What is baby-led weaning and why is it so popular?
Baby led weaning is a philosophy (and a return to “olden days”) where solid foods are slowly introduced to your child (in the same form we eat them – not pureed) and your child is encouraged to experience his food on his own.
The beauty of baby led weaning is multifaceted. He gets to choose what he eats, how much he eats and at what pace. That means he can actually listen to his body cues, so that when he’s hungry, he eats, and when he’s full, he stops — all of which promotes the development of a healthy relationship with food as he grows. Instead of reacting to your command (cue spoon cruising toward his mouth, open wide quick!) he’s free to explore complex textures and tastes at his own discretion (would you want to eat pureed chicken with peas??). He also gets to practice his chewing skills (which he’ll need!) instead of just swallowing. Oh, and let’s not forget that mealtime around the table with the family is much more enjoyable when Mom gets to join in, too — no one likes to eat alone! Remember children grew (and thrived) long before the advent of blenders and processors, and learning to eat real solid foods is a rite of passage your baby can handle.
When is a good time to start baby-led-weaning?
Always check with your pediatrician before starting anything, but a general rule-of-thumb is 6 months old. Your child should also have stopped the tongue-thrust reflex, be able to sit up on her own and be interested in solid foods.
What are some good foods to start with?
Anything soft and graspable. Think avocado, banana, steamed carrots or sweet potatoes. Cut first foods into strips so your baby can easily hold them. Expect her to make a big mess and actually eat very little.
I’m afraid my son is going to choke. Is that normal?
Of course! Fear is a completely biological reaction to things we should be afraid of. Your baby is learning to chew, and she will gag occasionally. Actual choking, however, is quite serious and means her airway is blocked. Generally gagging involves coughing, spitting up food and retching noises. To minimize the risk of choking, avoid foods that can’t be mashed against the top of her mouth, nothing round and firm (e.g. nuts, grapes, popcorn), nothing with a pit/seed and no under-ripe fruits or raw veggies. Also, make sure she’s feeding herself at her own pace (slowly). And never leave your baby alone while eating!
To learn more about high risk foods for choking, click here.
Isn’t my baby more likely to choke using BLW than traditional spoon feeding with purees?
It seems like this would be the case, but according to a study conducted in New Zealand in 2016, babies fed using a BLW approach to feeding are no more likely to choke than babies fed with traditional purees! If you'd like to read more about this research, here's a link to the full study.
How do I make things more interesting for my baby?
Put a variety of foods on her tray so that she can decide what to eat. Her dietary needs will take over and make sure they get what they need. Your baby will not starve herself.
What other resources are there to help me on this journey?
Always start with your trusted medical professional, but some great other resources are:
Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods-and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater
This is the original source for all things BLW...and they have a blog, too!
Parents has a great article on the do’s & don’ts of BLW
There are lots of moms out there blogging about BLW, too. Here are some of our favorites:
Jessica's Baby-Led Weaning Blog
Baby Led Weaning Ideas
Little Gourmet Baby