpled head to help grab and hold thinner foods more easily, and a stage two spoon with a channeled head for thicker foods. Pro tip: these also make great teethers!

Best Splash Mat for Baby-Led Weaning

Made from the same waterproof materials as the Bapron bibs, these XL splash mats are Ferraro’s favorite choice to help minimize the mess from baby-led weaning. “They are massive (one splash mat fits under two Stokke Tripp Trapps, so they’re great for multiples ), they pack down super small (great for taking in your diaper bag to grandma’s house or on the go to minimize the mess) and they are SO durable. I’ve had some of my Bapron splash mats for five years, washing almost daily, and they still look as good as new.”

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