I first heard of baby led weaning through some mothers I met at a BBQ this summer.
At the time my little one was a newborn, and I was conflicted as a first-time mother on how to start her on solids. Was baby led weaning safe? Was it the right thing for my baby?
It was such a controversial topic; some mothers were appalled at the idea of letting their little ones eat on their own.
“They’re just babies. They have their whole lives to eat the food we eat. What if they choke?” One lady tried to win them over but to no avail. They couldn’t see the benefits of this eating method over the idea of letting their babies “do what they want” with food.
I, too, made a decision to stick with purees afraid my mother would shun me, and because I thought it was just a fad. Upon further research, I’ve warmed to the idea of letting a baby explore and have fun with food.
What Is Baby-Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning, also known as BLW, is the feeding method of giving your baby complimentary foods to try in addition to being breastfed and or formula fed.
Instead of spoon-feeding your little one a vegetable puree, you skip straight to finger starter foods like bananas or sweet potatoes. This allows them to explore different colors, tastes, and textures.
Not only is it simpler for the parent and fun for the baby, but this method of feeding also allows first-time eaters to practice and develop the skills they need to thrive. Baby led weaning has been around for ages in different cultures around the world.
Before we had a blender, our ancestors were feeding their little ones soft solid foods. Imagine how simple it was back then with the lack of resources and information.
They paid attention to what their babies could do and followed their lead. Now we look at our babies as incapable or inadequate to do things that they are well on their way to learning how to do.
Instead of letting them practice chewing, we puree. Instead of letting them practice their fine motor skills, we feed them ourselves.
Baby led weaning is a journey for you and your little one to learn about the unusual and surprising elements of our development as humans. It’s also an all natural, intuitive, and curiosity-driven way to introduce food to the newest member of your family.
Baby Led Weaning Pros and Cons
- Less stressful for the parent and baby: As women, we have many tasks and jobs to complete and not enough time in the day. I’m not huge on pre-bought baby food, so I spent a lot of time making purees. Baby led weaning is a great time saver to get your little one to start trying foods. Not only is it a time saver – it is a more natural, less forceful approach for your baby. They are going at their pace of eating as well as their deciding on the amount instead of you choosing how much they eat and when they finish. It allows them and you to have fun with food and it helps them to gain more independence.
- Helps develop fine motor skills: Within their first year, babies are learning their first set of core skills that will assist them in the long run. You will see your baby develop hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, and chewing and swallowing skills. They can’t develop these skills if you’re always feeding them!
- Creates more bonding time with the family: As family cultural norms change, we’ve lost sight of the simple things that can have a positive impact on our children. If you don’t already, make this an opportunity to sit and eat with your family. During breakfast, dinner, or both, have your little one sit at the table with everyone. This way he’ll learn by example to enjoy different foods, and it will definitely excite your bundle of joy. My baby loves to eat breakfast with everyone; she learned to eat her cereal by watching me eat my cereal for breakfast every morning. Now she has a healthy appetite and looks forward to her cereal every day.
- Some foods are a choking hazard for your baby: Watching your baby struggle and not jumping in to help is a hard thing to do. Instinctively, we want to intervene and guide them. In the beginning, expect your little one to struggle a little bit due to their natural gag reflex. Allowing babies to control what goes into their mouths may actually help them learn to eat safely. Just make sure you don’t let anyone except your baby put food into his mouth, and don’t try to fish out any food with your hands if you think she is choking. And, of course, NEVER leave your baby alone with food.
Baby Lead Weaning or Traditional Weaning?
Traditional weaning has its pros and cons as well.
If you’re buying premade baby foods, it can be costly. If you’re making your own foods, it can be time-consuming. The upside of traditional weaning is that you have more control over how long and how much baby eats.
It is important to do whatever works for you and most importantly your baby.
My daughter started traditional weaning at 6 months and did really well. Although she doesn’t have the independence of feeding herself, she still gets to try flavors and so far has developed an enormous appetite for different foods.
Now at 7 months, I introduced baby led weaning with bananas. She enjoyed that as well being that it was her first taste of a banana.
It was a little confusing for my nerves but at the same time very enjoyable to watch as she held the banana, inspected it, tasted it, mushed it with her bottom teeth, and then threw the banana on the floor. You may need to try a few different ways until your baby figures it out.
When to Start Baby Led Weaning
The suggested time to start is 6 months but what is more important is the signs your baby needs to show to start solids:
- Baby must be able to sit up with little to no support
- She can hold her head up
- Baby has to be eager/curious to try and chew their food
- He must have good hand-eye coordination
First Foods For Baby Led Weaning
When starting off, it’s always important to give your baby large strips of food. The options are pretty broad and your little one can try just about everything you’re eating, but start with foods that are easy to pick up, like:
- Sweet Potato
- Rotisserie Chicken
- Foods to Avoid:
- Undercooked Eggs
Also, avoid any foods you or a close family member are allergic to.
Foods like apple, grapes, and cherries must be cut in half. Peel off thick skin from rich fruits with edible skins like apples to avoid choking.
Books About Baby Lead Weaning
Gill Rapley pioneered baby-led weaning in the U.K. She has worked as a nurse for 20 years and has also been a midwife and breastfeeding counselor. Rapley, who came up with the term baby-led weaning, wrote a practical guide for parents who need a boost of confidence to try this feeding method.
The idea of giving your baby whole pieces of food is discouraging. We’ve grown so accustomed to purees, but in Gill Rapley’s book, she explains the numerous benefits and overall success rate it has on a baby’s development and appetite for food. Not only is it a great read – she has a cookbook with over 130 recipes for your little one to try.
The most important piece of advice is to have fun with it. This method is not necessarily easy for you or your baby. It’s a way to get your baby excited about food naturally as well as implementing healthy foods yourself. Be sure to consult with the pediatrician before you introduce solids.
What are your thoughts on baby led weaning?
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